I used to work for the Trailblazers.
Well, to be more specific, I worked for the Oregon Arena Corporation which is basically the Rose Garden Arena. I worked in the engineering department which has a wide range of responsibilities. I have been literally all over the arena. Paul Allens suite? Yes. Trailblazers locker room? Yes. Blazer Dancers locker room? You wish.
It was an awesome, awesome job for a Blazer fan to have. I used to apply the decals (“salute our troops” ribbon, or Playoffs, etc.) to the home court for every game. Set up hoops for afternoon shoot-arounds. Repair locker room doors. Get free tickets. I also worked at the practice facility and the Memorial Coliseum and I had keys to everything.
I met a lot of players in the halls and on the elevators and (even though it is strictly against OAC policy) I would ALWAYS try to get them talking. Jermainne Oneal was definitely the coolest meeting I had with a player and Scottie Pippen was definitely the worst. Bonzi and Sheed were both cool but Bob Whitsett was cold and a little mean. But these are stories for another time...
When I was employed at the arena, they had a groundbreaking employee “volunteer” program called the Blazer Community Builders. The arena and the Trailblazers organization would pay their employees to go to work on community projects. Several rotating teams of everyone in the organization would go out into the community and refurbish a school gym, or build a playground, or do some watershed clean up. Really a wonderful program.
I do not know if this program is still active but I am betting that it is in a seriously reduced form, if at all.
The bold faced truth of it (in retrospect) is that I worked there during the build up to the jailblazer era. Yeah we had some questionable guys on our squad but we were winning playoff games so no one was doing anything rash like getting rid of their season ticket packages yet. I was sent out on a BCB project with two guys that were about to help push us over that brink. Zach Randolph and Qyntel Woods.
Now I know that this can never be considered to be the ideal example of what I am trying to get at with all of this, but it is the only example that I have personally participated in.
Our project for the day was going to be a Meals on Wheels type of thing where we (Zach and Qyntel) were delivering food to people who, for one reason or another, were unable to leave their house.
Zach and Q were the rookies that year and it seems that this is true for all NBA teams (not just the Blazers and not just that era). When it comes to team “community involvement” it is almost always the rookies who are sent. Sometimes it is the long time veterans like Juwon Howard, but it is usually the rookies chosen to do what must be considered a less than desirable task. Maybe it is a stretch, but it seems to me that even though the NBA wants to put up a good front, they still consider this community involvement to be “dirty work”.
Again, I know that Z and Q are not the perfect examples but, they were late. The food that we, the BCB team, had already gone and loaded into the vans, got cold.
Finally they arrived and got into the vans with us. We went to approximately 6 houses. During this time I tried to make small talk with these guys and we talked briefly about video games. As we were driving, I recall Qyntel looking out at Portland like it was another planet. We drove past a house with a large flower bed in their front yard and Qyntel noticed them and called them beautiful. He said he wanted to bring some home to his mom. Seriously.
Zach was bored with flower talk. He was bored with the entire idea of being in this van with a bunch of puny white strangers. He was constantly looking at his watch and his phone and he talked to no one in the van except Qyntel. He smiled for the cameras when we delivered the food, then he was on his phone again before we got back in the van. We were not even a quarter of the way done with our entire scheduled route when he decided he wanted to call it a day and go home. We talked him into one more house which was close to the arena.
He again smiled to the meal recipient, shook hands, and gave them their styrofoam boxes.
Across the street, 5 teenage boys were either walking to or from a basketball court somewhere – at least one of them was dribbling a ball. As we were headed to the van, one of the boys recognized Zach and four of the youths came over to meet the Trailblazer. One of the boys just kept walking. Zach initially greeted the four who came to meet him but then started yelling at the guy who walked away. His shouts got more and more angry and quickly escalated to dropping serious f-bombs. The lone walker eventually turned and started to return the volley of cuss words and Zach began to advance toward the young man. In anger.
We, the BCB team, quickly corralled him and convinced him to get in the van as people began looking out their windows and doors. We brought him back to the arena and let he and Qyntel go home while we finished the route.
Once again, I know, NOT the best example – BUT – every time I see an NBA Cares commercial (or NFL, or NHL, or NASCAR for that matter) where they show players planting trees or reading children's books, or building habitats for humanity or whatever, I just don't buy it.
I know that there are good people out there and I know that some of them are professional athletes. I know we have genuinely good guys on our squad nowadays BUT every time I see the Community Assists scoreboard I can't help but wonder- who really helped those people and how?
Sorry this has been so long winded, but I am asking fellow Bedgers to help me. Help, if you can, restore my faith in humanity. =)
Has the Trailblazer organization ever really helped you or done anything in your community that you thought to be of value? Has a player shown up at your child's school and done more than just a 20 minute photo-op? Can a basketball team be of REAL (not just entertainment) value to a community?