I got an interesting e-mail from Jordan yesterday. Among other things he posed a question, thus:
I'm relating this publicly because I think in part it's a mischaracterization. Anyone who has actually seen me watch a game knows I'm not all that calm and believe me, the higher the stakes go the more trouble I have keeping my temper or keeping my seat (whichever is called for). I get pretty pumped for games now and when we start approaching meaningful playoff territory...whoo boy. Better clear a 15' radius around me and beg, borrow, or steal some earplugs.
However there's a difference between being excited and emotional during the game and being angry about it afterwards. I'm almost always the former. I only dabble in the latter when playoff losses to the L*kers (or comparable things) are on the menu. I guess I've seen too many real heartbreaks like the 1990 and '92 Finals, the '91 Western Conference Game 6, and of course the 2000 collapse to get really worked up about a game against the Bucks in December of a season where we're not expected to compete. The game matters a lot when it's being contested but its lasting impact is minimal. This was always going to be a gradual process and I'd drive myself nuts living and dying all night with every incremental step forward or slight loop backwards.
It also helps understanding where we are and who we are right now. If I sit down to watch a Chihuahua and an elephant play musical chairs I'm not going to be terribly surprised when the Chihuahua ends up as a cushion stain. I'm going to get really excited when the doggy pulls out the victory but otherwise I'm going to give a reasonable response: "Wait until Senor Sniffles gets bigger." I'm certainly not going to get angry at the dog, berate it for not trying, or yell at its trainer. If anything I would say, "When the puppy gets a little older and wiser it will take Packy out to the agility course and make him play a different game." But until that happens, why get all in a tizzy? What did you expect to see? As soon as "All Around the Mulberry Bush" hit the turntable you probably should have known how this would turn out.
That said, there are things that would still make me angry. These include:
- Watching rampant, ignorant stupidity. This includes on-court and off-court behavior. Watching guys get in trouble with the law in ways that reasonably aware people manage to avoid was hard. Watching guys make the same stupid plays on the court because it took the least effort and thought--or just pumped up their stats--was harder. Many times it seemed like the players didn't care about winning, the uniform, or the fans. That was hard to swallow and made me plenty cranky. Fortunately, for all our current struggles, it seems like those days are long gone.
- Being treated like a fool by the organization's PR arm, mostly through denial that any of the above was going on. This was actually a major impetus for me to start blogging at first--to affirm that fans aren't stupid sheep--though obviously my raison d'etre has gone well beyond that now. Things have gotten a lot better on this front too. We don't see pat denials, glib rationalizations, or commercials and slogans trying to disguise a broken relationship. Instead it sounds like the organization is interested in healing the relationship (and in most cases that intention was enough to actually heal it). I still get a little itchy at the mention of the 25-Point Pledge though.
- Seeing fan stupidity, defined less by being wrong than by cannibalizing each other because they happen to disagree on an arguable point. This was another reason I got into blogging, because I believed that much of what we were seeing out there didn't really represent how Blazer fans felt. I think all of you have confirmed that notion in spades and I think it has made a difference. This probably made me madder than any of the others because it was driving a lot of people away...people who wanted to love and support the team but couldn't find anyone to accept their voice of praise or honest criticism. It also hit home because this was our family, you know? Players are increasingly young and increasingly rich and you can understand how some of them might become disconnected with the community and its reality. The organization has an agenda and you can see where they would steer things certain ways even if you didn't agree with that direction. You can also see how their agenda could override their connection with the community, as sometimes happens in any business. But fans being out of touch with each other, acting stupid with each other, driving each other out by not caring about anything but the sound of their own voice? That's not representing at all and as a long-time fan who grew up in this community, with this team, and among its people that really made me angry (and still does). If fans don't respect each other and evidence a reasonable amount of intelligence how are the organization and players supposed to respect them or even give a damn?
The answer is an overwhelming YES...plenty of times. Among the more obvious:
--I was in favor of the Jermaine O'Neal deal. I believe one of my exact quotes at the time was, "It doesn't seem like Jermaine is going to amount to much of anything but if he does it'll probably be for another team." Fortunately this was well before I was blogging and the only witnesses were a small group of e-mail friends.
--I whistled past the graveyard on the Shawn Kemp thing, the last time I have done so. Mind you, everyone I was talking with (including me) knew that was a problematic deal...the salary, his history, his production. It was a stinker and we all called it the day it went down. But after that I started rationalizing all of the ways it could maybe work. Pfffffft! Should have stuck with my initial impression.
--I was too hard on Rasheed in his last days. I was angry with him not because of his play or talent, but because he quit on us. My reaction to that made me too critical of him and led me to jump far too easily into Zach Randolph's arms, which was clearly a mistake also. I have always maintained since that Rasheed was one of the best all-around players to put on a Portland uniform and I still believe that. But I'm not particularly proud that his half-baked commitment led me to some half-baked analysis at the time.
Those are just the huge examples. There have been plenty of smaller ones. Who knows, perhaps I am wrong in my analysis of some of the current guys. I've gotten better from making mistakes though. I hope many of our current youngsters are able to do the same.
Thanks for the e-mail Jordan, and thanks to all who take time to write.
Tomorrow...the infamous "What's Youth and What's Not" post.
P.S. TimG had a great idea in his comment to this post. What were your Blazer mistakes? (Things that you were darn sure would go one way and went another.) Do share.