So another year, another season, another chance for the PR Islanders and the Portland Timbers to converge on PGE Park.
After my one and only attempt to sit in the Timbers supporters' section during a PR-Portland match, this year I decided to meet up with some friends and sit in the stadium's beer garden. Good choice all around, except they decided to put some shelters for the players right in frackin' front of the garden, which hurt visibility. Oh well. It was a nice spring day, we were sitting outdoors. And we had beer.
But it looks like I can't expect an Islanders-Timbers match to end without some sort of brouhaha. I feel this story is better told in pictures.
I arrived early so as to snag a good seat in the garden. Both teams were out on the pitch, warming up. Sharing the space together, in soccery harmony. (Islanders on the top, a Timbers player on the bottom.)
After a while, they are ready to start. Here they are during the national anthems. The guy on the right is the guy they hire for every Islanders game. He's got the "sing the Puerto Rican anthem" position in the friggin' bag, so don't even think about it.
Match is underway. Now that they are actually playing is when things start to turn.
I start to notice, along with the entire stadium and the Portland coach, that our beloved Islanders are not exactly, let us say, sporting fellows. They take too long to take corner shots. They play too aggressively and start to rack up fouls. They dive. Pretty soon they start to get really brazen and one of them gets a red card -- he's out of the game. I believe that one was for a deliberatly thrown elbow in the direction of a Portland player's face.
I'm starting to get really embarassed. Obviously not for me, it's not my fault these guys are acting like neanderthals. But they are representing Puerto Rico, man! What the hell? Here is where verguenza ajena comes in. It sort of translates to "embarassment for a third party", but it refers to feeling embarassed for someone else. It's not just that I'm embarassed over the way these guys were acting just because they're Puerto Rican (which is bad enough). I was feeling embarassed for them, personally, because they were putting on a testosterone-charged spectacle. Living the stereotype of the machito.
So now we have the Islanders coach (top) and the Portland coach (bottom) staring each other down.
Then the elbow-throwing happens, and it's fight time!
That kerfuffle settles down, and it's back to playing. Islanders are trailing, and it's near the end of the match. The boys still have some fight left in them, though. No, I don't mean fighting spirit. I actually mean fight. As the last minutes tick away a Timbers player is taking too long in getting the ball in play, in the estimation of the Islanders coach. So the coach runs onto the pitch and just as the player is about to kick the ball, he grabs it and runs away with it. Think about this for a second. He runs. He grabs it from under the player. He runs away. Coach was kicked off the game, and then.....fight!
If it weren't for those stupid shelters I could have documented all of this a whole lot better.
As my friends and I walk away after the match, I was feeling really disappointed. Why were they acting this way? There was absolutely no reason for such a display. What a bunch of huevones.
I met up with Dave, who had been sitting with the Timbers Army, as he usually does. The story of how he grabbed some college punk by the collar after yelling out "go back to your shanties!" is pretty well-known among his TA friends by now, and he said that the ones sitting next to him would say something about shanties and then look at him expectantly. I asked him if anyone really did shout out anything inappropriate, and he said no. All in all people were surprised at the players, but as far as I could tell that didn't carry over into any kind of stereotyping or nastiness.
I told Dave about how I was feeling. "If it makes you feel any better", he said, "Only one or two of the Islanders players is actually Puerto Rican. And the coach is Irish."
I'm still not sure if that makes me feel better, or worse.
(PS: I apologize about the picture layout. I know it's funky but I can't get it to format correctly.)