What is a supporter?

The question of what is appropriate for a supporter of a soccer club came up on my Facebook feed last night, and I’m curious to hear what you all think.

The set-up is this; I left the Timbers’ match last night at 70′.  I was angry with the team, I was fed up with the run of poor play, and I had lab work to do and an early morning today.

But no matter: when I admitted that on social media I was shredded by those who were themselves angry that I and other fair-weather fans had left before the final whistle.


This isn’t about me.  I’ve been Green and White before it was Green and Gold and I don’t feel like I betrayed anyone or anything just because I got some folks pissed at me.  Got the t-shirt, thanks.

This did get me thinking about a bigger question, though; what IS the best role for a supporter?  What is the role of a fan of a sports team?  What does a fan do when his or her team is struggling…and, more to the point, what to do when a lot of the “struggles” are because of the team’s own failings?

Is it to support the team, rain or shine?  Is it to sing and chant and wave flags and roar for glory, no matter what?

Is it to confront the team with its failure and impress on the management the need to change most quick smart…despite the potential for damage?

Right now the Portland Timbers are doing very poorly.  Injuries and call-ups have stricken the team.  And, to my mind, worse; the team looks undisciplined and borderline out-of-control.  Wednesday wasn’t the first example of players acting foolishly and selfishly in ways that hurt the team.  Chara in Montreal.  Blanco in Minnesota.  Now Adi and Arboleda.

What is a true supporter to do?

I posted the picture at the top to show one option.  That was the Toon Army in the dregs of the 2014-2015 season, when Newcastle was dire and flirting with relegation – and did, eventually, get the drop.

The anger in the stands was incandescent.  Palpable.  “Pardew Out” signs were everywhere.  A large fraction of the fanbase reacted with anger and blame and criticism of the ownership and management of the club.  The fans, questioned, said that sometimes you had to stand up for something by standing up TO it, like confronting a self-destructive friend.  But admitting that that confrontation was bitter, and that a great deal of poison leached into the relations between club and fans.

Predictably, there was a “Porter Out” sign in the stands last night.

Is that an “intervention”?  Or is that destruction, the shattering of the bond between players, the club, and the fans?

Here’s the other option:

Unqualified support…belief beyond reason.  Bucking up the team when they’re the furthest down.  Keeping up the noise, keeping up the fire…making possible the impossible.

That’s the Timbers Army tradition – at least, most of the time (I can still remember the bad old days of “Conor Casey” and “Singapore prison whore” and abusing the opponents for fun, but that’s a whole nother story…).  That’s what the old sweats got on me about; betraying that unconditional love for the club.

The sort of love, the sort of belief, than can change the very thing it loves and believes in.

And that’s really the question, isn’t it?  We love and believe in something so what can we, as supporters, do for that thing?  That team?  To help the club and ourselves best?

I honestly don’t know.

But I do know this; this Timbers club needs help right now.

All the help it can get.

I just don’t know which is the best way for us as fans to give the club that help.

What do you think?