I wanted to post this before the season starts, since Rudy is still here.
I haven't been around Blazersedge much recently. The reason may surprise some people. I've avoided the Bedge because the Rudy Fernandez situation brought back personal and painful memories. I thought long and hard about this post, and I worked on it for weeks. I decided that if Rudy was on the team once the season started, I would post it. As usual with me, it's very long -- sorry about that.
You see, I think I understand Rudy, and to explain why, I'm going to give some personal history.
I was born in Glasgow, Scotland. When I was seven years old, my father got a new job in, of all places, Portland, Oregon.
America! We're moving to America! Everyone was jealous. The older kids in our neighbourhood told me we would have movie stars for our neighbours, and the sun would shine every day. Everyone in America is rich!
When we arrived in Portland, it was horrible. It rained a lot, but I was used to rain. The real problem was the other kids. They couldn't understand much of what I said, and they made fun of the way I talked. I couldn't always understand them, either, but I knew they were making fun of me. By the time school started, I hated all the kids on our street. When I went to school, I hated that, too. I think my teacher tried to help me, but even she had a hard time understanding me.
The only good part of my life was sports. My father took me to Oregon Ducks games in both basketball and football, and then when the Trailblazers came into existence, I really found my love. Every game, we watched or listened on the radio. My parents knew I was lonely and unhappy, and they even let me stay up past bed time for Blazer games. I shot hoops in our back yard for hours upon hours, perfecting my moves, pretending I was up against Walt Frazier. I didn't want to play with other kids, and they didn't want to play with me. But I owned Walt so many times, so I was getting by, I guess.
We moved just before I finished grade school, and then it was Floyd Light Middle School. By now, my accent wasn't so strong, but it was still there, and kids still made fun of me. I probably made it worse, but I was kind of mad at the world, and so instead of being friendly, I was rude right back to those who were rude to me.
Something changed after we moved, though, because one of our new neighbours invited my parents to church, and we went. I didn't make any friends there, really, but at least the other kids were friendly enough.
High school was a little better, because David Douglas was a huge school, and mostly I just kept to myself and never said much at all to anyone. I didn't have any friends, but at least I avoided trouble. My father's job was letting him get more time off, so we did a lot of hiking and stuff. I grew to love the mountains of Oregon and SW Washington, but I missed Scotland so much - it was kind of the Promised Land for me. I was going back someday, and I'd have friends again. Someday.
The year after I finished high school, my dad got a new job, that involved training people in different places. He told me that we were going to move back to Scotland! But first, he was going to do this job for a couple of years, and we would see a lot more of America. It turned out that it meant that we would be spending about a month in lots of places, all over America. But to start, it would mean six months in Edwardsville, Illinois where he was involved in some kind of seminar at Southern Illinois University. And so, we moved to Illinois. No more Columbia River Gorge, or Cascade Mountains, or Willamette River. And there wasn't even a good way to get news on the Blazers. But at least we were on our way back home to Scotland, where I would be happy again.
Something strange happened to me in Edwardsville. The youth group in our church had a ministry every Saturday in East St. Louis, and they asked me to go along. I didn't think it was any big deal. It would be better than being bored alone at home, and I said I'd go - and the van drove me into a war zone. I had never seen anything like it. I had never been so afraid. And the next Saturday morning, when I got up, I was so scared I threw up three times - but I went again. It took me three months before I could eat breakfast on a Saturday without throwing up.
The little kids in ESL loved us, and they'd always gather around to sing songs, play games, and hear a Bible story - but their big brothers and cousins would hang around, too, and make fun of us, and sometimes even threaten us, until some of the women would come out and chase them away. But I made a friend there, my first real friend in America. When I first met LeRand I thought he was going to beat me up. It's a long story, but we became best friends. The poor black kid from East St. Louis and the unhappy middle-class white Scottish kid. He had more going for him than I did, as it turned out.
East St. Louis is the most tragic place I've ever seen in my life. But I learned there are some wonderful people there, and I get defensive when people bash on people who live there (as happens sometimes when Darius gets mentioned on Bedge). Those kids cried when I told them I was moving away and wouldn't be coming back. LeRand doesn't live there anymore, but last time I was in America, he and I went back to visit some of those mothers who would come out and stop him from harassing our group. Some of them are still there. And I wanted my kids to see East St. Louis.
When we left Illinois, we spent 18 months travelling around America. I hated L.A., liked Phoenix, hated New York, liked Boston, and liked the South. I wrote to LeRand every week (he told me later he learned to read at the age of 21 just so he could read my letters himself). And when I finally left America after almost fifteen years, I really only had one friend there. But it didn't matter! I was going home!
