After bringing back most of last season’s surprise playoff squad, and acquiring playmaking wing Evan Turner in free agency, the Portland Trail Blazers are ready to get back into your homes, bars, radios and hearts.
If you’re a casual fan who isn’t made of money, big-ticket games against the Warriors, Cavs, Clippers and Spurs are probably out of your budget. If you’re just looking to get into the arena this season, you have to get the biggest bang for your meager, quickly dwindling dollar. You’ll need another strategy.
I am here to help you, by rifling through the home schedule and mining out the hidden gems hiding in the budget bin.
SEE IT:The Trail Blazers open the 2016-17 NBA season against the Utah Jazz at Moda Center, 1 N Center Court St., on Tuesday, Oct. 25. 7 pm. $10-$145.
In their quest to get back to the playoffs in the post-LaMarcus Aldridge era, the Blazers had to leave someone behind. That beautiful soldier of the ethereal was one Will Barton. In his time away, Barton has become a solid, wildly entertaining rotation wing player for Denver. This will be the first regular-season meeting between Barton, the once-upon-a-time wing of the future in Portland, and Turner, the Blazers’ current wing of the future. Expect sparks to fly!
TUESDAY, NOV. 15, VS. CHICAGO BULLS
Dwyane Wade has gone from a dynamic Miami superstar to an improviser who works in smaller midrange batches. Assuming he doesn’t have a sad off night, this will be the only opportunity of the season to see him ply his lavender-scented trade. And who knows? He could retire sooner than later! It’s clearly worth the risk. Also, you can clap politely for Bulls center Robin Lopez.
WEDNESDAY, NOV. 30, VS. INDIANA PACERS
What else are you going to do between Thanksgiving and Christmas? You might as well see Indiana’s Paul George put the screws to Turner as punishment for Turner having the audacity to get drafted eight spots above him in 2010.
TUESDAY, DEC. 13, VS. OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
Sure, you could attend just to watch Russell Westbrook’s one-man hard-court death carnival. But you have to be there to direct obscene poems at whoever is calling the game for ESPN—Jon Barry, if you’re lucky!
THURSDAY, JAN. 5, VS. LOS ANGELES LAKERS
Finally, a chance to see the newer, younger Lakers without having to indulge Kobe Bryant in 42 minutes of masturbatory performance art.
THURSDAY, FEB. 9, VS. BOSTON CELTICS
The Celtics are supposed to be really, really good, although none of their players is even marginally famous. You will get a program at this game to help you learn who their players are. There’s no other way.
SATURDAY, MARCH 4, VS. BROOKLYN NETS
Jeremy Lin will be handling the ball for Brooklyn, meaning you can relive those heady days of early 2012, when Linsanity devoured our hearts and Newt Gingrich was the Republican Party’s presidential front-runner. Wear a “Newt! 2012” shirt to try and remember the good times, before the future made us cower in fear.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 12, VS. NEW ORLEANS PELICANS
If the Blazers reach the playoffs, this final regular-season game is almost completely unessential. But, if they don’t, there’s going to be a listless crowd, a bench filled with suits and a bunch of D-Leaguers busting ass for points while not even remotely working together as a unit. I attended a game like this in 2012, in which Hasheem Thabeet and Johnny Flynn started for the Blazers and were somewhat inspiring in their indifference, and it dragged along until I left with a duffel bag full of programs. Don’t knock it, they’re going to be valuable in the future!
Talk about a three-peat: Badminton is apparently now the most popular Olympic sport in Oregon, Kansas and Rhode Island.
The revelation of Oregon’s romance with badminton has been spotlighted by Frontier Communications, which studied Google Trends to determine each state’s favorite Olympic sport. In many cases, the results of the project are surprising, with swimming and track and field being slighted in most states and table tennis scoring a win in Utah.
While the study shows that badminton is the most popular in several states, none of them include Oregon’s closest neighbors. Washington favors soccer, California is into water polo and Idaho loves beach volleyball (Montana, meanwhile, has a fondness for trampolines.)
