Last week Grandpa Nelson and I went to our first ever professional soccer game! We saw the Portland Thorns play the Houston Dash at Providence Park here in town. Soccer is such a big part of the Portland culture, we wanted to give it a try.
As usual, the magic number 15 bus got us where we wanted to go. Outside the stadium, the ladies reminding us to open our bags for inspection were also chanting “PT! (clap clap) FC! (clap clap) I figured out this stood for Portland Thorns Football Club, but it took a minute.
The Thorns are a professional women’s team, and are so good that several of the players were on the International Championship-winning team at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Paris a few weeks ago. Lindsey Horan and Tobin Heath were on the US team, and others played for their country of origin, like Brazil.
The buses and trains were full of folks wearing green, red and black, as well as Thorns scarves and tee shirts, as we headed downtown. A river of happy fans moved toward the stadium. Providence Park has just finished a multi-year remodel to increase capacity and modernize the facility, and this is the first time I’ve seen it unwrapped. Outside, there was art and new decoration.
Inside there were homages to the old structure, as well as posters and timelines that told about Mr. Lownsdale’s tanning factory, which stood on this spot over 150 years ago.
Our seats faced due west, and the sun was RIGHT in our eyes until it ducked behind the stadium. I improvised and was more comfortable, but I did look like I had borrowed Laura Ingalls Wilder’s poke bonnet .
The new construction in the stadium provided for lots of places to sit and watch the game besides your regular seats, and many new places to eat. Beer and wine, of course, were also close by.
There were opening ceremonies, where players who had played internationally were recognized, and local singer Tiffany Dempsey performed the notoriously difficult national anthem beautifully. All the close-ups were captured on a new Jumbotron screen that let us feel even more up close and personal than our 12th row seats did.
Soccer games have a really different rhythm than baseball, which is the only other sport I follow. There are two 45 minute halves and a 15 minute halftime, with no time outs, innings, or other built-in breaks. Many folks stayed in their seats whenever there was action on the field, cheering for goals and reacting loudly and emotionally whenever the other team got possession of the ball.
Every now and then, chants of “EQUAL PAY! EQUAL PAY!” broke out, highlighting the discrepancy in professional soccer players’ pay. Women make just 10% of what men do, despite being responsible for the larger percentage of attendance. The international success of the women’s team, and the failure of the US men’s team to make it anywhere near the finals, have brought this issue forward.
The most avid fans call themselves The Rose City Riveters, and all sit in one section. They have chants (led by energetic folks), and roared “One Goal Beyond!” for the first goal, “Two Goals Beyond!” for the second, and so forth. They even set off a bright red smoke bomb whenever the Thorns scored, and several sections march back and forth. It was fun to watch…from a distance.
The section we were in had the disadvantage of the bright afternoon sun for a while, but some advantages, as well. During the first half, a young man tossed hot, free, wrapped hot dogs and hamburgers to fans, followed by candy and chips in the second half. His aim was very good, and his supply seemed endless. There is also an air conditioned cafe close by, which sells regular stadium fare at discounted prices.
And near the end of the match, VooDoo Doughnuts opened up a table at the top of the section, and you could walk up and take as many as you could carry! Kids and parents were fetching for the family. It was amazing!
When time ran out and the Thorns had won 5-0, we joined the exiting river and walked a few blocks to catch a bus home. It was standing room only and full of fans, but we were all happy with the thrill of victory.