Recently, Bill Simmons listed Portland as one of the most tortured sports cities in North America. Here is the rebuttal that I sent him that will probably not get published. After you read this, please feel free to add any experiences that you think support my position. In other words, please don't burst my bubble. I can listen to talk radio anytime I want to hear people share their negative vibe. Am I right, or am I right?
I realize I'm too late to make your levels of losing mailbag, but this has to be said: As a lifelong Trail Blazers fan, I can tell you that Portland doesn’t belong on your sorry little list of sports have-nots. We were only tortured for about 5 years. Bear with me so that I can explain why.
First off, you can’t give us a break on the whole 35 year rule…I know plenty of people who remember the Blazers championship. Give me 5 years or even 10 and a significant portion of that population will be dead and gone and then maybe we’ll feel that we’ll inevitably lose, but not before that. We cannot be despondent with that win in our collective memory. I don’t personally remember winning it (I was 3), but I do remember finding the 7-UP bottle in the garage that had the Blazers logo and NBA Champions printed on it and I remember my dad explaining what that was like. So we definitely need to satisfy the 35 year rule, but even then we would not be a tortured city.
Sure, the Blazers are our only pro franchise. However, I would argue that having only one sports franchise is an asset, not a liability. It allows us to focus, and focus we do. We love our Blazers like they are our only child. We want them to succeed but we all know that success in life is not dependent on being the best. There are lots of doctors who are good doctors that aren’t world renowned—but they’re STILL doctors! Just like we can’t be tortured when our children are doctors, we can’t really feel disappointed in our Blazers unless they turn out to be pot smoking losers (which they were for about five years). To really understand why we aren’t tortured consider the following:
1. We had (but I was too young to remember) one of the best passing centers of all time in Bill Walton playing in his prime.
2. Do you remember how we had Clyde Drexler, Terry Porter, Jerome Kersey, Buck Williams and Kevin Duckworth all playing together back in the early 90’s? That was a beautiful time in Blazer history. I remember listening to Bill Schonely on the radio with my little brother and then running out into the driveway for three dunks on our 8 ½ foot rim during every timeout because I was so excited about whatever great thing had happened. Did those seasons end in losses? They most certainly did, but we got to go on a ride that was fantastic. If your kid made it to the state wrestling finals and then got dominated 14-4, would you hurt? Well, we do…a little. See, we’re not bitter that our kid was “only” the second best wrestler in the state, we’re proud of him. We had the best passing center of my generation (Arvydas Sabonis) playing well past his prime, but it was still something to behold. Consider that even though Sabonis had to use a wheelchair to get from one end of the court to the other, he was too big for Shaq to push around the way that he did to every other center in the NBA. I think that’s saying something since wheel chairs are made for pushing. Sabonis was a much better all around player than Shaq because he could make amazing passes and stretch the floor with his shot. I only wish that I could see the Madden version of reality where you could have a 28 year old Sabonis playing against a 35 year old Shaq, or even better, a 26 year old Sabonis against a 26 year old Shaq. That would have been more entertaining to me than anything that Michael Jordan ever did. Speaking of Jordan…
3. So, we didn’t draft Jordan. Big deal. We drafted Sam Bowie and he was a good player. Do you ever watch him play against the Celtics on ESPN Classic? He was gifted, and I can’t stop loving my little doctor just because he didn’t have sturdy bones. Drafting Bowie ahead of Jordan was way smarter than taking Darko over Wade and Anthony. At least Bowie was a real player!
4. Then, we drafted Oden over Durant. Does this haunt or torture any Blazer fan? Only the ones who are bad parents. What the rest of us in Portland know is that Oden came to us at a time when we had just endured the worst behavior our team had to offer...Isaiah Rider and marijuana, Rasheed and Damon Stoudamire getting pulled over with marijuana, the police discovering pot in Stoudamire’s house, Qyntel Woods dog fighting, Ruben Paterson not only being a registered sex offender, but also getting sucker punched by a teammate in practice and breaking his eye socket followed by that teammate, Zach Randolph, being investigated for rape, Damon Stoudamire trying to sneak pot through a metal detector at the airport wrapped in aluminum foil, Bonzi Wells spitting on fans, Bonzi telling SI that the fans will always love the players because we’re the fans and they’re the players. I’m sure that there are other examples that I’m leaving out, but this is just off the top of my head and I’m not really good at holding grudges. Ironically, the cleanest player on our team at that time had the last name of Outlaw. Anyway, Oden came to the team at a time when we were down. Of course, we had Brandon Roy, and that made us feel better, but Oden gave us real hope. I remember the party the city threw for him when he got drafted…more than a thousand people showed up at a park downtown to watch him smile and maybe even dance and giggle. What the rest of the world doesn’t understand, is that Oden gave us hope in our darkest hour. He still gives us hope for the future even if he can’t deliver in the present. Although, many dispassionate people might suggest that Durant would have been a better choice, we’re ready in Portland to wait it out and see. Maybe we adopted a hopeless orphan from Haiti when we could have adopted Mike from The Blind Side, but that doesn’t mean we’ll love him any less or that he can’t grow up to be great!
Look, we knew this little kid when he was toddling around in diapers with a head too big for his body. He was awkward, but the world was his oyster. He could have grown up to be a Clipper or a…well, I can’t think of anything worse to have your franchise grow into. Anyway, the point is, we’re not a tortured city precisely because we’re drinking the Kool Aid! We believe in a way that might be irrational, but then again, it might not be…if everybody can just get healthy, we could be champions again. Anyway, we’re like the guy in the Princess Bride who builds up an immunity to the poison and now the Kool Aid has become our ally rather than our enemy. It enables us to see good where others might find disappointment. It enables us to love the tiniest role player and celebrate being second best. Therefore, on behalf of all Portland, I respectfully request that you please remove us from your list.