As you may recall, last year in our second annual Blazersedge Poetry Contest we had dual winners, who both became our Poets Laureate for the year.
(As an aside, we'll run the competition again this year once the season is over so prepare your best verses.)
One of our Poets, TDarkstar, hasn't had much chance to compose or submit poetry during the year. But he said he had a story to tell in normal old prose that was poetic in its way. That seemed good enough for me.
Here are his words...
I've talked about my grandfather before. He's the one who introduced me to the Portland Trailblazers when I was about eleven or twelve. But I don't think I ever gave him the credit he deserves. It doesn't rhyme, it isn't an epic poem of days of yore, but poetry is about words from the heart. And this is from my heart.
My grandfather was the greatest Blazers fan. Not a great fan, the greatest fan. What I remember is through my childhood's eyes. Whether or not reality matches those memories, I don't care. Because my Grandpa was my hero. He cheered the Blazers on since opening day, 1970. He cheered them on as they won their championship in 1977. He cheered them on for nearly thirty years.
I was born the oldest son of my father, and oldest grandson of my grandfather. I was 1 when the Blazers won in 1977. I don't remember those days, but I was told that they were great. Blazermania was rabid at that time.
There were only three things that were important to my Grandpa, my Grandma, His family (especially his grandkids), and the Blazers. It was that passion that caught my attention at an age where I didn't care about sports. In fact, I pretty much hated sports. I never understood why adults wanted to watch some stupid sports event on TV when I could have used the TV to play video games. My Grandpa always let me use his TV, except when the Blazers were on. Then he would politely ask me to wait just a little while.
He took the time to explain what was going on. Who was out there on the court. Why they did what they did. How this shot was amazing, or that shot was taken at a bad time. He was exited and animated. I could tell that this team of basketball players made him happy. And having him explain all those things to me made me happy too.
Soon, I paid more attention to basketball. I would ask my folks if I could go over and watch the game with Grandpa. And since he only lived a couple miles away, I usually could. Each night was an education, and a great time. He would turn the volume off of the TV and turn up the radio to listen to Bill Schonley call the play-by-play. Since all the games weren't televised back then, he was used to listening to him, and it just felt right to me too. By doing that, he taught me to be able to see the game, even if I couldn't watch it.
I began listening to every game. Cutting out photos and articles from the Oregonian and hanging them on my wall. If I couldn't be with Grandpa, I would call him afterwards, and we'd talk about it. If something amazing happened, I would even call him up after the end of quarters.
Then 1989-90 happened. Going to the NBA Finals was the most exciting thing that ever happened to me in my childhood. And, looking back now, it is where my Grandpa became my best friend. Portland lost in five to the Detroit Bad Boys, but just wait till next year!
For a few years, during basketball season, my Grandpa and I were almost inseparable. We talked basketball non-stop. He'd point things out that I had never even thought of, and I admired him greatly. We never won a championship with Clyde, Terry, Duck, Buck, Jerome, Uncle Cliffy, Danny Ainge, Wayne Cooper, Danny Young and Mark Bryant, but we sure were convinced that we could. Just next year. It'll happen. Just be patient.
It never happened.
Then the Blazers hired a new General Manager, who had a reputation for getting the good players. A man by the name of Bob Whitsitt. We had hope. We thought we needed only one more player to get us over the top. And as fans, we supported the team with all we had, even as the players we loved the most left one by one. And when Clyde Drexler left for Houston, we knew a championship was not within reach anymore.
For my Grandpa, it was not so much the guys we lost. He had seen his favorite players come and go for years. It was who we were bringing in. Sure, they had basketball talent, but he had a tough time rooting for them. He still rooted for the jersey, but was disappointed with the players.
What really hit my Grandpa the hardest was when my Grandma died. She was a saint for putting up with his fandom, and mine. She always smiled, and would feign interest as we watched. My Grandpa adored her. When she died, it was almost as if he had as well.
By this time, I was a young man, ready to forget my childhood, and go on with life as an adult (little did I know!). I didn't follow the Blazers quite like I did as a boy, but certainly kept tabs on how they did. I visited my Grandpa some. He wasn't himself. But he still lit up when a game was on, and if I was there, I would join him.
But one day it stopped. In the middle of the Jailblazer era, I was over and a game was on that night. And what he said stunned me. "I don't think I'll watch the game tonight," he said. It wasn't long after this that he died.
Heartbroken twice, I think he died, because he felt he had nothing left to live for. And with that, I left the team behind as well....
So a few years passed. I met a wonderful woman, we got married and headed off for seminary So I could earn a four-year Masters degree and become a pastor. I kept up on news back home through the internet. And caught news of the 2006 NBA Draft, and that Portland was busy that day. For me, it was news of a change in direction. A change in philosophy.
It reminded me of the long nights spent with my Grandpa in front of the radio or TV. About once a week once the season started, I would check in to see how they were doing. Then it became twice a week. Then every other day. By the end of the 2006-2007 season, I had become a Blazers fan again. Following the team from all the way out in Indiana. And we know what has happened from there.
Thinking back on my Grandpa, he would have loved this team. I think even more than the Clyde and Terry days. He would have seen the Walton, Lucas days in this team, and would have burst with excitement. He's not here to enjoy them, so it's up to me to do that in his stead. And now, just as in 1977, my oldest son is 1 year old. And he is the oldest grandson of his grandfather. And Blazermania is once again rabid. I'm ready to enjoy a championship, just like my Grandpa did when I was my son's age. And it's not a stretch of the imagination to believe that it's possible.
Thank you Grandpa Don, for making me a Blazers fan.
Many thanks for those wonderful words. They kind of put everything into perspective. On such stories are the foundations of our fandom built.