Last night was pretty special for me. I was sitting on my couch with my wife, so sick from a cold that I forgot to change from the Newshour to the game. I came to my senses at the start of the second quarter.
You ask, what made the night so special? It wasn't the great victory over the mighty Kings. This was an overly close game against a lesser opponent. It wasn't even the fact that Nate came to his senses and started Miller and gave Bayless some run. Bayless has gotten minutes before. Bayless has scored before, in fact this was his third game with 14 points, so far this season. Bayless didn't really do anything he hasn't done all season.
What changed is that he got to do it with the game on the line. He was put in a pressure situation, and he responded with the same kind of performance we have seen all season: efficient scoring, 50% + shooting, an outstanding ability to get to the line and decent ball security. What made the night special for me was less what Bayless did on the floor and more the broad acceptance he received from fans, broadcasters, coaches and teammates.
Bayless is going to make a ton of mistakes, but I think it is pretty clear to the majority of folks that he is going to be a good player and potentially an outstanding player. There are of coarse, a few holdouts out there (AK are you listening?), but most are starting to catch on to what some of us have been saying ad naseum for over a year.
After the game, as I stared sniffling and sleepless at my ceiling, I got to thinking about my experience as a Blazer fan, in general, and as a Bayless Believer, in particular. Why do I care? Is it simply the narcissistic arrogance of wanting to be right? There is no doubt there is an element of that. We all like to win arguments; we all like to feel vindicated in our judgments. But I think there is more to it than that. Follow me across the jump to read my thoughts. Maybe a little sentimental or sappy, but it is the holiday season. I know it is long, but I hope you enjoy the journey and that it may help you to reflect on your own experience as a fan.
The Role of Sports in My Early Years
My family moved to Portland from Washington State in early October of 1969. We literally arrived on the scene the same week the Blazers came into existence. I was eleven years old and in the sixth grade. I went from being the most popular kid at my old school to being "the new kid" just as I was entering those fragile pre-teen years. My eighty one year old mother still tells the story of me coming home on several occasions and collapsing in a puddle of tears. Those first months were pretty darn lonely, two things got me through: participatory sports and obsessively following the Blazers on my portable radio and in the sports pages of the Oregonian.
The Blazers distracted me from my troubles. Participatory sports became my avenue to acceptance in my new school. I was a good student, but being a good student is often a social liability. I was also a good athlete, not a great one, but a good one. My Dad was a minor league pitcher and I still cherish the faded news clippings of his brief career with the Oakland Oaks ( the Korean War started and he had to enroll in college or be drafted) which state that he was, "the hardest throwing pitcher anyone has seen since Walter Johnson."
I can still recall the early day when my PE class chose sides for flag football, and the PE teacher asked me to kick a punt. I was a regional Punt, Pass, Kick champion. I caught a real good one, the ball went way over the head of the returner for the other team and sailed for nearly fifty-yards. All of the other kids just stood and stared at me, the boys had new found looks of respect and the girls showed a first glimmer of interest. And so it went, I made the Goldenball team that fall, and although I wasn't a starter, I at least got a little street cred for making the team. In the spring, I made the All-Star team in Little League, and I was pretty much on my way to fitting in. I'm sure that my experiences are far from unique. Sport and competition has played a huge role in the lives of millions of kids.
Watching sports played an important role in my relationship with my older brothers and my father. I watched my brothers compete on Friday night and then we all sat down and watched sports together on most weekends. My brothers were in college by the time we moved to Portland. The Blazers became an important part of my relationship with my Dad. We didn't have the money to attend games in the first few years, but by 1973, my dad was sharing a pair of season tickets with a couple of guys from work. My Mom loved the games, so I only got to go to a few each year, but those games were a very big deal to me.
In June of 1977, I was taking a year off between high school and college in order to work in the Oregon Legislature. It was an amazing opportunity for a young guy. The Legislature was meeting almost around the clock trying to finish its biennial session on the day the Blazers won the Championship. I can still recall the House of Representatives unanimously taking a recess so we could all watch the second half of the final game. The scene was utter pandemonium. Nearly two hundred Legislators, lobbyists, and staffers huddled around a single TV outside the House Chambers in the capital. Across the Capital, the Senate had taken a similar recess. The raucous cheers and loud moans echoed back and forth underneath the capital dome. It remains one of the most vivid memories of my life over thirty years later. I had to work the day of the Parade in Portland, but high-fiving Legislators, leaping around like school children, was plenty of celebration for me.
The Middle Years
For most of the past thirty two years, I have cheered the team from near and far. There was the year I lived in Peru and asked my Dad to mail me clipping even though it was expensive to send them Air Mail. There was the year when I lived in New York and could hardly get any info about the team on the day it actually happened. I can still recall the day I heard Buck Williams was coming to town and thinking "This is it, we are going to win another Championship." We came mighty close.
Through the ups and downs of school, business, marriage, and fatherhood, the Blazers have been a constant. I will readily confess that I did "boycott" the team for two years during the depths of the JB era, but it was always with the intention of coming back as soon as I felt I could get behind the team without being embarrassed.
I found BE about three years ago just as the team started to pull itself out of the muck. I lurked for most of a season, I felt I had nothing substantive to add to the conversation. But reading led to other b-ball sites and lead to more knowledge of the game.
My first real opinion about this new set of Blazers was that their defense, in general, and their perimeter defense, in particular, was desperately in need of improvement. By the spring of 2008, I got really hooked once again. Just as the Blazers were a pleasant distraction in my childhood, I have found them to be a pleasant distraction in the past two years of nearly catastrophic economic troubles I am a real estate investor and home renovator, the last two years have been extremely difficult. BE has been a place I come to for friendship, repartee, and solace. I have found that it has really deepened my understanding of the game and my experience as a fan.
My repeated plunges into the Polemical Point Guard Wars over the past two years has been a lot of fun. I have been a big supporter of Oden, Batum, and most of all, Bayless. Feeling as though I had the right basic evaluation of Bayless makes me feel like I have something to give back to this community
I believe all three guys have a chance to be outstanding, and if they live up to that potential, along with Roy and LMA, I believe there will be at least one or two parades in downtown Portland during the next decade. Potential is a tricky thing, as easily elusive as a broken patella. Let's hear it for our young warriors, may they mend, and grow, and reach the heights.
In the end however, let us remember that journey is far more fulfilling than the brief moment at the pinnacle. I want to thank Dave, and Ben, and all my fellow B Edgers, for enriching my fan experience.