So we have found ourselves here. Where you may ask? Here, in the postseason. It seems funny. I didn't expect it to be here yet. When I woke up this morning I felt good. It didn't feel like today was the last day of the year. I like many people have been ecstatic that we have made it to the postseason. Finally! To be totally honest I had forgotten what it felt like to root for my team in the playoffs. I had forgotten how much my blood-pressure and nerve would be tested. I had forgotten how easy it was to lose my objectivity about this game that we love, and how easy it was to start focusing on certain plays, and certain players that in my fanatically motivated fervor would bear the unfair brunt of my outpouring of emotions.
So something has been bumping around in my head for the last several days. Something that I read when I was younger that has helped me regain my sanity, and keep my eyes focused where they need to be now. The future. Now over the last several years, we have all had to try and keep our eyes trained in that direction. Some people had given up, others rooted for the team no matter how bad or ugly things turned out. But right now none of that really matters to me any more. It's different now. The future is not cast in a hazy shade of grey. As much as we may want to cast blame or doubt, or second guess the events that have led us to this place, none of this will bring next season to us any faster.
So I thought I would share this Chinese parable with everyone who hasn't come across it before in the hopes that it would give us a renewed vision, and a hopeful, ( If not just a little bruised), outlook towards the greater goal which we have for our REALLY GOOD basketball team. The story is the story of the Stonecutter. And it goes like this...
There was once a stonecutter, who was dissatisfied with himself and with his position in life.
One day, he passed a wealthy merchant's house, and through the open gateway, saw many fine possessions and important visitors. "How powerful that merchant must be!" thought the stonecutter. He became very envious, and wished that he could be like the merchant. Then he would no longer have to live the life of a mere stonecutter.
To his great surprise, he suddenly became the merchant, enjoying more luxuries and power than he had ever dreamed of, envied and detested by those less wealthy than himself. But soon a high official passed by, carried in a sedan chair, accompanied by attendants, and escorted by soldiers beating gongs. Everyone, no matter how wealthy, had to bow low before the procession. "How powerful that official is!" he thought. "I wish that I could be a high official!"
Then he became the high official, carried everywhere in his embroidered sedan chair, feared and hated by the people all around, who had to bow down before him as he passed. It was a hot summer day, and the official felt very uncomfortable in the sticky sedan chair. He looked up at the sun. It shone proudly in the sky, unaffected by his presence. "How powerful the sun is!" he thought. "I wish that I could be the sun!"
Then he became the sun, shining fiercely down on everyone, scorching the fields, cursed by the farmers and laborers. But a huge black cloud moved between him and the earth, so that his light could no longer shine on everything below. " How powerful that storm cloud is!" he thought. "I wish I could be a cloud!"
Then he became the cloud, flooding the fields and villages, shouted at by everyone. But soon he found that he was being pushed away by some great force, and realized that it was the wind. "How powerful it is!" he thought. "I wish that I could be the wind!"
Then he became the wind, blowing tiles off the roofs of houses, uprooting trees, hated and feared by all below him. But after a while he ran up against something that would not move, no matter how forcefully he blew against it-- a huge, towering stone. "How powerful that stone is!" he thought. "I wish I could be a stone!"
Then he became the stone, more powerful than anything else on earth. But as he stood there, he heard the sound of a hammer pounding a chisel into the solid rock, and felt himself being changed. "What could be more powerful than I, the stone?" he thought. He looked down and saw far below him the figure of a stonecutter.
From the Tao of Pooh, by Benjamin Hoff
So what does it mean? I think that I like a lot of people this year really got caught up in this crazy season. We can't be blamed after not having a lot to cheer for the last few years. But I really got caught up in thinking that we could beat anybody. I got caught up in the parallels between this season and the season we won the championship. "So what if the team is young?", and "This team is way ahead of schedule!" were things that I for one told myself all season long. In the end these things may be true but to put as much faith into this season "Being the year!", has proven to be folly. Fools Gold. In the end youth and inexperience did in fact rear their ugly heads, not just for the team, but for all of us. Maybe it wasn't the Rockets that beat the Blazers tonight, or the refs, or coaching. Maybe the Blazers beat the Blazers.
And maybe, just maybe that was the best thing that could have happened. Maybe if things had gone differently, our matchups in the postseason could have been more favorable. Maybe we could have made it out of the first round. And then maybe this team wouldn't have learned a damn thing. Maybe we could have had a post-season like New Orleans last year. See where they are now. Until this team knows itself better, knows its strengths and weaknesses, knows how it will react under pressure, and knows just how valuable it is not only to the fans or to the city, but to itself, the road ahead may stay rough and uncertain. But in life, and in basketball it is difficulty that builds character, adversity that brings unity, and the act of failing at something only to get back up, try again, that gives us a greater understanding of the full value of what it was that we were searching for. They could have played better, they could have played a lesser team, we can go back and look at a lot of things that may have brought a different outcome. But when I look back at this season, the things I will think about are things like hope, and joy, and the feeling I had at the end. How I knew that this was not the end. This was only the beginning!
THANK YOU PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS! THE CITY OF PORTLAND LOVES YOU! YOU HAVE GIVEN US BACK WHAT WE TOOK FOR GRANTED! AND WE ARE ETERNALLY GRATEFUL!