Following the lukewarm welcoming of The pack is back into the fold and hearing so many stories about personal experiences during the glory days, I have some stories to tell and some confessions to make, as I myself have not always been a fan.
I was brought into this world July 29, 1987 in picturesque Vicenza, Italy. While I do hold dual citizenship between Italy and the U.S. and I root for Italy in the World Cup and other athletic ventures, I am not ethnically Italian even in the slightest form and I was only there until I was a year old. I was born there because my father, a South Carolina native of Geechee background, was in the Army and stationed there. But I was raised by my mother, and she is where my long road to the Trail Blazers begins.
My mother is originally from Panama. Her mother is Panamanian, but her father was an American soldier (of Irish, British, and British Jewish background) stationed in the country. He brought my grandmother, my mother and her two older sisters to America when my mother was a toddler. My grandfather is originally from Hillsboro, Oregon and my mother split her early childhood between Hillsboro/Aloha and El Paso, Texas. When my grandparents split up, my grandmother decided to stay in the Portland area. We never talk sports (although she credits herself with teaching me how to play basketball) because she's uninterested but she must have been at least a casual fan of the Trail Blazers back in the '70s because she enthusiastically rooted for them in the 1992 Finals, and she seems to have liked Bill Walton. Not in that way, she always talks about how ugly he is. But on several occasions when I have been watching the Lakers play she has mentioned how much Luke Walton looks like his father, with a bit of nostalgia in her voice. Also, I'm pretty sure she hadn't seen Bill Walton since the '70s because when she saw him on TV a few months back she was a little too shocked at how old he looked.
I specifically remember watching Portland play Chicago in the Finals. I lived in North Carolina until I was four, and Michael Jordan was THE hometown hero of my childhood so I was rooting for Chicago. We were watching the game at my uncle's house out here, and it was only the second time I had been to the northwest. I even remember that I was eating Cheez-Its and drinking Squirt. The whole time, I was laughing at my mother because she was cheering for Portland. Even as a four-year-old, I was the guy who's happy to see other people's teams lose. For that, I apologize. I'm sure a few of you shed a tear because of that series. Sorry.
When I moved out here in third grade, I hated the northwest. I came here a Rockets fan from western Louisiana, and even though I was young, probably because of it now that I think about it, I was in a state of culture shock due to the lack of diversity (even in mid-'90s, pre-gentrification northeast Portland.) In elementary school, my mother drove me from northeast Portland to Vancouver where she wanted me to go to a better school. Eventually we moved to Vancouver, where we stayed for a few years before moving back to Portland. In Vancouver, people stared a lot. I was constantly asked if I was adopted or if my mother was my babysitter due to our differences in appearance. I was usually the only black student in class. When the teacher discussed Kwanzaa in the winter or slavery and such when Black History Month rolled around, at least half the class (literally) would turn around and look at me. On occasion people would say things like I looked like a monkey. I have always been shy and laid-back with what I like to think is a good sense of humor, and it bothered me a lot to have to deal with such awkward situations. I was very uncomfortable around my classmates. Intimidation implies fear, and even though I didn't fear them that is the closest word to describe what I felt while living in Vancouver. Our car and the car of our neighbor, who was black, had the windows shattered several times. Nothing was taken and no other cars belonging to other residents of the apartment complex were disturbed, the windows were just shattered. And I was, again for lack of a better word, too "intimidated" to do anything but pass the ball whenever it came to me during eighth grade basketball tryouts. From 3rd grade to 9th grade (after which I moved back to Portland) other kids would say things like "You think you're so cool because you can dribble good" so, as strange as it sounds, I tried my best not to stand out as good. Not that I was anything special, but I was definitely good for my age. Every Wednesday in elementary school my mother used to take me to the Matt Dishman Center and I'd ball it up there, and on weekends she took me to Laurelhurst Park to play basketball. By the way, I realize "You think you're so cool" doesn't sound mean. I'm keeping it clean; harsher language was used. Anyhow, I obviously, didn't make the team with my hot potato antics. Sorry to be playing the violin for myself, but my point is that because of the way I was treated there, I grew to hate everything northwest, including the Trail Blazers. I always loved Sabonis, though. To be fair, nobody seemed to like Portland. Everybody was all about the Sonics, as this was the year they went to the Finals. I even remember a (local) commercial where there was a glass jar advertising "Sabonis Stink" or something like that. Oh yeah, and when I was 10, on the last and most important day of basketball camp I wore Lakers shorts. For what it's worth I didn't want them, they were purchased for me. If it makes you feel any better, my team played horribly that day, which was tournament day. But that brings me to the most controversial part of what I have to say.
The Western Conference Finals in 2000. Game 7. We all know what happened. I was 12. I still hated the Trail Blazers. I was happy when they blew the lead. For that I apologize. Hopefully you understand. On the bright side, soon after that I became a fan. I've been here through some tough times. I've been scoffed at for liking a terrible team. I went to a game and watched Qyntel Woods lead the team onto the floor to DMX's "Where the Hood At." I like to think I've paid my dues. I matured and got over the diversity thing and now I like Portland. The city, the people and the team. The point of this wasn't to be a sob story, just to detail how a young Southern boy who loves to go fishing came to be a fan. Speaking of which, I guess I kind of hit the jackpot by coming to Portland; two things I love are fishing and basketball. Ample outdoor courts, a professional team with a rising star who's a quiet Southerner that enjoys fishing, and plenty of opportunities and places to fish. Hopefully this all makes sense, because although I'm an English major I don't believe in proofreading even though I tend to go off on tangents often, as I did several times here. By the way, I know not everybody is a fan of long comments/posts, but I am. So if anyone has a story about how they came to be a fan, I'm curious to hear it. He probably mentioned it before I started coming here, but I'm interested in amlmart1's story, and those of other people not from around here as well.
P.S. When I was 14, two of my friends and I went to a Blazers game. We were walking around, and a lady approached us and asked if we wanted to participate in a promotional game. As I mentioned earlier I was a shy kid so I said no and so did one of my friends, but my friend Nick said ok. My other friend and I got to go down and sit near the floor for a quarter so we could watch the event. It turned out to be a contest between Nick and another kid where they were connected with a bungee cord from opposite ends of the court and had to score as many baskets as they could in a certain amount of time. Nick was my age, but he was like 6'2" and dominated the kid en route to winning one free McDonald's value meal a week for a year. The other kid didn't mind though, and we all happily discussed being so close to the BlazerDancers. I'm the kind of person who gets excited about people I don't know verifying being in the same place as me, so does anyone remember seeing an event such as this contest occurring during a game you were at? It would have been during the 2001-2002 season. Nick would have been (I guess he still is) a lanky light-skinned black kid. I won't hold my breath, but there's a chance somebody out there saw it.