So what’s next for badminton in Oregon? Will Kate Brown and Bud Pierce test each other’s mettle in the Friendship Cup Tournament? Will badminton fever continue to overtake Oregon like a flurry of birdies being battled through the air? Better get your racquet ready just in case.
Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump claimed during last night’s presidential debate that a recently leaked video of him bragging about grabbing women by the genitals was taken out of context.
“This was locker room talk,” he said. “I am not proud of it. I apologized to my family and the American people. I am not proud of it. This is locker room talk.”
But one veteran of locker rooms was skeptical.
CJ McCollum, a shooting guard for the Portland Trail Blazers, took to Twitter shortly after Trump’s explanation.
Since the video was released, many high-profile Republican politicians who either formerly supported Trump or hadn’t commented on the election have spoken out against Trump’s comments, including Senator John McCain, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, House Speaker Paul Ryan and even Trump’s running mate, Indiana governor Mike Pence.
And McCollum wasn’t the only professional athlete who took to social media last night to say that Trump’s comments weren’t typical athlete banter.
The owner of the Washington D.C. women’s soccer team was so scared of Megan Rapinoe kneeling through the national anthem, he ordered the anthem played before she could take the field.
Rapinoe is perhaps the most famous University of Portland soccer alum. She now plays for National Women’s Soccer League team the Seattle Reign. Last week, she knelt through a rendition of the national anthem in solidarity with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who is protesting police brutality against black people.
Lynch then issued a statement saying he wouldn’t let Rapinoe “hijack this tradition that means so much to millions of Americans.”
“We decided to play the anthem in our stadium ahead of schedule rather than subject our fans and friends to the disrespect we feel such could would represent,” the statement said. “We understand this may be seen as an extraordinary step, but believe it was the best option to avoid taking focus away from the game on such an important night for our franchise.”
On Aug. 25, four of the five Thorns who competed on the U.S. women’s Olympic soccer team caught up with press outlets after practice. Just two weeks earlier, their dreams of medaling in Rio had been crushed by an unexpected loss to Sweden in the quarterfinals. After the game, hotheaded goalie Hope Solo (who formerly played for the Seattle Reign) called the Swedish squad “a bunch of cowards”—and was suspended from U.S. Soccer.
The four players who spoke to WW—Allie Long, Lindsey Horan, Meghan Klingenberg and Tobin Heath—all played significant minutes for the team in Rio. They discussed the hurt of not medaling, their goals for hometown redemption, and whether they stand with Solo.
WW: What will you take away from the game with Sweden?
Allie Long: I don’t think I’ll ever forget about that game, ever. Everyone’s taking that loss tough.
Lindsey Horan: A shootout is always a terrible way to go out. But anything can happen. Obviously, Sweden had great tactics, and it worked for them. It shows that any tactical game can be played, [that] even if you’re on your game and doing your best and everything’s going right for you, things can happen in the end.
What’s your take on Hope Solo’s comments and her suspension from U.S. Soccer?
Meghan Klingenberg: U.S. Soccer is going to do what they think is correct. Obviously, I don’t feel like that the way that Sweden played was anything less than their best. What they were doing was trying to win a game. They were being tactically smart and technically smart, and credit to them for winning.
Long: Everyone was disappointed. I can’t speak on Hope’s behalf. Losing in that way hurt, and people are emotional after games. I could be just as emotional. Just not everyone has a camera in their face or a reporter they’re talking to.
How have you been handling the loss?
Tobin Heath: It was difficult to swallow. I just wanted immediately to get out of there and go into hiding and punish myself for a little while. I guess anytime you end a tournament like that it takes a little while to get back on your feet and stop beating yourself up over everything. It took a few days. It’s kind of just part of being an athlete, being able to move on and kind of having that short-term memory to start again.
Long: The next day was my birthday, so that wasn’t the best birthday. It wasn’t easy seeing other people fight for a gold medal when I felt like that’s what we came there for. Just sitting there and knowing we could have been there was really tough.
