In the recent weeks there has been some discussion about fan conduct, stemming from the impromptu goodbye celebration some fans had for Jack. There seems to be a lot of people who think “Who cares? It doesn’t bother me nor does it have anything to do with me.” I would like to share my thoughts on why it does affect all of us and why it should matter before the sands of time make this discussion irrelevant, or another incident or buildup occurs. This is a complex issue, so it’s a long one. I will also touch on the use of Pritch-slap a little because it fits in nicely with this and is closely related. I apologize for my long-windedness and for any redundancy as I felt it necessary to paint a comprehensive picture. I’ll start big and work my way down.
First there is the viewpoint from other fans. I know there was a post about this recently, and a lot of comparison was made to the Spurs and how they don’t really have people giving too much of an opinion on them despite being repeat champions. While both teams are clean as whistles (and hopefully it stays that way), this still won’t be our fate. The Spurs just outplay their opponents, make their foul shots, play team defense, make the right play, punch out and go home. Also, Duncan runs from the spotlight. That won’t be our fate. With Outlaw, Oden and Bayless (assuming all goes well there) on this team, we will play some in your face type of ball. People will have no choice but to love us or hate us. This team could be the Bulls of the next generation, having kids jumping on board the band wagon (along with your usual band wagoneers) and choosing this team to become a fan of because this is the kind of basketball they want to see. GO is also much less camera shy and a much more handsome man for his age than TD. The media will have plenty of coverage of him. With all this attention, there are a lot of reasons that people love us or hate us. What you don’t want is when people start talking about things other than basketball. I think we are pretty safe from someone on this team jumping into the stands for a fight, spitting on a fan, smoking a doob on I-5, or any of that fun stuff. Will they hate us because of the fan base? Before last Thursday I would have said “no, why would they?” I don’t think what happened was a big deal in the national spotlight, but it was only a draft party. If the Pacers come back next season and the fans start chanting “PRITCH SLAP, PRITCH SLAP, …..” after a JJ turnover, well, we aren’t going to win over many kids from Indiana with loose affiliations that way, especially when they go in the next room and say “Mommy, what’s a Pritchslap?” Moreover, we get the media and the national spotlight talking about something other than the basketball we are playing, which is usually not a good thing in the NBA, as any Blazers fan should be able to attest to. That stuff affects more than just national opinion (more on this below). We can’t help if they love us or hate us or not, but we do have some control over why they would.
The second piece of this is how our behavior affects the team. When Eagles fans cheered when Michael Irving was carried off the field on a stretcher, the media didn’t question the fans about what it was like nearly as much as they questioned the team. Is that fair to put this team (any team for that matter, but especially this one) in that type of position? How do you think they would feel? Maybe a little betrayed? Maybe like they are holding up more than their fair share of the bargain? It would certainly take the focus off of basketball. How do you think Jack feels right now about all the hard work he put in to this team? In all my days of watching sports, I have never seen a community and its players so connected. From the invites to meet draftees, to the personal messages from GO during his rehab, this team has put a lot of effort into connecting with the fans. You can certainly feel that connection too when you go into the Rose Garden. Last season was phenomenal at home, and I’m sure the team could feel it as much as the fans could. Why would you not want to hold up your end of this relationship? Using the above mentioned chant as an example, let’s take a look at a player interaction during the game:
Roy: Yo JJ, how are things in Indy?
JJ: Pretty good. Things are working out well here. I’m still disappointed that I had to leave here though. I mean you guys are 37-0 already.
Roy: It’s not the same without you.
JJ: (shoots a sideways glance and and curls his lips a little)
Roy: Yo baby, forget them.
That’s right, Roy said ‘forget them’, talking about the fans. Talking about you. Whether you were there or not, participated or not, a slight on the fans is a slight on you and his perception of all the Blazers fans changes a little. He, or someone else on the team, could have already said this. The more that the players feel they have to stop thining about the fanbase, the more it happens.
That brings me to how it affects you. If the team had to start ignoring the fans, they wouldn’t be as receptive to the appreciation we are showing them right now. That would in turn rub off on you and this amazing atmosphere at the garden would be tarnished. In fact, even though Jack is gone, I would be surprised if the players were still as happy with the fans, even if it's just a little bit. Stuff like that could come up in retrospect if another incident were to occur. Also, with marginal infractions, the margin then shifts if not corrected, leading to more or more severe offenses. Would you want to take your kids to a game where all the people are acting like, um, appropriate spot for a curse, inappropriate website (and post)? I mean we have a 13 year old right here who could need our help getting his parents to take him to games. How about bringing your wife or girlfriend, or boyfriend out and having to try and ignore or explain the other people around you? Think they would want to do it again if you were trying to turn them on to the Blazers, or even better, trying to present an argument to buy season tickets? What about if your son or daughter talks about how he Pritch-slapped another kid in a pokemon trade at school?
I’m not advocating the employment of the thought police here. I don’t think that saying “Shut up” every time someone boos is appropriate. I personally don’t have any problem with people showing their appreciation or dissatisfaction in their own way. I’ll tell you, I’m no saint at sporting events, but I try not to cross over into serious disrespect. I do consider taunting other teams and sparring comments with appropriate fans of the other teams as part of the game. If you’re just screaming the whole time at a guy wearing a Clippers cap who hasn’t said a word the whole game it’s a little different than someone who is engaging in the banter. As for the players, let’s face it, Jared Dudley probably won’t get a lot of catcalls if he makes a mistake. If K*be does, he will. Why? Because deep down somewhere we respect his game and the threat that he poses so much that we want to throw him off. Well, that, and he’s the anti-christ. The times that warrant something outside of a cheer and let cheer policy is on the rare occasions when it crosses over into overly disrespectful. The chant is the most likely thing I could think of as an example and a reasonable step away from that song, but it really could be any number of things. This is just food for thought so you have a chance to really think about this before the Oregonian writes an article about it the morning after.
Prior to me writing this, you already have two factors working in your favor. One, the organization is doing a tremendous job of creating a positive atmosphere. You just have to follow their lead. Two, the arena will have a lot of full and partial season ticket holders next season, creating a lot of accountability and an opportunity to foster that positive culture. If someone close to you is joining in with something ridiculous, a simple “dude” a squint of the eyes and a shrug of the shoulders, for example, would do. That isn’t uncomfortable for anyone, and there would likely be a bit of mutual appreciation if that moment ended peacefully. I bet if anyone on this site sang that song, they feel now feel a little ashamed if they got caught up in the moment and joined in, and would have appreciated such a gesture. That shame would be nothing compared to if we were put in the national spotlight for an incident. IN the case where someone is being so obnoxious and persistent that you feel you have to say something, you’re probably not alone. Conversely, if someone does step up to someone else being obnoxious and you feel the same way, it’s not a terrible thing to give them some support so the offender doesn’t feel like it’s just one uptight person against them trying to have a good time.
All in all when this type of behavior is occouring, the only people it doesn’t bother is the people who are being disrespectful. If you think about it, it's because they aren’t taking other people’s perspective into consideration. That is why I feel it is alright to let them know that their behavior is bothering you.