Disaster. Total and complete disaster. No one played basketball, and I didn't know anything about the football (soccer) players everyone was talking about. I didn't understand the slang, and my accent was Americanized, and everything was all wrong. No one even believed I was Scottish.
I started university, and couldn't make any friends there, either. And I went down to the pub, and some guys who didn't like my accent beat me up. That happened twice. And after about a year, I was ready to pack it all in and move somewhere, anywhere.
And then, my father took me camping in the Highlands, and got me away from everything, and let me have it. "You better learn now, before it is too late, that home is where you make it." "It doesn't do any good to complain about not having friends if you haven't gone to where friendly people are and started trying to actually be a friend." "You be a friend first, and you'll have friends. Find other people who are being friends, and join them in it."
And then he asked the question that turned my world upside down. "What friends did you have in America, and where were you happiest?" He knew the answer, and he knew I knew, and I knew that he knew I knew, and I couldn't pretend. It was in East St. Louis. East St. Louis! And he told me that you will have friends, and be happy, and be at home, when you start thinking about doing things for other people, and that you will make home be where ever you are when you do that.
I sulked about it (no other word for it) for about a week. And then I got plugged into actually doing things for other people. Suddenly I had friends, because there were other people who were doing the same thing, and were glad to have me join them. I met my wife. I got really serious about my Christianity. I quit moping and started doing.
I know lonely. Oh, how I know lonely. That much, I understand about Rudy. I know what it is like to be in a strange country where everything is different. I've done it twice. And to go a little further, I know fear. Maybe he doesn't, but I do - fear of rejection, fear of the unfamiliar. I find it hard to trust people at times. I made sure our kids were Scottish through and through (though they follow the Blazers and two of them post on Bedge sometimes). Even though I've tried to teach them to give of themselves, I'm afraid of them having to go through what I went through.
I am still a little paranoid at times. A friend had told me about an American from Portland who lives in Scotland now. When I signed up for Bedge, I "stole" his identity, signing my emails to Dave and to Bedgers with his name, and saying things my friend told me about him in my posts as if I were him. I didn't want people to remember me, the real me, and say, "Oh, were you that funny kid I went to school with?"
I'm ashamed of it now. I actually signed an email with my real name a few months ago, for the first time. Consider this post part of burying my stupid fears. I was terrified of putting the schools I attended in this post, afraid that someone from Floyd Light or David Douglas would remember me, and laugh at me again -- as if it would matter if they did. How stupid. But I was still afraid.
No, my story isn't the same as Rudy's. But I know what it is like to discover you aren't home and that where you are is nothing like home, to be lonely, to have a dream and have it fail, to not have any real friends. Sometimes, those memories still hurt, even though I have a lot of friends now.
Nobody wants my advice, but I'm going to give it anyway, before the season starts, and I'll probably never say anything about anything in this post ever again. I won't be replying to comments in this thread, though I'll read them. I know most of what my friends here on Bedge will say, so thanks in advance. Here's my advice:
To Rudy's supporters: give him room. Either he'll work it through or he won't.
To Rudy's critics: even if you don't know what he's going through, I can guess a lot of it. And it isn't personal, against you, your team, or your city. It's just something he's going to have to work through on his own. So probably the best thing you can do is to just leave it. Bashing him won't do any good, it won't change anything, but it might do harm. The only thing it does is make you feel a little bit important. If you are the kind of person that feels important by bashing someone who is going through a hard time, then keep on, I guess. Otherwise, just give it a rest. Everything has already been said anyway.
To Rudy: Find someplace where people will accept you for who you are, rather than what you are. That's not the Rose Garden. There, they accept you for what you are, a basketball player who can entertain them. They'll give applause, etc, but they want something back. For me, I found acceptance in church, even though I was lonely and different. You might try that -- church will be different in America from what it is in Spain.
Find a way to do something for someone that they will cry when you leave. You will never forget it. Go to that high school that almost lost its football program, and ask the basketball coach if you can help out once in a while. Do something with Hispanic kids in the area. Plug in, man, and do something you'll always remember. You'll never regret it. It will only take an hour or two a week, and when you leave Portland, you might cry, too.
You can make home be where ever you are. It was a hard lesson for me, but I've learned it. It's up to you, really. If you need to be someplace particular to be at home, you might find when you get back there that it isn't home anymore. But if you make home be where you are, you will always be home.
Good luck, Rudy.