Imagine being a Major League Soccer goalkeeper and you play a match against Portland Timbers in Providence Park. Suddenly, during a corner kick against your team you hear a strange sound, one very different than what your normally hear in the field and you see for a few seconds… a chainsaw?
No, you’re not crazy, there's a man behind the goal who looks rather like a lumberjack holding a chainsaw and trying to throw you off and encourage fans. The ball reaches the box and a Timbers forward scores a goal. In this moment you begin to remember that bearded lumberjack, who is now hacking a slice of wood off a giant log with his chainsaw.
Welcome to Providence Park… my name is Timber Joey.
More than a mascot
The American sport culture encourages mascots, who provide their own unique brand of entertainment. Mascots are a more common sight in Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Football League (NFL) or the National Basketball Association (NBA), but more and more mascots are emerging in MLS.
But in MLS, in addition about to the mascots, there's an emerging trend to celebrate goals in a unique fashion. The New England Revolution have the Midnight Riders, dressed like Colonial Soldiers who shoot muskets after a goal, the Montreal Impact has a bell that rings for a goal and the Chicago Fire sound a fire station bell in honor of their franchise history.
Timber Joey is more than a mascot for Timbers fans
And, of course, the Portland Timbers have Timber Joey. However, for many people Joey is more than a mascot. He's responsible for, chainsaw in hand, cutting a slice of a log near the Timbers Army every time his team scores a goal.
Timber Joey is the first to encourage thousands of fans with his chainsaw. As a whole, it’s Joey and his chainsaw. For the majority of the Timbers Army, Joey's regarded as a symbol of the club, even well above some players of the roster.
The history of a symbol
The history of Timber Joey began many years ago, exactly 39. Let's take a walk through the past to discover how the story of this symbol of the currently MLS Cup champions.
In 1977, the Portland Timbers played in the North American Soccer League (NASL). A young boy called Tim Serril and his family went to PGE Park to watch play one of the best soccer players in the history, Pele. The Timbers played against the New York Cosmos, in one of the last matches in the Brazilian's great career.
That guy, a regular Oregon fan, spoke with the then-owner of the Portland Timbers about the possibility of entering the stadium with a chainsaw to encourage supporters. He, with reservations, accepted the proposal and Jim add a stage at the top of a log. Thus, Timber Jim was born.
From the 1978 season until the club disappeared in 1981, Timber Jim was cheering for their team and fans as part of their show.
In 2001, the team was refounded with the same name (Portland Timbers), and began to compete in the United Soccer League (USL). Thus, Timber Jim reappeared, retaking his old stage and chainsaw.
However, 2004 was a bad year for Jim Serrill, because his daughter died in a car accident. Since the fatal accident, at the 80 minute mark of every Timbers match, the Timbers Army break into a chorus of “You Are My Sunshine” in his honor, because it was the favorite song of Serrill’s daughter. Thus, Timber Jim was even more closely associated with the club.
Despite this tough moment in Timber Jim’s life, he continued going to the stadium every week. However, in 2008 Jim Serrill announced his retirement and created a hole in Timbers fans hearts, which was very difficult to fill.
New idol born
With Jim’s retirement, Joey Webber was chosen as the replacement as the new mascot of the franchise, and with the chainsaw he carried on the legacy of his predecessor. And Timber Joey was born.
Joey Webber, a native Oregonian, participated in logging skills competitions as a youngster, something traditional in the state. Additionally, his union with sport was very strong, because he played rugby when he was young and was a part of the United States U-19 National Team.
In the summer of 2008, in a Portland Timbers match against the Juventus reserves, when Timber Joey was presented in an official event during halftime. From that day on, a new Portland Timbers mascot appeared, which over the years has earned a place in the hearts of supporters.
His support does more than encourage in the stadium alone. In last season's MLS Cup Final, Timber Joey traveled cross country to Columbus for the final. Sadly for him, Columbus refused to allow his chainsaw entry to the match, forcing him to leave it outside. His show during the match is similar to that of his predecessor, although his stature seems to grow when Portland score a goal. As the Timbers Army look on, Timber Joey cut a slice of a log. At the end of the match, the players who score a goal receive the present, and like a trophy, they offer it to the fans as a symbol of their support.
Timber Joey, in addition to his show in the stadium, became a really active figure in community activities with Timbers players. He also participates in charity events and is a part of many initiatives to help the community. But when he returned to be Joey Webber in the offseason, he works at his own construction company.
Timber Joey Interview
VAVEL had the opportunity to connect with the Portland Timbers mascot and get this small interview. He explained many interesting facts about him and his matchday routine.
Question: How do you feel to be one of the best mascot in MLS for the supporters?
Answer: I’m honored you'd suggest that I’m one the best but I feel that every mascot should be as proud to be a part of their team as I am. I'm very lucky to be in the position that I am in and hope to bring recognition to MLS as well as the Timbers.
Q: How did you become Timber Joey?
A: I grew up in a logging town and was always a fan of sports. Running chainsaws and treating people with kindness was in my blood. When I saw on the news that Timber Jim was retiring I jumped on the opportunity to carry on the traditions immediately.
Q: Is there much responsibility replacing Timber Jim?
A: Yes. He was loved by all. I can never replace his legacy but am honored to carry on the traditions and continue to add my own things on a daily basis.
Q: What's your matchday routine?
A: I try to be relaxed. I get to the stadium usually four hours before kick to take in the spirit of the stadium and make sure the saws are fueled and sharp.
Q: What's your favorite moment in match day?
A: My personal interactions with fans are my favorite. Being unmasked and able to connect a supporter to the team makes it very special. However, it’s hard to beat the energy and excitement of cutting a winning slab!
Q: You cut a piece of log when Portland Timbers players scores a goal or the team doesn’t receive any goal, how many logs you cut
though since being the Timbers mascot?
A: It’s hard to keep count. I cut (I call it practice) trees all over the state as an arborist and a faller almost every day. Maybe hundreds at the stadium and over a thousand a year outside...?
Q: What's the meaning of the scarves on the log and his history?
A: The first scarf came to me after I cut my first slab in 2008. It was given to me by a fan. A Timbers Army No Pity scarf that is always on the log and lies closest to my cut. I wore it for a little while but it got too hot so I set it on the log. Since then fans have been adding to the collection. Now we parade them to the log pregame with the help of Jr. Joeys.
Q: How is Timber Joey involved in the Portland Community?
A: I try to be scheduled to 275 charity or community appearances a year. These are events where I visit hospitals, read to classrooms, teach children about the importance of health and fitness or raise money for specific charities.
Q: What's your favorite moment since you are Timber Joey?
A: I was in a children's hospital with a group of players. A little girl didn't want us to come in her room because she was deaf. One of the players sang to her and it made her day. We visited with her for a while. Very heartwarming.
Q: How was the experience to travel thousands miles with ‘the victory log’ to Columbus for MLS Cup Final?
A: I think it was great exposure for our team and the league. The story was picked up around the world showing that MLS supporters are the real deal and that soccer is growing in the States.
Q: Did you live the MLS Cup Final with nervous being out of the stadium?
A: Not at all. The supporters in Columbus were all class. If we couldn't be home for the final I’m glad we were there.