“I’ll Go With You” and Some Notes on Inclusion

I didn’t grow up in a sports house. Sure, we would watch the big games and I had a workable understanding of the more popular American sports, but we didn’t have any obsessions or even alliances to teams. As a kid, I didn’t have even much interest in sports and that culture seemed very clique-ish to me; it felt exclusionary. It’s hard to get very invested in something that is designed to keep certain people out. I don’t think that’s the intent of many sports cultures, but it’s often the result.

I do some speaking on social media and digital culture as part of my day job and I often cite the Portland Timbers—and by extension, the Timbers Army—as examples of community engagement. My standard line is, “Soccer is their product, but community is their brand.” And that’s not a throw-away comment, the community built up around the team is what makes it special. But what is community without inclusion?

With all the news in the last couple weeks regarding restrictive (sorry, I mean BULLSHIT) laws governing the use of public bathrooms, I was delighted, but not surprised, to see a statement from this community I have become so enamored of. It’s a simple, but powerful statement.

I’ll Go With You

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I Was A Teenage Timber Jill

When my buddy Tom told me his wife had been a cheerleader for the Portland Timbers, I initially scoffed. I had never heard of the team even having a cheer squad–what soccer team does? I couldn’t find a single reference online to there ever being a squad. Nobody I asked had ever heard of it. I thought it must have been a misunderstanding.

Then he brought in the uniform.

The team indeed did have a cheer squad…for one season. The 1981 Portland Timbers were in their seventh year in the NASL as part of the Northwest Division. To add a bit of pizzazz and entertainment to the match, a group of local young women were recruited to accompany Timber Jim as the Timber Jills dance squad.

When I heard about all of this, I of course had to hear more. So one night last fall, as we were on the eve of clutching our first MLS Cup Championship, Tom and I recorded a conversation with two of the members of the squad, Brenda Becker and Judy Bennett, to hear about this mostly forgotten part of Timbers history.

In addition to their story, there are clips of some old school stickers, programs, and of course…the uniform.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lDDqOITE5Ks]