or "How I Went to The Rose City, and Still Found Something to Pity"
The CCL quarterfinals are coming up, and the whole thing can be a bit confusing. I found myself explaining it this morning, so I figured I'd post the conversation here and maybe help some other people out. But first, let me set the scene.
Due to excess amounts of whiskey combined with a lifetime Greyhound bus pass I was awarded after solving a series of murders, I woke up in Portland this morning. Before leaving, I stopped by Jeld Wen to lift my leg in salute, and as I finished up one of the feral cats approached me.
"So...", he intoned, looking at my scarf. "Are you a Sounders fan?"
"Yeah, I-" "Customer!" he interrupted. "I meant customer. I've been a Timbers fan forever. Before the Sounders even existed. You know, before it was cool."
I flashed a cold smile and continued on my way, more interested in finding a waffle than listening to another Timber fan preen about... being a Timber fan.
"So...", I hear over my shoulder, as the cat scrambled to catch up. "You guys don't get to play until the 17th? Ha! Sounds like next week #LacksSounders! Get it?"
"Actually, we're playing Santos next week, and the week after."
"So...", breaking away only briefly to pan-handle a passerby. "What're those, like pre-season friendlies?"
"They're definitely competitive games. And it's not pre-season. It's CCL, and the CCL season goes from summer all the way to the next spring, so this is still part of the season we started back in July."
"So...", cocking his head slightly, the sun's reflection suspiciously absent from the empty frames he's wearing. "What's CCL?"
"CCL stands for CONCACAF Champions League. It's a pretty big deal. Winning it would get us in the Club World Cup, plus it would earn some more respect for MLS."
"So...", he pauses, trying to decide which question to ask first. "What's a Champions League?"
"You know how MLS is our league? Well there are a lot of other leagues, too, and we don't get to play each other in competition. So to fix that, they started a Champions League. A Champions League is where you take the best teams from a bunch of leagues, and then let them play each other. You get to see different styles of play, and see how the leagues match up against each other."
"So...", he's trying to remember his other question, eyes searching around like a kindergartner. It would be cute if he didn't smell like a feral cat. Or someone from Portland. "CONCACAF! What's CONCACAF mean?"
"CONCACAF is the Confederation Of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football. So leagues from North America (I nod quickly as the cat points a confused finger to his chest), Central America, all the islands down there, and a couple South American countries get thrown in, just as a bonus, those are the leagues that get to face off in CCL."
This has given him pause. Maybe he's stunned with the knowledge of how many other fans are out there, and how he's obviously better than all of them… even if they can be trusted with the dangerous task of pumping their own gas.
As the silence stretches, I decide to button up the conversation. "Next week, when we play Santos, it's the first leg of the home-and-away quarterfinals. We play them in Seattle, then we play them Mexico, and the winner goes on to the semifinals. Of the CCL."
He nods, but still seems confused. "The CCL, remember, is a playoff between the best soccer teams from leagues in our part of the world."
"So...", he trails off and I shut my eyes, trying to hide my frustration. Is he really going to ask me what soccer is? This cat has spent his whole life in Jeld Wen. He's grown up watching the Timbers play. He has to know what soccer is!
"What's a playoff?"