The following is a post from Stephan Lewis, 107IST board member.
For those of you who actively engage in the elections process for the 107IST board of directors, you know that it has for years been a process in which members can help set the priorities for the future of the org. You know that the process has been daunting at times with the depth of questions and responses. While we’ve worked to make the process smoother through appointments from the Rose City Riveters Steering Committee, the Timbers Army Steering Committee, and the BIPOC group, it can still be overwhelming for members to run for an at-large position. It takes a lot of personal and mental preparation to be willing to throw your hat in the ring.
I was asked to write this because, historically, I’ve been good at long-range recruiting for the board. A lot of this is planting the seed in people that have the potential to be effective in a specific role, coupled with encouragement and support. Honestly though, it’s been hard recently. Who wants to do this? While it does honestly have some enjoyable moments, it’s not like it’s that frequently fun or free of stress anymore (if ever). Just calling it like it is and looking straight at the elephant in the room.
We’ve said, “Well, in a normal season…” a lot over the past few years — but what is a “normal season”? I barely remember at this point. These past few years, we’ve had 107IST board members go their entire terms without experiencing whatever a “normal season” is. Between compressed schedules for construction, a friggin’ pandemic, and struggles to get the PTFC Front office to understand some of the most basic elements of who we are and what is important to us within the diaspora of our broader community, maybe this is just the way things are. Regardless, we will always put the work in to be standing at the ready, even if it feels like it’s always on the struggle bus.
In the past few election cycles, we’ve been using this space to talk about what skills we think we’ll need as a board with a lot of success. We’ve been blessed with truly solid people — people who are committed to serving and who bring valuable skills to the table. The best laid plans don’t always shake out, however — especially given the issues we’ve collectively faced over the last years.
At this point, we could probably use someone with conflict resolution experience, to be honest.
There is an inherent symbiosis between the 107IST and the PTFC Front Office. We spent the better part of this last year working to strengthen the relationship with the FO in the hopes of making it “more healthy.” None of us got into this to “stick it to the FO.” That’s not why we’re here. We do this to sustain and grow support for the Beautiful Game and this place we call home. We’ve been talking to them about some topics for the entirety of our existence that are just now getting traction, and others that have fallen on overly confident, yet unqualified ears, more consistently than any of us would like. (Tweak your business model and hire qualified people to help you through some of these issues already.) It seems to be the nature of professional sports, where big egos and swagger rule the day, to use confidence to get through things one doesn’t understand or are qualified to address. What other professional sports don’t have, however, is a supporters culture like what we have.
It’s not all bad. We’ve done a lot of great things through our relationship with the FO and will do more in the future. But, holy shit, they pissed me the fuck off talking about their “ethos” in their statements and saying they share ours without even understanding what ours means. Or, using the phrase “proven track record” to absolve themselves of doing the continuous, often difficult work of striving for improvement. Look, we obviously aren’t perfect, but our ethos against hate and intolerance means we will constantly strive to improve. It’s a cornerstone of who we are. At this point, we don’t even know when, or even if, we’ll meet with them again. Our last monthly meeting was pushed before ultimately being cancelled, and this month’s wasn’t even scheduled. Some form of communication will continue, but it may just be … different … moving forward.
And look, it’s not all about the FO. Most of what we do as an organization has little if anything to do with them. However, what we understand through personal experiences and hearing from you, our members, is that there is a lot of disillusionment with the FO, and the effect on our passions is leading to a crisis of faith in many — if not just apathy.
We know that we are blessed with so many talented and passionate people within our membership. We may have worked with you on projects, read your well crafted emails to the FO that you cc’d us on or, you’ve engaged in high-level discussions we’ve been privy to. We see you. We know that there are almost endless other local organizations doing amazing work in our community that are worthy of your volunteer time and effort. We would even encourage our members to look at other organizations we support that would benefit from their skills and passions without as much frustration. We get it.
Why does this sound like I’m trying to persuade you not to run for the board? Well, we know where you are because you're not alone. It is through an understanding of the elephant in the room that we learn to tame it and ride it into battle like the soldiers of Hannibal. As One Club.
Being a PTFC supporter has never been about winning. Don’t get me wrong, winning is great and sharing it with you people makes it even greater. Just as having you people there to share in the frustrations of loss; the embrace of pain and suffering for our support, we have each other; we have this place on earth. Attending matches and growing the game is opportunity to take your joys from the week or your sorrows and frustrations from the week and give them all freely as an offering to this place on earth through a tangible, visceral experience empowering our Club through dance and song and ecstasy and yes, shared despair. Even if it’s only a fleeting moment like that Dairon bicycle last week, I’m reminded of what we’ve created together. That’s what brought us here. That’s what drew us in. That’s who we are as a community. That’s what we need to work to protect. That’s what we need to rebuild. That’s where our past, present, and future reside.
That’s why we need your help.
This thing we’ve all created together is in crisis, along with our collective faith. It’s long been said that owners, staff, and players come and go but we, the supporters, will always be here. I’m here to assure you that we will indeed be here — and we want you to be, too. Together, we can make this into what it needs to be. Together, we can stand shoulder to shoulder for what we love. You can play a role in that. Your passion is worth fighting for. Your skills and experience can contribute.
Do you have something to contribute by running for the 107IST board? You’re damn right you do.