First of all, thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support and for taking the time to offer condolences. It means a lot. You guys are the best.
As those who read the old site know, from time to time I like to talk about Blazer memories...stuff we've experienced as fans. For those who missed earlier installments, you can find them here and here. I have a couple other stories today, simple ones...appropriately about a couple of moms. Unlike the other stories they're not special because they're unusual or overwhelming, but precisely because they are so normal, or at least were so normal, which is part of the point of sharing them.
The first memory is of my own mother. My dad's family came from southern Oregon, a little bit south of the Grants Pass area. We'd often make trips down to visit them. I remember one trip in the early spring of '78 my mom and I were sitting on a bed in their spare room, listening to the Blazer game. That was how you did it in the "old days". The team wasn't on TV at the time and who could afford tickets, even if you had a connection to buy them in the perpetually sold-out Coliseum? But the Schonz painted a picture as well as anybody could, and we were sitting there, side by side, hanging on every word. Your breath would catch every time a shot went up. You'd talk during the timeouts about who would win, who would score most, and all those things. And mind you, my mom didn't like sports at all. But she still followed the Blazers. It seems like a boring, simple story, but this was really one of the few genuine points of connection between the generations in my family...one of the few times that both parties (and all parties really) could sit in a room together, focused on the same thing, enjoying it equally, and talking about it together.
There was another game the day we headed back from that trip. As a little kid a five-hour car ride seems interminable, but my mom and dad talked together and specifically decided to delay our departure until just before the game so we could all listen on the way home. Between the pre-game, the two hour contest, and the post-game wrap up half of the trip was gone in a flash. I still remember what the glowing light of that old Plymouth's radio looked like in the darkness going down the road in the rain. I also remember losing the signal on the receding radio stations and scrambling to pick it up on the new ones. I'm sure part of my parents' master plan was simply to pacify the children in the back seat, but that doesn't matter. In those days the Blazers were important enough to build our schedule around! They were a big part of my growing up, and something my parents celebrated with me.
The second memory is not of my own mother, but of a friend's. I hate to confess it, but in my high school years I was not Mr. Popular, and probably deservedly so. I wasn't mean or consciously anti-social, just mostly clueless tending towards dorky--which, if you remember high school much, usually doesn't play well. (Side note: Doesn't it often seem, though, that the kids who had everything in high school make the most annoying adults, while the folks who had to struggle a lot usually turn out not only decent, but wonderful? Reassure your children and friends, folks. 23-40 is a couple decades of pretty much constant make-up for all of those awful things you had to endure when you were 16. And if any of you out there are teenagers who find yourselves a little bit south of the top of the social heap, trust me...don't sweat it, good times will come . You can have a LOT more fun being even semi-cool at 28 than you can being an ultra-popular high school student.) Anyway, the upshot of this is that I had few friends, but the ones I had were really tight. And one guy was my best friend in particular...the kind that every kid should have. We hung out together ALL the time. His mom never cared how much he had me over. This was in the days of Blazer cable, and she'd let us order the games. She had a Midwest background, so she'd always make enough dinner for sixteen people even though it was just me, my friend, and his brother and sister at the house. I probably never thought about it much then, but looking back I realize how amazing it was for a single mom on one income to do all that for her kids and their stray friend. And, you know, she didn't really care that much about the games herself. I don't ever recall her watching with us. She just made sure we could watch and fed us until we were full. Now that was some mom.
And see, this is part of the reason why the things that have happened in recent years sadden and worry me. I'm not sure the Blazers are a family endeavor anymore, let alone the intergenerational glue they used to be. You can say what you want about the modern athlete's culture, being rich, and everybody doing everything anywhere they want, and I don't disagree. But at the same time, a mom and her child should be able to follow the Blazers without her also having to explain what "simulated sex" means. (Whatever you think of it--good, bad, or indifferent--why should it muddy the waters of basketball or jump to mind every time you think "Blazers"?) A kid should be able to learn math and the rudiments of comparative statistical analysis by looking at the box scores without also having to read about a star player's latest tantrum in the column above. A father should be able to take his kids to the game without having to clarify why a player is scowling and yelling when the coach pulls him out of the game and what those words mean and how we're not supposed to use them. I feel relatively comfortable saying that had the climate surrounding the team today existed when I was a kid, neither of the above stories would have happened. And I can't help but think...was it really necessary for all of those other things to become intertwined with the definition of our team? Did the good/pleasure that the people who perpetuated them got outweigh the potential loss of even one memory like this for a kid and their parents somewhere? Things don't have to be illegal, or even suspension-worthy, to be damaging.
My intention here is not to rehash bad stuff, but to remember the good. I am blessed with really, really good memories of the Blazers when I was a kid. And I don't think it's wrong to say that although I still love and support the team to this day, I do hope that things are much different for the next generation of players and fans than they are for the current ones. It seems to me that would be best for the kids that play for our team and the even younger kids who watch them. I don't know if the organization can provide a championship team for any eventual children of mine to fall instantly in love with, but I really hope they at least field a team that you could feel comfortable sharing with a five-year old without reservation. I think that's important to the health of the organization, the community, and maybe even to a family or two out there...a family like mine was, and may be again when it's my turn to be the parent.