Aaron Mesh of the Willamette Week writes that Major League Soccer's Portland Timbers could soon overtake the Portland Trail Blazers as the Rose City's "signature sport".
But this fall, as the basketball and soccer seasons overlap, a funny thing has happened: The Timbers have overtaken the Blazers as Portland's hot ticket, and are poised to usurp the title of Stumptown's signature sport.
Soccer just seems hipper. The oddities of the game-its Eurocentric flavor, its reliance on crowd participation, its appeal to mustachioed baristas-dovetail with the rise of a young downtown culture.
And most importantly, the team is really good. Coach Caleb Porter has taken the players' strengths-the acrobatics of Darlington Nagbe, the scrappiness of Will Johnson, and the reliability of Donovan Ricketts, to name only three-and forged a high-octane powerhouse.
Meanwhile, the Blazers are entering another rebuilding season, still trying to rebound from the double whammy of Brandon Roy and Greg Oden's wrecked knees. (Top draft pick CJ McCollum has already broken his foot.) The basketball arena may have a new name-the much-derided Moda Center-but everything else, from the uncertain quality of the team to the suburban cheesiness of the McMuffin giveaway, feels deflatingly familiar.
Here's Casey Jarman making the case for the Blazers.
Few among us can delude ourselves into thinking that the level of competition in Major League Soccer approaches that of the greatest basketball league on the planet, and none of us should expect that the Timbers will bring a national focus to this city the way the Blazers do in a good season.
Timbers fandom to many also seems like an opportunity to piss on the embers of a bygone Blazers legacy. Should the team bring home a golden cup or silver ball or whatever the hell MLS awards its champions, the ensuing riotous street party will be theirs alone. There will be no Bill Walton-looking creepers lurking in the shadows and saying "Yeah, but '77 was better."
I understand this. I'm even a little jealous about it. But there's no room in my life for a second marriage.
I choose to watch the Blazers-despite my many misgivings about corporate sports franchises in general and the team's current bottom-line-oriented president in particular-because even when they suck, the competition is the best in the world. I watch them because basketball appeals to my ADD side more than soccer ever could. And I watch the Blazers because the team's history gives me a better understanding of the city I love best.
Back in 2011, former Blazers COO Sarah Mensah dismissed the idea the Timbers would be "competition" for the Blazers in an interview with Andy Giegerich of the Portland Business Journal.
"The Timbers and their fan base and make-up is very different from ours," Mensah said. "The experiences will be very different. The experience of being outdoors at a soccer game is very different from what the Trail Blazers want. We don't see the Timbers as competition for us. If we can have another strong sport here, that will be good for sports in Portland in general."
Former Blazers executive Mike Golub was named MLS Executive of the Year in 2011.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter