I love a good story. Telling or listening, it doesn’t matter. There were too many good stories from the Timbers/Sounders game day experience to fit into one blog entry, so I’m breaking Saturday’s fun into two parts. First up: All the pre-game fun and frolic.
It’s 4:30 a.m. when Dusty and I get in line. As we’ll find out later, we’re the 348th and 349th people in line. The match doesn’t start for eight hours. Let that sink in. Tents and sleeping bags litter the plaza in front of the stadium, and most of the crowd is still asleep. It looks less like game day than it does a hipster refugee camp.
Adventures with Sven. He’s a 46-year-old father of three who’s missing all three of his sons’ soccer matches today. What kind of sweetheart deal he cut with his wife to make that happen, I don’t ask.
We secure our early entry wristbands by 6:15 a.m. and have another four hours until we have to be back in line. With time to kill, Sven joins us for a trip to Voodoo Doughnut, where I get a Butterfingering doughnut. For the uninitiated, the sugary slice of heaven is a cake doughnut covered with Butterfinger candy bar crumbles. Why can’t Top Pot come up with a candy bar doughnut? Is this too much to ask? (I ask because crushing a Butterfinger in my own apartment and sprinkling it on a Safeway doughnut would be the epitome of shameful. That’s some “Dr. Phil” shit right there. So get on it, Top Pot!)
Drama! Intrigue! I’m back at the stadium, Sven’s split, and Dusty’s off running an errand. I meet up with my buddy Wes, who finds a deli in downtown Portland that serves what’s called a “breakfast dog.” It’s a toasted hot dog bun topped with a sausage, bacon, and scrambled eggs. For the first time in my life, I regret going to Voodoo.
About this time, Dusty calls. “Do you have my ticket?” he asks. I do not.
We head to the box office and ask about getting his ticket reprinted. The customer service reps who can facilitate this aren’t in yet, but someone overhears us. “You lose your ticket?” he asks.
Turns out, this kind-hearted Timbers fan saw the ticket on the floor at the nearby Fred Meyer (where Dusty dropped it), recognized it as a ticket (not trash), and turned it into customer service. He could have scalped it for north of $50 but did not. Then he happened to overhear us lamenting the lost ticket and saved the day.
I mean, what are the odds? If just one of those steps goes differently, Dusty’s ticket never turns up. Seriously, how does any of that happen? Portland, Oregon, everybody!
Wes and I are talking about the Portland/Seattle rivalry while Dusty tracks down his ticket. There’s no love lost between the franchises or fanbases. Four hours from now, the Timbers Army will chant “I’d rather bomb Seattle than Iraq!” and “We’ve got bigger dicks than you!” (Even the women!)
So maybe I shouldn’t be surprised when Wes tries to envision a world in which he willingly cheers for the Sounders:
“Maybe I would root for the Sounders if they were playing al-Qaeda FC,” he tells me with the conviction of a sleepy Ben Stein. “And I wouldn’t feel good about it.”
It’s 9 a.m., which means it’s 5 o’clock somewhere. Wes, Dusty, and I stop into the Bitter End Pub for a pregame pint. You’re jealous, it’s okay.
Dusty leaves, and two young men slide up to the table next to Wes and I. They earnestly introduce themselves and launch into their story.
They left their small town near Lake Tahoe at 6 p.m. Friday and decided, on a whim, on a weekend trip to Portland. En route, they looked up the Timbers schedule for kicks and — lo and behold — discovered that they were about to play their biggest match of the season. They bought tickets on StubHub and arrived at 5 a.m. They hadn’t slept and weren’t planning on it anytime soon.
Pubs are the Internet of real life. For real.
We bid them farewell and get in line. We’ve been hanging out around Jeld-Wen Field for more than five hours now. It’s been a full day already, and it’s not even noon. The match hasn’t even started. The best is yet to come.
Onward Rose City.