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Five Questions: Brian Doyle

Ben Golliver sat down for a Five Questions session with Brian Doyle, the editor of Portland Magazine and a contributing writer for Matt Love's Red Hot & Rollin'.  

Mr. Doyle's entry in Red Hot & Rollin' is entitled "An Exquisite Geometry."   Red Hot & Rollin' is currently available in bookstores. The 1977 Finals is considered one of the all-time classics between the Blazers and a fully-loaded Philadelphia 76ers. What do you remember about the 1977 Finals and what made that matchup so special?  

I was in home in New York in June of 1977, and watched the finals with increasing amazement. Like everyone else in the East I thought the Sixers were better - they had the otherworldly Doctor and a lot of interesting pieces. A very good pro team. But the Blazers ran and flew and passed and flew and sprinted and passed. They were generous and fast - and they were anchored, it was clear, by another otherworldly player. There are not many players in the history of the game you can use that word for, otherworldly - Wilt, Russell (the greatest rebounder and shotblocker ever, let's not forget), Akeem, Michael, Oscar, West, Magic, Bird, Nash (who changes everything), maybe Iverson (the quickest and most relentless player I have ever seen, period). But you can for Walton and the Doc. Just about every fan, commentator and sportswriter has made the Walton/Oden comparison.  What are your thoughts on #52? Can he too become "otherworldly" as you put it?

I am ancient enough to remember the young Pat Ewing very well indeed - I saw him play in high school, even, in Cambridge, Massachusetts - and I see young Mr. Oden developing much like Ewing, who came into the league a terrifically active, energetic, ferocious shotblocker, defender, rebounder, with fairly limited scoring skills, but who picked up a lovely jumper over the years. I predict Oden will be a scary force on defense, a man who owns the lane and can score on energy and activity, like Rodman did, scouring the boards, etc. But he'll learn a shot.... Recently, a lot of the commentary on BlazersEdge has revolved around gauging the potential of our younger players.  Indeed, with the youngest team in the league and their recent success, there is plenty of cause for speculation.  How do you see the 2007-2008 Blazers shaping up?

The current team, hmm, what a fascinating group - a long active talent in LaMarcus, a steady all-star captain in Roy, and Outlaw, as physically gifted as anyone I have seen in years and years - if Outlaw continues to channel and focus his skills, he's an All-Star too next year. And then excellent hard-working professionals all round, all of them quick to find the open man. The streak seems a little bizarre, but how interesting to watch them flow and fly, and then lean on Roy for cold professional accomplishment when necessary. And their average age is what, fifteen? The Spurs and Suns are aging, the Rockets and Jazz limited - the future appears to be arriving quietly here, and how fun to watch. I give a lot of quiet credit to the coach for letting go of the reins - which I suspect was easier for him because Roy is in charge. With the now-12 game winning streak, it's hard not to dream.  Given what the championship meant to the city of Portland in 1977, what do you think a championship would mean to the city today?  

A second title would be a kick but not quite like the first. That one was as much cultural, social, civic, regional roar of pride, statement of maturity, inchoate proof of our way of living and playing here - loose and free, but disciplined and communal. Sport and teams are never good metaphors for real life, much as we want them to be, but sometimes teams and places come together at the right moment and there are ripples far beyond the field of play - the 1980 USA hockey team, Cathy Freeman's gold medal, for example. I think that was the case here, from everything I have heard over 17 years as resident. Much has changed in Oregon over thirty years, and the Blazers as a franchise have much more history, fair and foul. Another title - in, say, three years - will thrill a whole new generation of children, and remind the sports world that a team of young generous sprinters can beat established teams of dual superstars with laborious journeymen. But I don't think a second title will have the epic resonance of the first. Compare the 2004 and 2007 Red Sox, for example.  In the essay, you call basketball the "coolest game."  Does its popularity in Portland - a city whose reputation is "weird", at least if you read the bumper stickers -- carry a certain irony?  

I have actually had a polite argument with, of all people, His Holiness the Dalai Lama about what is the greatest game of all, soccer (his pick) or basketball (Mine). He says soccer is the most flowing of games, and he was good at it, too, he says, before he got his professional call; but I pointed out that it's finally not as generous a game as basketball, in which mostly everyone scores. On this one issue in the world I am right and he is wrong. And to me it's very Oregonian, hoop - the game rewards independence and creativity, while also demanding generosity, communal energy, and hard work from everyone. Plus you can play it indoors, which helps in a place where there is simply a wet season and a dry one (briefly).

Thanks to Ben for the interview and to Brian for taking time to speak with us!

--Dave (