Horan: It still hurts now. I think it’s going to continue to hurt. But I think the main thing for me was thinking of what’s coming with Portland, that we still have a trophy we can win this year.
After the World Cup, attendance went up around the National Women’s Soccer League. Are you worried about the league losing momentum after the recent loss in Rio?
Klingenberg: There were 19,000 people here [in July], and we didn’t even have national team players on the field. That’s a credit to the organization, that’s a credit to the fans for showing up. I mean, they can tell we play good quality soccer with a good bunch. I want that to spread throughout the rest of the league.
Heath: We’re kind of that benchmark of where the league’s going and where we want the league to go. It’s great that it’s continuing to grow here in Portland.
As the national league grows, women soccer players are becoming more outspoken about wage equity. Do you think that will continue?
Klingenberg: I sure hope so. We’re the players living it. It’s only good for the NWSL. Having players like Alex [Morgan] and [Megan] Rapinoe and even players that aren’t on the national team be able to speak up about their situations is incredibly important for the league to be able to grow.
How are you transitioning from the Olympics to focusing on the NWSL championship?
Heath: I was incredibly proud of the team that was here [in Portland, during the Olympics]. It made us all inspired. Together now, I think we’re going to make that final push to do something big.
Long: I think we’re all excited to get another game under our belts. Now the championship is the thing that’s on our minds. We want to win the league.
But Nadim’s journey from Afghanistan to Providence Park is a symbol of far more for observers who recognize the odds she faced.
“To escape from the Taliban, it’s hard for me to imagine how she could live through that,” says Negina Pirzad, a 2016 University of Oregon graduate whose parents emigrated to the state from Afghanistan in the 1970s. “When my family heard there was an Afghan player on the Thorns, they were like, ‘That’s amazing.’”
Nadim was one of five daughters born in Herat, Afghanistan, to a military general father and school principal mother.
When Nadim was 11, she says, her father, a former member of the Afghan men’s national field hockey team, was summoned by hostile Taliban officials, who seized control of the country from the military. The family never saw him again.
Nadim’s mother soon fled the country with five daughters in tow. They ended up at a refugee camp in Denmark.
The journey out of one of the world’s most repressive societies—where women enjoy few rights and little freedom, including the opportunity to chase a soccer ball while wearing shorts—opened a new world to Nadim.
She progressed rapidly from a scrawny refugee watching Danes play soccer through a wire fence to the first foreign-born player on the Danish national team.
She says her life experience helped on the field.
“I’ve seen a lot,” she says. When she gets hurt or her team loses, she understands there are bigger problems in the world. “It’s made me more mature,” she says.
Nadim began her professional career in a Danish league, where she would come to score almost at will—as many as six goals in a game.
In 2013, the National Women’s Soccer League launched in the U.S., bringing together many of the world’s top players. Nadim wanted in.
“Women’s soccer is taken more seriously here than in Europe,” she says. “I wanted to see if it was for me.”
Toward the end of the 2014 season, she came to the U.S., signing with the NWSL’s New Jersey Sky Blue.
The adjustment to a more physical, higher-level league was difficult. For men, the highest level of play is in Europe; Major League Soccer—the league in which the Timbers play—is something of an afterthought. For women, the NWSL is the ultimate proving ground.
“Here, every game is really challenging,” Nadim says. “Suddenly not being able to score all the time was emotionally hard.”
But she did score seven goals in her first six NWSL games, putting herself on the Thorns’ wish list.
After joining the team this season, she’s quickly carved out a place on the Thorns’ all-star roster, which features seven Olympians.
Asked to describe her in one word, her teammate and roommate Dagny Brynjarsdóttir says, “Sunshine.”
“She has been through a lot in the past as a kid growing up, and I think that defines who she is today,” says Brynjarsdóttir, a member of the Icelandic national team. “I haven’t met any other refugee that has made it this far in soccer and school and done this well.”
