So I just got through Bill Simmons' mailbag on ESPN, and there is a great piece from a guy from Portland called David G. (shout out to David G.!). Anyway, Bill Simmons, for as much as he leaves us out of his book, The Book of Basketball, and the wonderful misprint on page 609, I still have to respect the guy, despite his 41-41 prediction (what is this, the 2007-2008 season?). Side note, if you went to the book signing last week, he mentions the starting lineup intro music again in this piece (which I'm going to add, is only cool when that lightning storm goes off. Otherwise, the rest of them are dull. Then again, at least we don't need a PA announcer starting a "DEFENSE" chant).
If you haven't read it, here it is:
Q: Did your book tour include a stop at the Rose Garden for Pistons-Blazers last week? I hope you checked out the way the Garden treats Greg Oden. Every time he does something basic, the place explodes like he dunked from halfcourt. They are just willing themselves to think he will be good.
-- David G., Portland
Yes I did. And the best way to describe the crowd's support for Oden: It's like watching 15,000 parents rooting for their kid, only all 15,000 parents fathered the same kid. If he ever exploded for 30 points, 20 rebounds and eight blocks in a game, you'd have to carry each deliriously passed-out Portland fan out of the Rose Garden individually like they were victims of smoke inhalation in a burning house. (The funny thing is, everyone in Portland is nodding right now. And yes, I know he's had a couple of inspired games this season. You don't need to e-mail me the stat lines. No, really. Save us both the time. Let's not put too much pressure on him. Baby steps.) I was also startled by Portland fans arguably (see, there it is!) liking Rudy Fernandez as much as, and maybe even a smidge more than, the great Brandon Roy.
Two other things that shocked me. Two other things shocked me. First, that's the whitest NBA experience you can have that doesn't involve the words "Salt," "Lake" and City." They didn't play hip-hop either before the game or during the game; both teams seemed to have more African-Americans than in the entire crowd; and the pregame video right before introducing Portland's starting lineup was a local grunge band singing "Ballroom Blitz." And second, during a second-quarter timeout, my buddy House and I ran into the concourse to grab beers and noticed that there was NOBODY else in line for anything. We felt like Will Smith in "I Am Legend." There was no signs of human life other than the workers. Everyone else stays in their seats. At halftime, those same people pour into the concourse like it's halftime of a football game. I've never seen anything like it. I don't know if they have the most loyal, passionate, dutiful fans in the NBA, but at the very least, we can say nobody else tops them.
Here's what I took away from my Rose Garden experience: Portland loves the Blazers the same way a single mother would love her only child. The city's revulsion towards the "Jail Blazers" makes a lot more sense to me now. The team and the city are intertwined, and if one side isn't holding up that bargain, it's even more painful than usual. Anyway, I couldn't be happier that I got a taste of it. Great NBA city.
Simmons talks about us like we're parents watching our son (specifically Greg Oden) play. Hey, in England, people yell, "You are my son" about their star soccer player. Heck, Steven Gerrard gets called that once a conversation over there. We've already adopted their language, why can't we adopt their idioms? I say from here on, I plan on yelling "You are my son" every time Greg gets that rock and slams it home. I'll even sing the Blazer Song (which we really need) if the backboard shakes afterwards.
Simmons mentions in the email response that we are the most loyal fans he's seen. Also, we seem to like Rudy more than Roy. I can see the loyalty since we are a 1-pro team city, but Rudy more than Roy? I have to have a favorite Blazer? That's like picking a favorite donut from Voodoo. I refuse to do such a thing!
All in all, despite his rips on us and constant hate of my son (Gregorio, for my Spanish speakers out there...I'm talking to you Rudy), I loved this bit. As he says at the end of it about attending a game at the Rose Garden:
I couldn't be happier that I got a taste of it. Great NBA city.