Mission Revisited

One of the nicest things about this community is that it's experienced continual growth as time has gone by.  Each and every one of you who comments adds something to the site and we are sure grateful to have you!  What's more in the last week several people have commented about how much they liked the site and the community that surrounds it.  That's great to hear, as I like it as much as all of you do.  Since our membership has more than doubled since the start of the season, it might be helpful to share again what we do here so that everybody can see/remember not only that it's great here, but why and how it's great.

Fellow blogger Henry Abbott opines that every blog starts with a thesis, and this one is no different.  The genus of this experiment was simple:  the firm belief that Blazer fans are not dumb sheep, nor merely consumers of a product, but are for the most part reasonable, intelligent, savvy people who have something meaningful to contribute if somebody will just allow them.  Like most of you I had experienced a deluge of marketing campaigns, carefully-crafted excuses, and media frenzies most of which seemed aimed at the fans rather than designed for them.  Furthermore when I looked around the web I saw a lot of discussion between blind optimists who defended the team at every turn (and accused anyone remotely critical of being weak-minded slaves to the evil media) and disheartened, disappointed, or just disturbing pessimists who didn't seem to want the team to do well at all.  Forgive me, but none of it seemed very real, or like it had anything to do with the Blazer community...at least the Blazer community I remember growing up around.  We weren't doing credit to ourselves.  It seemed like something was lost...something I remember fondly and that was once very important to me...and that just didn't seem right.

One can certainly argue about when and how whatever-it-is got lost.  Many blame the front office for bringing in malcontents and that's partially true.  Many lament the invasive, almost vindictive nature of sports talk and media coverage nowadays and that's partially true also.  But we as fans also let it go.  Or, more accurately, we traded it away.  Somebody told us that winning at all costs was the only way to go, and we bought into it.  We bought tickets.  We cheered.  I'm willing to accept that maybe in some ways, at least for professional sports, that philosophy is true.  But you know what?  Even if it is true in some places and some times, in this particular place and this particular time we were big-time suckers and we got hosed.  If you're going to say that winning is everything the one thing you absolutely have to do is win.  And we didn't...at least not enough.  In the final analysis converting to a win-at-all-costs mentality and then losing bankrupted us as a team and as a fan base.  That's where it felt like we were a year or two ago.

When Kevin Pritchard talks about changing the culture of the Blazers he's talking about the players and the organization.  But really the fan culture needs a similar overhaul.  Blazermania was never just about players or about civic and personal pride, it was about the wonderful relationship that happens when the two intersect.  In many ways the team needs us just as we need them.  That means us discovering (or rediscovering) a way of being championship-quality fans even as the team works to become championship material itself.  If that overhaul doesn't happen then we're only as good as our record and our rings, and I fear in today's NBA for a small market team that's not going to be enough to keep us viable.  We'll be good again--we'll even be great again--but if that's the only time we show we care then the valleys are going to eat us up long before we hit the peak.  Besides even if we hit that peak under those conditions we'd be pretty shallow...fair weather...heck, we might as well be L*ker fans.

So in many ways this blog is an attempted affirmation of two things:  We believe that spirit is still here and we believe that, given half a chance, a little encouragement, and a little respect it will come out as strong as ever.

That's why we roll like we roll here.  And how we do things is pretty simple:

--Everyone is welcome.  It doesn't matter if you picked up the team last game or if you've been a season ticket holder since the '70's.  Fans are fans and it's good to be a Blazer fan.

--Everyone has a voice.  Your comments to my posts (or your own posts in the diaries) are just as valid and important as mine.  All I do is get the ball rolling on conversation, you guys take it.

--We at least try to read, respect, and respond to each others' comments/thoughts even if we disagree with them.  Most times in sports it's not a matter of right and wrong, but right in different ways.  (Offense or defense...which is more important?  Guess what?  You're RIGHT!  Another one:  I'm a traditionalist who pulls for defense and rebounding.  The Phoenix Suns proved me wrong.  But when other teams try to emulate Phoenix I'm proved right again!)

--Even if someone is dead wrong you can disagree with them without being a jerk.  That's how we learn about different perspectives on the game.

--Optimists can be optimistic while still acknowledging that there might be flaws in the team or the organization.  On the other hand most of us see those flaws clearly and they lead us to predict gloomy things sometimes, but there's not a gosh darn one of us who isn't overjoyed to be proven wrong.  We'd rather have good come for the organization than be right.

--Because we want to encourage all fans we try to be fairly safe in the way we present ourselves.  A parent should be able to let their kids read and talk about the Blazers without having them view F-bombs or other marginally appropriate material that doesn't add anything to the subject at hand.  The standard is to talk like a reasonable person would in a local coffee-shop.  After all, this IS a place to meet and for some of us it's the only place where we get to talk about the team.  Try striking up a Blazer conversation in a real-life coffee shop nowadays and see what happens...  Passion and intensity are always welcome, just keep the presentation acceptable for a public place.

In the final analysis it's the right of every fan to criticize, moan, and even fly off the handle every once in a while.  That's what makes us fans.  We don't always have to be perfect or even make sense!  The family here is delightfully idiosyncratic and that's a big part of why we're distinctive and interesting.  But at the end of the day this community has a good relationship with, and a lot of respect from, other people in Blazer Nation, including some official and semi-official sources.  We have that relationship because of how we do things and because of how passionately we feel.  And it does make a difference.  Slowly but surely the meaning of being a Blazer fan is evolving.  And if the response/discussion/e-mails that surround this blog are any indication slowly but surely people are responding to that change, some returning and some discovering for the first time what's so great about being part of this whole, silly Blazer thing.

So thank you to all the old-timers and welcome to all the new folks.  Here's to many more years of success, for the players, the organization, AND the fans.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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