Looking to the Future

Yesterday I talked about how nice it is to be a Blazer fan right now.  I even got Truehooped for the trouble.  (Yes, that's officially a verb now.  Congrats Henry.)  But even as we pass over a hurdle that once seemed all but impossible to leap I can't help reflecting that the next few are going to be considerably higher.

Even in the midst of our relative giddiness you have to admit that we're in kind of a honeymoon period here.  So far every move has looked solid, every player has said incredible things, and (as I mentioned yesterday) we haven't suffered through even a single loss yet with the revamped roster.  What's not to love?

I fully anticipate a minor letdown this year.  I say "minor" because I don't really think most Blazer fans are expecting the moon this season.  I'd bet a mid-to-high-30's win total would satisfy most folks when all is said and done (despite the intervening pain of losing 45 or more) and I think that's achievable.  

If that seems low to you, well, that's the point.  Part of the reason we're having a honeymoon--one which is likely to extend at least until next summer--is that the bar is so low right now.  I'm not saying the good feelings are artificial.  I'm saying they're not sustainable at this level...that the same stimuli are not going to evoke the same good feelings a couple years from now.

Think about it.  After the last few years what are the major expectations for the team?  I'd put them thusly:

  1.  Play reasonably hard.
  2.  Be reasonably cordial to the fans.
  3.  Don't totally screw up in your off-court life.
And for the front office:
  1.  Don't totally blow your draft picks to the point that you're trading them away the next year.
  2.  Don't be a total butthead to the people that cover you.
If everybody manages that for a whole season people are going to be plenty happy.  And that's as it should be.  But now stop and read that list again from, say, a Phoenix, Dallas, or San Antonio perspective.  Those aren't achievements, they're very basic expectations.  A coach or GM who made this a rallying cry in most cities wouldn't be feted, they'd be fired.  (As in, "What the heck do you think we are???  Sheesh!")

The Blazer community right now feels a lot like being parents of a kindergartner.  Our child seems precocious.  (But then what parent doesn't think their precious is the smartest thing ever?)  Right now the kid is learning the basics of addition and that seems to be going swimmingly.  Praise is warranted.  But along with that praise comes the realization that a couple years from now addition isn't going to be sufficient.  Subtraction and multiplication and division follow, then algebra, geometry, trig, and calculus.  If the kid's still working on addition problems three years from now--even if he does them well--he's not precocious anymore, he's special needs.  

Honeymoon or no, in another couple years I guarantee the Portland fan base will have largely forgotten how good it feels just to have a non-embarrassing team.  They're going to start asking questions like, "Why can't we make the playoffs?" or "Why can't we get out of the first round?"  Just "being good" won't be good enough anymore.

It might seem like this is a caution to the team--a "Beware the Ides of March" to Pritchard and company (et tu, Portland?)--but I think it's as much a caution to us as fans.  We have made enormous strides.  We deserve a cookie.  But in real terms we've only passed the most basic of hurdles.  We're still concentrating hard on doing things that other folks take for granted...on and off the court.  The distance between us and where we want to be (and where the fans will be asking the team to be) is still about the distance between a banana-seat bike with training wheels and the Tour de France.  There's a big difference between "That's good...for Portland" and just plain "That's good!"  So far we've only seen the former.  The latter may be a while in coming yet.  The question is, how many fans will turn from ecstatic to grumpy in the meantime?  How many folks who are gushing this summer will be grumbling come May?

We shall see.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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