After the six-month NWSL season ends and other players get to relax, Nadim heads back to Denmark to hit her medical books. She hopes to become a reconstructive plastic surgeon.
Nadim says Islam plays an important role in her life. She prays daily, although she does not attend a mosque here.
She acknowledges her life story gives her an opportunity to be an example for other Muslims, particularly young girls.
Nadim says that’s a blessing rather than a burden.
“I want people to know that everything is possible,” she says. “If I’m going to be able to change even one person’s life, that’s a huge accomplishment.”
She’d like to help the Thorns win another NWSL championship and bolster the Danish national team in the Euro Cup next year.
When her playing days are over, she hopes to practice medicine somewhere warm and near water.
But that place won’t be Afghanistan.
“I grew up with a different mindset and mentality,” Nadim says. “It would be hard for me to function there and stay alive.”
It was June 7, 2014: a beautiful day for soccer at 75 degrees, the sun bouncing off the turf at Providence Park and beaming back on the faces of 13,838 spectators—almost all of them Thorns fans.
The match against the Western New York Flash went badly. By the 51st minute, the Thorns trailed 5-0 and their goalie, Nadine Angerer, had been ejected for taking down a Flash player.
Fans of most professional sports teams would have fled for the exits. But many of the Rose City Riveters, the Thorns’ die-hard supporters group, instead headed for the beer line.
The singing began in the stadium’s north end with a few voices bellowing an old Bill Withers song: “Lean on me, when you’re not strong.”
There was no miracle comeback: The Thorns lost 5-0. But the singing picked up momentum, made its way through Section 107, then 110.
“We all neeeeed somebody to leeeean on.”
“I think I maybe started crying a little bit,” says Thorns midfielder Mana Shim, reflecting on that moment. “There’s a sense of family, just that this group of people has your back. We’re all very hard on ourselves and want to do our best, and the fans never go away.”
This week, five of the Thorns’ most talented players return from a fresh disappointment.
They played for the U.S. Olympic women’s soccer team, which was favored to win gold in Rio de Janeiro, only to be knocked out in the quarterfinals. That was the earliest exit ever for U.S. women’s soccer at the Olympics.
On Sunday, Sept. 4, the Thorns’ Olympians—including Christine Sinclair, who helped Canada win the bronze medal, and Amandine Henry, who competed for France—return to Providence Park for Portland’s game against the Boston Breakers.
And they will be greeted as if they’d all won gold medals.
The love between this club and its fans isn’t just passionate. It’s unprecedented in the history of women’s professional sports in the U.S.
The Thorns’ average home attendance this season has risen to 16,772 a game. That’s more than double the turnout of all but one of the nine other teams in the National Women’s Soccer League. Even soccer-mad Seattle draws only 4,590 per game for Reign matches.
No other U.S. city exceeds an average home attendance of 10,000 for any professional women’s sport. Portland surpasses it every other week.
“It’s really special,” says Thorns midfielder Allie Long. “There are no other fans that support female athletes like they do.”
In this country, women vote more than men, watch more movies, buy more books, commit fewer crimes, and graduate from college more frequently. The one thing they don’t do anywhere close to as much as men is watch pro sports.
Except in Portland.
Most other NWSL teams market their matches as a family night. In Portland, the games are mother-daughter bonding events, date nights for 30-somethings, and the city’s largest outdoor LGBTQ cocktail party—a scene so thirsty that Providence Park has effectively replaced the lesbian bar in Portland’s nightlife scene.
“If there’s a Thorns home match, I’m reorganizing my weekend around that,” says Ryan Brown, a season-ticket holder. “It’s where my people are.”
The story of how it happened is a perfect storm of soccer fever, gay rights and feminist empowerment. And it started with a grizzled, gum-chomping man named Clive Charles.
