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Carson: Long-distance love for Portland

| Friday, November 6, 2015

It probably wasn’t supposed to happen.

I’m a Midwestern boy, and I’ve never known anything else: born in Ohio, raised a Hoosier two hours down the road from South Bend.

So why have I fallen for a soccer team from the West Coast?

I couldn’t help it.

You see, there’s two types of kids who grow up in suburban America: one plays travel soccer religiously for the entirety of his or her childhood, watches the sport on television, and when the World Cup comes around, obsessively watches every game, professing his or her love for the sport.

The other was me. For 15 years, aside from a miserable experience playing recreational soccer as a four-year old — I was bored, and I didn’t take to my coach — I largely ignored the “non-American” sport.

So when I finally got around to adopting soccer as a thing I was willing to get into a little over five years ago, I went into it without allegiances. Thanks to Landon Donovan’s stoppage-time winner against Algeria at the 2010 World Cup, I got into following the United States men’s national team and from there, I turned my head to the highest level of the sport: the English Premier League.

Pretty quickly, I found my allegiance there — it’s Aston Villa. Don’t ask about how that’s going.

But as time went along, I couldn’t attach myself to a Major League Soccer club: I considered myself a “fan of the league.”

I should’ve been a Columbus Crew fan. No doubt about it. My sports fandom has always paralleled my birth state — I’m chiefly a Cleveland sports fan, while my hockey allegiances lie with Columbus’ other team — and it would’ve been a natural fit. The stadium’s the closest to my home in the league, and if you’re a soccer fan in Indianapolis, odds are you support the Crew or the Chicago Fire.

And I sure as hell wasn’t supporting a Chicago team.

It may have been the colors — black and yellow are particularly ugly and remind me of Pittsburgh sports — or maybe the apathetic ownership that was driving the club into the ground, but it never happened.

For a couple years, I was a loner.

Then I decided to do it on my own terms. No fretting about geography or who I “should” root for. Aside from the Fire or Crew, there was one team I’d ever see MLS gear for in school — the Seattle Sounders.

When I realized that, I knew instantly I hated that club in the ugliest shade of green ever worn on a sports field.

But regardless, I still turned my attention toward the Pacific Northwest, and to a city three hours down Interstate 5 from Seattle: Portland, Oregon.

Be it the raucous fans in the north end of Portland’s Providence Park that create a home-field atmosphere better than any you’ll find in England, the link between Aston Villa hero Peter Withe and the Timbers, the odd, counterculture nature of the Rose City — “Portlandia” is hilarious — or the attractive football that was on display a couple years ago, I fell for the Portland Timbers.

There was no turning back.

This summer, I finally made the pilgrimage to Portland. And now I understand it.

In the 85th minute of every match, the Timbers Army — those aforementioned raucous fans — sing the same song.

“Wise men say only fools rush in,” the supporters sing. “But I can’t help falling in love with you.

“Take my hand, take my whole life too. ‘Cause I can’t help falling in love with you.”

I couldn’t help it. Despite living three time zones away, when I heard the Timbers Army sing, I knew in that moment I was head over heels. There was no turning back.

So Sunday, at 10 p.m., I’ll be sitting in front of my laptop screen, watching a stream as the Timbers compete in the MLS Cup playoffs.

It probably won’t be done until early Monday morning, at least out east, and if extra time and penalties beckon, I might be up past 1 a.m. watching a team I’m madly in love with for the second time in a week and a half.

But that’s what you do for love, right?

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Alex Carson

Alex Carson graduated from Notre Dame in 2017 after majoring in Applied and Computational Mathematics and Statistics and living in O’Neill Hall. Hailing from the Indianapolis area, but born in Youngstown, Ohio, Carson is a Cleveland sports fan convinced that he’s already lived the “best day of his life.” At The Observer, Carson was first a Sports Writer, then served as an Associate Sports Editor (2015/16) and an Assistant Managing Editor (2016/17), before finishing his tenure as a Senior Sports Writer. A man of strong convictions, he ardently believes that Carly Rae Jepsen's 2015 release E•MO•TION is the greatest album of his generation, and wakes up early on Saturday mornings to listen, or occasionally watch, his favorite least-favorite sports team, Aston Villa. When he isn’t writing, Carson spends his time counting down the days to the next running of the Indianapolis 500 and reminding people that the Victory March starts with the lyric, “Rally sons of Notre Dame,” not “Cheer, cheer for Old Notre Dame.”

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