This has been simmering in me for a while and I think it has finally reached a requisite level of comprehensibility for the BEdge inteligentsia. Please take this whole journey with me...
I am 37 and a Blazer fan since the heady days of Terry and Clyde. They won and I loved them. I was able to overlook the Utah incident with Kersey and the others. More importantly, I adored Mark Bryant, Robert Pack, and James "Hollywood" Robinson. Even Alaa Abdelnaby got some love from me... even when he forgot to put on his uniform when he was about to enter the game.
I watched every game of the Carlisimo and Dunleavy years. I loved Brian Grant. I cheered lustily for Stoudamire and Greg Anthony and tried to look over their feud. I cheered for Pippin. I cheered for Rahim.
I watched the sour Cheeks years. I tried to be enthused about Sebastian Telfair but I sincerely managed to convince myself that Viktor Khryapa and his other Russian friend would turn out to be very, very good (a guess like Sergio and Rudy are now).
So what's the point?
Actually, that question *is* the point. I keep asking myself, why do you cheer for any particular team?
To me, it seems to boil down to one of two central issues in being a sports fan. You are either
- Invested in winning and winning only. You are, at least in your mind, assembling a winning team and everything else is secondary. Note: that doesn't mean "nonexistent" or "completely unimportant" but merely "secondary." Otherwise, it is
- You are a fan to celebrate the fact of a city's (say Portland's) identity. You feel a connection to the city when you watch the team, you feel an affection for the players who--in a special sense--represent you. For you, *winning* is secondary. Note: that doesn't mean winning is "unimportant" but merely secondary.
To me, this issue manifested itself recently in two ways.
In the first case, Kevin Garnett embodies item number one above. He was purchased from another team--not drafted and developed. He is a complete jerk and does things that are embarassing but many fans tolerate it because he brings wins. I know many people like to say that they hated Zack Randolph's character but let's be honest: if he had been bringing in wins (or if Wallace had given us a ring) many would have overlooked the strip clubs and the towel throwing incident. To me, many of the fans discussing various trade proposals fall into this first group: they want to assemble a winning squad and care little about the other items.
In the second case... now this is interesting. I'm thinking of my affection for Kryappa and James Robinson and Mark Bryant and Kevin Duckworth... lots of guys. But I'm really, really thinking of Steve Blake and Channing Frye. What do all of these players have in common? They were not--or are not now--seen as part of a winning franchise's future. Truly, it is the recent article about Channing Frye that got me thinking about this specifically.
Channing Frye is the absolute epitome of a guy that represent Portland. He loves the city, it's restaurants, he blogs about it and interacts with the locals... he is the *perfect* player to represent the city of Portland. Except for one thing: he doesn't really fit in the rotation.
If you are a fan of the second order, you're ok with that. You are a fan that would happily field a starting lineup of Dan Dickau, Brandon Roy (who is the magic player: very talented, local (from UW anyway), and good guy), Outlaw (who represents Portland well for all his boneheaded plays), Channing Frye, and God knows who else with a little international flavor all because they represented Portland well. You would cheer for them at their games and care little whether they won or lost. Or at least not as much.
I'm very conflicted about this. In a very tangible way, I *feel* better when "my team" wins. I'm a little happier the next day. I look more forward to the big games. I don't *like* watching "my team" lose. But I also don't want a team of mercenaries like the Boston Celtics. I don't want to trade for Kobe or Chris Paul or Rondo or any of these other guys because I haven't "grown up" with them on the team.
But here we are: we're ready to dump Frye, Outlaw, and Blake to the free market. We have dumped Udoka to the free market... all in the name of getting "better." But why do we cheer? What do we *really* want?
In economics, there is the concept of price sensitivity for goods sold: that is, a market is "inelastic" if its resistant to changing prices. Batteries, for example, aren't terribly different and are highly elastic: people buy whatever one is cheapest (typically). Other items--let's say maybe medical care or car mechanics--there is differentiation in value and you might pay a few extra bucks for service or something else.
I think there's a certain price sensitivity in the world of fans and that currency is not in dollars but in wins.
I'm suggesting that I'm willing <i>to give up a certain number of wins for players as *cool* as Channing Frye.<i> Not lots of wins... not whole winning season... but I'm very willing to give up, say, five wins knowing that Channing Frye is a part of this team. I'm ok having playoffs but not getting a ring if the difference is Frye on my team or Garnett. I am "win-tolerant" in the economic sense given character issues.
So at the end of this long post, here are the players I'm thinking of. How mahy wins would you individually sacrifice to keep these playesr on the team?
Channing Frye: 5-8 wins
Travis Outlaw: 2-4 wins
Nate McMillan: 2-4 wins
Rudy: unknown but probably a bunch
Steve Blake: 3-5 wins
(But here's the rub: those wins sure do start adding up!)
BEdgers, I ask you: as you blog about trades and coaching changes and minutes and development and what-all, <i.what do you really want?<i>