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Beyond the Lens: Cascadian Supporter Relations

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Today, I look at the dynamic that exists between the supporters of both Whitecaps FC and Timbers FC.

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Every year, there's a number of matches that each fan/supporter looks forward to. It could be the first home match against Orlando City, or NYCFC or . For me, it's always the Cascadia derby matches, Seattle and Portland. Due to circumstances beyond my control (for the most part), I missed the first Seattle trip. Part of me was gutted because I wasn't going to be able to see any of my friends down there, and it's always a good time when you can beat the Sounders in their house. However, I decided that as long as I had control, I was not going to miss the upcoming Portland trip.

Some people view the Cascadian rivalry as just that, a rivalry. On the pitch, during the 90 minutes, it's just that. I dislike you and your team just as much as you dislike me and my team. In conjunction with MLS rules and an agreement between the 3 Cascadian teams, a designated number of tickets are set aside and certain security measures are put in place. There will be pieces between now and the next century about what transpires between the white lines.

What I'm looking at again, much like my piece about my time in Portland, is what transpires away from the stadium and what motivates people to travel to the other city.

I used to be of the mindset that my team is just better because it's my team. You all suck because I said so. However, a few nights a couple of years ago changed everything for me. I realized that these people have travelled 5+hrs, passed through Middle Cascadia, crossed an international border to come support their team. Maybe they're not that bad after all.What I discovered was they were just like me, well, not exactly like me, but we had common interests: soccer, beer and good times. What's transpired since then is many days and hours of engaged in shenanigans that I would've missed out on if I hadn't taken that chance. What I've noticed, especially walking around Portland, is a general interest from the non-Timbers fans, in what brought me down to the Rose City with "BELL" emblazoned on my shirt. It also came across as a general appreciation for visiting their fine city. Sometimes, I wish that people in my city were as welcoming as some of the Portland people that I've encountered have been.

Through these experiences, I've learned that there is a network of people who are friends in real life, but bash each other relentlessly on the internet. After all, isn't that what the internet is for? Seriously though, I learned, through my own stupidity, that if I ever got into a situation, I have friends in both Seattle and Portland who would help me in whatever way they could.

I reached out to all the supporters groups and asked for feedback. The individuals who answered my inquiries and shared their feelings are: John Knox (Vancouver Southsiders), Lynda & George Glavas (Rain City Brigade), Martin Morlot and Graham Nichol (Curva Collective) and Matthew Lindley (Timbers Army). Thank you all for your feedback.

I sent these individuals the same questions and they all provided varying degrees of insight based on their experiences.The questions ranged from how welcomed they felt to the effect, if any, technology has played a part in building a relationship.

Here's a little sampling of what I offered up as questions and the responses I've gotten:

Question #1 was as follows:

Do you believe in mingling with opposing supporters? Why or why not?
Graham Nichol: I do. I think there's a lot of great opportunity involved in reaching out a hand across the aisle, as it were; sharing the culture, the history of your respective team and specific group, not to mention the chance to talk about other football teams and leagues - maybe you'll find a fellow Gooner or Dortmund fan. Of course, there's also just making new friends at the end of the day. Not everyone feels the same way, but that's alright, no harm in trying.

Matthew Lindley: I absolutely do.  Even Seattle fans lol.  Rivalry is rivalry I suppose, but one way to grow the game on this continent is getting together and discussing all aspects of the game, support and the day to day things we face.  This can happen in an official capacity or it can happen with a couple folks sharing a pint, giving each other a hard time and maybe even trading scarves or other team merch.

Lynda and George Glavas: In regards to the Portland/Vancouver rivalry - we don't mind mingling with opposing supporters in Portland.  We've found their fans to be mostly friendly and helpful.  We have the same, "We all hate Seattle mentality".  Having said that, we don't go out of our way to mingle, but we often have quick banter with supporters who typically just welcome us to Portland and wish us safe travels home.  That's nice, so we try to extend the same kindness when we see other teams' supporters in Vancouver.  It's a two way street.

Martin Morlot: I do except during the 90 minutes. During the game, opposing teams and their fans are the enemy. Outside of those 90 minutes we are free to have a beer with them and good conversations.

John Knox: There's no reason why Vancouver supporters can't or shouldn't unless the opposing fans give you a reason not to. My sense of things is that we are regarded as some of the friendliest travelling supporters in MLS, so why not take advantage of that? Put yourself out there if you like, or don't. I have met some great people while I've traveled away, and I've met fantastic people who have traveled incredibly long distances to get to Vancouver. Supporters culture is something which can enrich your life in many ways, and one of those gifts just happens to be the opportunities to connect with people who love soccer just as much as you do.

As you can see there's a general theme of willingness to engage, in varying degrees. There will never be a consensus opinion on this topic, but the perspective of others is what tweaked my curiousity in exploring this dynamic within the Vancouver/Portland rivalry.

Another question was as follows:

Does the fact that there's a long commute (5hr drive or more), an international border and a fishing village between the two cities make the trip that much more worthwhile?

John Knox: Of course it does. Five hours in a car or bus plus untold hours at the border beforehand makes for a very long, long day. When you arrive in Portland it feels like something amazing has been accomplished before the ball's even been kicked.

Matthew Lindley: Of course.  Every trip feels like an adventure.  It's a proper road trip with our favorite football team and perhaps our 2nd favorite home city at the end of the line.  It amplifies the excitement like crazy.

Martin Morlot: Yes, crossing the border is always fun (or not). Driving for 5h always makes for good conversation.

Lynda and George Glavas: Umm, no, it just makes the trip longer!  Lol!  It's a long drive home if we don't win.

Some people travel a lot, some don't travel very much, but it's interesting to see how perspective changes from person to person. If there's one underlying theme, the feel of the commute home is often directly affected by the result of the match.

And perhaps the most invasive question of them all:

If the opportunity presented itself, would you stay with people you've become friends with in their own city?

Jay Mayede: Been there, done that.....twice. I have to say those experiences staying at a friend's place opened me up to a whole new side of Portland, and a chance meeting with someone we were trying to meet up with anyways. I've developed on some friendships that I probably wouldn't have had the chance to do so and met a number of people I probably wouldn't have.

Lynda and George Glavas: We're not sure.  We like to think of ourselves as slightly adventurous, social people but we really enjoy our own space and like quiet and privacy at the end of the day.

Matthew Lindley: Have already LOL.  I stayed with a friend from the SouthSiders during the playoff weekend last year.  It's really something special when you can do that.  I wouldn't trade the friendships I have with the Vancouver fans for anything.

John Knox: No, I feel duty bound to travel with my clan, and to stay with my clan. No deserters permitted!

Graham Nichol: Funny enough, while planning for this upcoming Portland Away trip, a TA friend of mine offered to put me up if I needed the accommodation. I'd already paid for my hotel, but I appreciated the offer. Perhaps someday I'll have a chance to return the favour.

Martin Morlot: If I made good friends, and the opportunity presented itself, I certainly would.

I asked this question just based on my own experiences. No matter how you view the Caps/Timbers rivalry within the lines of the football pitch, there's a whole different world waiting for people to explore and expand. One where supporters mingle with other in whatever watering hole you like to congregate ate, taking occasional jabs while having a wobbly pop and perhaps trading a scarf all at the same time.

It's hard to draw any definitive conclusions about the relationship between the supporters of both Whitecaps FC and Timbers FC, but there are those who fully embrace it, those who don't and those who will when presented the opportunity.

I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed compiling and typing it out.

C