One of the most valuable commodities for a Portland Timbers fan, heading into the magical 2015 championship season, was a simple green-and-white scarf. It bore ax and rose imagery at the ends, and the bold, black words “No Pity” across the center.
But, like most coveted objects, it wasn't so simple to get. To come into possession of a “No Pity” scarf, thousands of Timbers fans have gone down one of two paths more complex than the usual purchase online or at a merchandise booth.
Either you are bestowed a scarf from a Timbers fan who already has one, or you track down a van full of merchandise – fittingly named the No Pity Van – that parks near Providence Park for home games. It reveals its exact location via Twitter (@nopityvan).
The story of the No Pity scarf goes back to 2002, the first year that the coalition of fans unified under the Timbers Army brand. That's according to 107ist board member Fernando Machicado, whose community outreach domain includes overseeing the No Pity Van's travels. They wanted a scarf that celebrated one of their go-to chants, “There’s no pity in the Rose City,” used whenever a visiting player would be met with a hard foul from a Timbers player.
Supporters mocked up the original design on a napkin, then sent it off to Sports Scarf (a pioneering soccer scarf manufacturer) for the initial run. Since then, the scarf has gone through various redesigns. The fifth and current iteration, for the Timbers’ 2011 entry into MLS, brought updates (including inclusion of the ax and rose) into the design.
The tradition of bequeathing scarves to worthy fellow fans happened early in Timbers Army history, and solidified into part of their culture.
“Before we got into MLS, the scarves were especially hard to find,” Machicado recalls. “You’d have to find someone who had an extra scarf, or you’d have to ‘sponsor’ a set of five, and then you’d end up giving scarves to people, because what are you going to do with five scarves?”
The No Pity Van was launched in 2010, and as the Timbers Army’s offerings expanded beyond the No Pity scarf and several shirts, it became a more indispensable part of Timbers Army’s outreach to new and long-established fans. The van itself, a 1995 Chevy P30, houses a veritable marketplace of Timbers gear (under the NoPity Originals brand). If you track it down, inside you might find as many as five different scarves, nine different unisex shirts, and four different women’s shirts, as well as an assortment of hats, patches, and hoodies.
Machicado notes that that the van usually parks and sets up shop three hours before a home match, and for about 45 minutes after a match. “Actually,” he says, laughing, “it’s open for an hour if we win, and only about a half hour if we lose.”
The goodwill of scarf-gifting extends to Timbers coach Caleb Porter—Timbers Army prepares a scarf for the team’s equipment manager before every home game, and Porter proudly wears it on the sideline. While it’s typically a standard-issue No Pity scarf, Timbers Army will sometimes get a limited-edition scarf, or another standby from the growing catalog, for him to wear. “We consider it a good bond between us and him,” Machicado says.
In part because the Timbers’ title chase last year drew so many admirers, the supporters’ group changed a long-standing policy this year and put the scarves online.
While they wanted to keep the mystique and lore around the scarves alive, they also wanted to keep the scarves affordable. When the 107ist noticed that people were acquiring scarves and putting them up on eBay, they decided to make the online option available in order to keep them at their intended price. “They’re $10,” says Machicado simply. “They’re always $10.”
Once you've scored your No Pity Scarf, check out MLS's Kick Childhood Cancer and the social campaign Scarftember. Designer Sophia Chang has created a Kick Childhood Cancer scarf for every MLS team, with proceeds from their sales to benefit the Children's Oncology Group, one of the leading childhood cancer experts in the world and a partner of MLS Works.
In addition, you can also support by posting a photo of you with your favorite MLS scarf to Twitter or Instagram, using the hashtag #ScarvesUp and tagging @MLS. The league will donate $1 for each post.