An integral player for early Portland Timbers teams, Charles coached both the men’s and women’s soccer teams at the University of Portland. He started coaching the men’s team in 1986 and added the women’s team in 1989, coaching both until his death in 2003. In the process, he transformed the Pilots from a middling program into a buzzsaw.
Under his tutelage, the Pilots had a combined 439-144-44 record, including the 2002 women’s NCAA championship in his final season. Charles recruited and coached some of the most recognizable and talented women’s soccer players ever to play the game—including Sinclair, who was named the NWSL Player of the Olympics in Rio after scoring the winning goal in Canada’s bronze-medal match against host Brazil.
He put “the bluff,” as UP is called, on the map, and Portlanders turned out in droves to watch his teams. The Pilots’ women’s soccer team won a second NCAA title in 2005, cementing the small, Catholic university’s reputation as a national power.
“Growing up, we didn’t have many pro sports teams—the Trail Blazers were the Jail Blazers—and it was really easy to go to UP games. And the women were better than the men,” says Hallie Craddock, a Thorns season-ticket holder. “Having Christine Sinclair for the Thorns is icing on the cake. It was the perfect storm to be like, ‘Of course women’s soccer is good.’”
But Charles’ influence wasn’t limited to UP. He and many of his former teammates created a foundation of Rose City soccer via clinics, club teams and academies. Current UP women’s soccer coach Garrett Smith, who played for Charles, recalled how Charles began a summer league for female players.
“He brought in all the players, tried to cut the living costs, so professional women would have a place to play,” Smith says. “It’s simple things like that that start falling into place. The Thorns are reaping the benefits of that now.”
The Thorns played their first game in 2013, 10 years after Charles’ death at age 51 from prostate cancer.
They joined seven other franchises in the National Women’s Soccer League—the third attempt to launch professional women’s soccer in the U.S. More than 16,400 spectators showed up to the Thorns’ first home game. Then-coach Cindy Parlow Cone said the atmosphere felt like a World Cup.
Thorns matches are no typical family outings. Entire girls’ club teams will sit, focused and wide-eyed, only speaking to comment on the intricacies of strategy. Even teenage boys watch the match transfixed.
Until, of course, the Thorns score. Then it’s a cacophony of screams and shouts, the Riveters chanting away, scarves fluttering en masse—as thick, red celebration smoke pours from the north end and settles like a fog.
Then a badass young woman emerges from the haze to beat her own chest and celebrate her strength along with 17,000 other people.
“The No. 1 reason I love the Thorns is, on a philosophical and ideological level, it was so important to me growing up to see these strong women,” says Sarah Krabacher, a die-hard fan who makes sure she sits in the same seat in the front row of the north end for every game. “It’s very exciting to see women athletes worshiped, by girls and boys.”
Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz was a fan of the Leeds United men’s professional soccer team while growing up in England, but her family loves the Thorns so much, it spent part of her son’s wedding day watching a live YouTube broadcast of a Thorns-Seattle Reign match. (Unfortunately for Fritz, the Reign won 3-1.)
“When I was growing up, girls didn’t play soccer at all,” Fritz says. Attending Thorns matches “just reminds me every time of how far women have come in my lifetime. The whole experience is wonderful.”
Another aspect of Thorns’ matches is even more rare at sporting events.
Chris Henderson, a graduate student in American and sports studies at the University of Iowa, spent several days in Portland interviewing members of the Riveters for an academic paper titled “Two Balls Is Too Many: Stadium Performance, Gender, and Queerness Among Portland’s Rose City Riveters Supporters Club.”
The recurring theme he found? The north end is “a safe space for queer people.”
Craddock, a season-ticket holder who developed a friendship with Krabacher and several others after they met in the north end, says that’s a factor in attendance for Thorns matches. “I think there are several reasons, one of which is obviously lesbians,” she says with a laugh.
“The pro-queer factor is huge for me,” Krabacher adds. “Honestly, a Thorns game is the largest lesbian convention in the world.
“I’m from Idaho, and being a lesbian and being at a Thorns game, with all the pride flags and the tifo they did after the Orlando shooting and all these LGBTQ celebrations, it’s something Portland offers that some other places don’t.”
