On Throwback Jerseys and Celebrating Team History

Both Jason Quick and Brian T. Smith have all you need to know about the nuts and bolts of the Blazers' Monday morning 40th anniversary kickoff press conference.  

I'm not going to lie to you: it was a strange event.  Let's invite the entire Portland media and bring together multiple generations of Blazers personalities in a mostly empty Longview, Washington, high school gynasium to celebrate a rich tradition hawk throwback jerseys. Alright then.

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I guess that's life these days; business is business. 

Don't get me wrong: reaching out to the community -- although apparently not encouraging much of said community to attend -- should be a never-ending mission for the franchise. Open arms are always appreciated and applauded. 

Indeed, a children's basketball camp took place in the afternoon and the organization provided a brand-new basketball court to Mark Morris High School, as it has to every high school in the PIL. Big-time, sincere kudos for those gestures.

But the event was still strange. 

Blazers Founder and President Emeritus Harry Glickman jokingly admitting to the crowd that he was given, according to the event's precise schedule, exactly seven minutes to sum up 20 years of his life's work?  

Broadcaster Bill Schonely -- whose microphone hangs from the Rose Garden rafters next to the retired jerseys-- huddling with Terry Porter behind a curtain before stepping out to model a throwback jersey that hung to his knees, complete with his signature catchphrase "rip city" across the chest?  

An accompanying press release recognizing the team's "very first center" Dale Schlueter in one paragraph and then touting how and where to purchase the newly-unveiled merchandise (Blazers.com, of course) in the next?

I'm rubbing my eyes today asking, "What just happened?  Did that really just happen?"

The scene already feels like an alternate universe. I now take you to a board room somewhere deep inside that alternate universe. 

"Yesterday's event was an overwhelming success.  Pictures of our jerseys even made the front page of Blazersedge.com! It must have been the killer narrated slideshow we put together."

"That's right. Huge success! Let's build off that! Let's Rise With Ourselves (Us)!  Today's meeting topic: How can we more obviously cash in on Blazermania?"

"How about imploding the Memorial Coliseum after the Turn Back The Clock game and selling Harry Glickman-autographed rubble?"

"Hmmmmmm.... there's something there but that sounds a little bit too much like the Berlin Wall memorials."

"Headbands with Bill Walton's face on them?"

"Come on, man. So, obviously, cliche."

"Wait a minute, wait a minute, have we auctioned off Greg Oden's #52 game-worn orthotics yet?" 

"Booya. We haven't done that yet. Winner."

"Sweet, ok, I'll draft a release and alert the media."

"No, wait, hold on, first let me check to make sure the Medford Elks Lodge isn't already booked!"

"CHAMPIONSHIP. 2010... NBA... Champions..." 

"Awesome meeting guys."

The new jerseys are truly sweet and the Blazers' rich past is absolutely worth remembering at every possible opportunity. Everyone participating -- especially those over 60 years of age-- seemed thrilled.  Still, it felt like some lines were getting seriously blurred.  

I guess I should know better. But I simply wish that yesterday's two driving principles -- the honest recognition of visionary, historic efforts and the raw commerce of memorabilia sales  -- hadn't been linked together quite so closely, quite so methodically, quite so brilliantly. 

Legends deserve regular moments in the sun. And they deserve them without any price tags attached.

No matter how cunningly and seamlessly the price tags are hidden.

-- Ben (benjamin.golliver@gmail.com)
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