A friend and I made the trek down I-5 yesterday for the festivities, and I gotta say the experience was overwhelming pure awesomeness with a side of super-duper funtime.
Even without winning such an exciting game - via thrilling comeback no less - the trip would have been well worth the face value + $100 I paid for my ticket. Here are some of the highlights:
Passing the ECS caravan on the way down. Their parade of buses was impressive, and kinda looked like a scene from Transformers was about to happen. Plus we passed them right as "Take Em All" was playing on my Zune.
Almost all the Portland fans were friendly. On the Max train, at the bar, in the stadium...just about everyone in a shade of green I'll call NotRave clearly appreciated the moment we were all a part of. These are times that make being a sports fan worth all the BS that comes with the maddening business and ethical lapses we've all had a favorite team or player make.
Sure the trash talking involved the
occasional frequent f-bomb, but they were of the joking around variety. The bar patrons who responded to Sounders' fans chants with "Supersonics" touched a hurtful nerve, but only cause it's true. If I had thought of it at the time, I would have responded with "NFL".
Public transportation was incredibly efficient and easy to use. We parked off the 205 in eastern Portland and jumped on a Max light rail train that dropped us a block from the field. For all the many things Seattle kicks Portland's ass at (you know, like soccer) transportation is a blowout win for them. It took me 15 minutes on trimet.org's map to go through our options, pick the best location and get door-to-door directions.
Passionate fans on both sides, but not TOO passionate. The bar was split nearly evenly between good and bad guys, and everyone was boisterous, excited, but ultimately cool to be around. When one drunk dude made a slightly over-the-line comment I can't even remember now, three neighboring fans quickly admonished him. But even he was clearly just having fun.
Stadium layout. We have a grander stage, but Jello-Mold Field was definitely constructed with the gameday experience in mind, and gets an A+ for the result. The various decks are great places to hang out and watch the game, the whole stadium has a "true fan" vibe that I'm not talented enough as a write to define but a true fan knows when s/he sees it.
Our seats were behind the south goal at field level. We basically had Adrian Hanauer's seats, as he watched the game about five feet from us. He and a guy I couldn't place (40-something, tall, blond hair, golden scarf) came over and greeted us before and again afterwards. All three Sounders goals happened in front of us, and while their initial reaction was of course up to the ECS sections on our left, there were maybe seven or eight Sounders fans in our area, and we made so much noise they acknowledged us too.
The only real negative I noticed were the concessions. The lines were ridiculously long - I spent all of halftime in line getting a beer, and the guy in front of me called me a d-bag under his breath (to his daughter!) when I made a crack about it. The selection was also limited, though I only saw the south end options, which is the least populated area. There's probably more variety in other parts of the stadium. Plus being in line for so long and posing for a picture for a Portland fan meant I missed their first goal, so at least a positive came out of it.
And despite the disappointing bratwurst and lack of hot pretzels I was craving at the moment, they served Widmer and that's always awesome...even when I get less than halfway through because I jumped on our bench after Montero's free kick goal and spilled it. Suffice to say a number of Portland fans took great joy when they found out the spilled beer was mine.
But they all kept up the sportsmanship and said "good game" after it was over, and high fives were passed all around, including from Lamar Neagle and Pat Noonan, who paid us a visit. Totally off-subject: unless your employer is the Sounders and they require it for your career survival, white guys should never, ever, ever try to pull off the electricity jersey. We just can't make it work.
Timbers Army was impressive, active and singing the whole time. But their tifo was mediocre at best and doesn't hold a candle to what ECS did back in Seattle. I found out later they had been camped out since 7am and never lost a step or decibel all game, and that level of commitment deserves respect.
Still, ECS matched them chant for chant, stomp for stomp and flag for flag. Our boys on the pitch never give up, and the supporters' groups match that commitment for the Full 90©.
All in all, it was a great time from start to finish. This is going to be a fun and intense rivalry for a long, long time, and I'm thankful I get to be there for every part of it.