Perhaps the most remarkable part of fans’ love affair with the Thorns is that it has grown stronger, even when the team’s performance has gotten weaker.
After winning the NWSL championship in their first season, the Thorns were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs in 2014. Last year, they won just six of 20 matches, failing to even reach the playoffs. Still, fans showed up—and more often.
Average home attendance rose from 13,320 in the Thorns’ first season to 15,639 in last year’s dismal performance to 16,772 this season. (Disclosure: This author writes copy for Nike, which is a sponsor of the Thorns.)
The Thorns’ biggest crowd this season at Providence Park was 19,231 on July 30, when Portland defeated the Seattle Reign 1-0 despite playing without its Olympians. The Thorns fielded a shorthanded team of 15 players, some of them unpaid amateurs, and the crowd cheered louder than ever.
That kind of loyalty is requited.
Long, the Thorns midfielder who recently returned from her first stint on the U.S. Olympic team, recalls a fan tweeting about his 8-year-old daughter getting bullied for wearing a Thorns jersey to school.
“I hate bullying,” Long says. “And they were making fun of her, and I was like, ‘Oh, heck no.” She reached out to the girl, got her tickets to a game, autographed gear, and met her after the match.
“I just have so much respect for our fans,” Long says, her eyes flashing as she recounts the story. “Especially if some cute, little girl is getting bullied. She should be proud for wearing that jersey.”
The Portland Mavericks—led by Kurt Russell’s dad, Bing, and staffed by Snake Plissken himself—were a pack of lovable baseball miscreants who spat, smoked, drank, said unscripted things and invented Big League Chew.
The Independent (225 SW Broadway, No. 100, 503-206-6745, independentpdx.com) is a huge downtown sports bar in a space previously occupied by two other sports bars, but the fact the owners dedicated the bar to the original Battered Bastards of Baseball—with blow-up Mavericks wall art alongside Timbers, Thorns and Blazers memorabilia—points to why it might succeed where others failed. It’s a simple matter of sweating the small stuff. Although the walls’ sports mementos—including a bat signed by disgraced legend Barry Bonds—approach theme-park density and the bar’s got more screens than some casinos, the cavernous wraparound-bar and pool-tabled spot feels like Planet Portland rather than Planet Hollywood, devoted to small-bore local legends like Steve Prefontaine.
Owned by the same local history buffs who own Circa 33 and the Station, the Independent has a whiskey selection that is admirably deep and weird, and—wonder of wonders in a sports bar—a considered 20-tap beer list featuring the Commons Farmhouse, Breakside IPA and the underrated Lompoc Pamplemousse, not to mention rotating beers that include Pfriem and Firestone Walker. The bar is priced for the hotel district, with a $15 Blanton’s Old Fashioned and $6 crafts.
But it’s a rare sports bar that makes a damn good Old Fashioned, not to mention a Chicago-style red hot that tastes much like my memories of them, right down to the poppy-seed bun. At happy hour (3-6 pm Monday-Friday), the drafts are a buck off, alongside a $5 burger and $6 nachos, making the Independent a more reasonable after-work stop. And hell, you might meet a Maverick. Apparently a few have stopped by.
Starting Sept. 1, drivers can apply for the specialty Blazers license plate. In addition to regular title, registration and plate fees, the Blazers plate will cost an extra $40, which will go to the Trail Blazers Foundation. Kate Brown signed a bill allowing the creation of the state’s newest vanity plate last year.
The design uses the classic “Oregon” lettering that’s the same as the standard plate, and adds a Blazers logo, Rip City logo and “TB” letters.
The plate joins the other 36 plates allowed on Oregon vehicles. Thirty-six! Did you know about these?
Unfortunately, the DMV cannot reserve specific number-letter configurations for license plates, so don’t expect to be able to get “DAME TIM3,” “BEAT LA” or “SHEED420.”