Amongst all the coverage of Greg Oden's surgery yesterday the piece you couldn't miss was the human one. Not the medical coverage, not the basketball analysis, but Kevin Pritchard saying that both Greg and his mom were apologizing while being rolled out of the operating room. Without seeming too presumptuous, I want to tell our newest center something on behalf of all Blazer fans (I hope anyway)...
Greg, you have nothing to apologize for. Of course everybody was disappointed over the results from yesterday. How could you not be? But everyone was disappointed for you, not about you. We want to see you play. We look forward to the day when you put on that uniform and take the court to a thunderous standing ovation. We're eager to watch you mold the game around you as you've shown you can do. We're going to have to wait another year to do that. But it's not the end of the world...for you, for us, for anybody.
In the coming year I suspect you're going to learn something about what it means to be a Trailblazer. That rally at the downtown square after you were drafted? It was only the tip of the iceberg. For every one of the thousands of people that came that day there were a hundred more who couldn't come but felt the same way. Nobody's going to stop thinking about you. Nobody's going to stop cheering you. Nobody's going to stop believing in you. Every person you meet in the coming year is going to smile and shake your hand and wish you well and a speedy recovery. You're going to be as welcomed and accepted for riding a stationary bike and doing rehab exercises as you would be if you were notching 20 and 20 every night. That's what it means to be part of the Blazers. We don't leave our own. We don't give up on our own. Even if you never played another minute in your life you would still be a Blazer--one of us--and we would still love you for it. This ain't L.A. or New York where you perform or get forgotten. This is Portland, baby, and Portland never forgets its own.
When you put on that uniform on draft night you became part of something that's bigger than all of us... something that stretches back to our childhoods and before, something that will continue long after we're all gone. Wins and stats and trophies are part of it, but those aren't the real reason to be a Blazer. The real reason to belong to the Blazers is that you have a chance to change the lives and inspire the dreams of so many people in a way they never forget.
I hope you understand that you've already done that. The moment that ball bounced in the hopper and we knew that it was you we'd be getting this town caught on fire. Even coming as far as you have you've made a big difference. You change the world by smiling at our children, being gracious when you speak to us, and reminding us that it's OK to love a bunch of guys running up and down the court dribbling an orange ball--that if we trust and admire and dream about them like we did when we were kids they won't disappoint us or quit on us. You'll teach us that lesson again in the coming year, maybe even better than you could if you were playing. A recovering knee can't take that away. Nothing ever will. It's just another opportunity for all of us to show what we're about.
I know it must feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. I know at times in the next year it'll seem like that weight is landing squarely on your knee. But somehow that weight is easier to bear when you have a few hundred thousand friends to share it with. And you do. Think of us when you're burning through that thirtieth rep. Think of us when you're watching your teammates playing. We'll be thinking of you, supporting you, praying for you, and cheering you. This isn't going to break our relationship. It's going to make us stronger.
You are the man. You are our man. Go get 'em, baby.
--Dave and the Blazer Fans
I want to add a couple things for the rest of us:
- This is terminally dorky, but I run almost every day of the week. It gets harder as I get older and busier and I feel like I am already pushing my body to the limit. But I am hereby pledging that I am adding two minutes to the end of each run. I am calling those my "Greg Oden" minutes. If he has to suffer through a grueling rehab the least we can do is send some energy and empathy his way. I invite all you exercisers to push out one more rep, one more lap, or whatever you do in the coming year and consciously direct and dedicate that to the Big Guy. The whole city might as well get on board this rehab train. I'm beginning today.
- It kind of got lost in the news yesterday, but we're trying to send as many kids to the Blazersedge Night at the Garden (Nov. 9th against the Grizzlies) as we can. One of our readers works with kids who otherwise would never get to attend a game. The response has been solid so far but I want to make sure everybody has heard. If you can sponsor a ticket at $31 (or a portion thereof) e-mail me at the address below. If you're feeling bummed about the news this is one way you're guaranteed to feel better. Let me know.
P.S. If enough people send me pictures of themselves doing their "Greg Oden minutes" I'll post them somewhere.