I'm glad we have a down day today because we need to stop and talk about the biggest story of the year, bar none...the news that came out Friday that Paul Allen is buying back the Rose Garden. I specifically refrained from talking about it over the weekend because it's something that affects us all and we all should be in on it. So if you want to talk Jamaal trades, all-stars, or Nate's
substation substitution (I can't believe nobody pointed that out...that was a Microsoft Word "You know what you think you're typing but I know the word you really want instead" typo all the way.) tendencies I can see they're flourishing in the diaries. The main page is going to have only one story today...this one. And that's appropriate.
This was the elephant in the closet for the entire season. We talked about it extensively last summer but, wanting to just enjoy and talk about the season for what it was, I made a conscious choice not to bring it up while the games were running. I mentioned it briefly a couple months ago and Dwight Jaynes followed with an article about it, but that was it. Still, it was going to be Story #1 on the first day of the off-season because nothing, save winning a championship, could be bigger. It wouldn't have mattered if we had won 50, or gotten to the Western Conference Finals, or gotten the #1 draft pick. None of that would have mattered without knowing that the ensuing years were going to see the Portland Trailblazers remain the PORTLAND Trailblazers. Otherwise we were just winning, and planning, and hoping, and drafting for some other town. I don't know about you, but as much as I love Martell and Brandon and Jarrett and all the guys, I just couldn't see myself rooting for the Seattle Trailblazers or the Kansas City Trailblazers. It's a little bit like dating someone and loving them but then they leave you. In a way, sure, you still want the best for them because you love them, but in another way HECK NO you don't want to see them on another person's arm because it's going to hurt every time you do. But with someone you're dating you always get over that because there are other fish in the sea. But none of us is ever going to get a second childhood, or those memories, or those hopes and dreams and hours of sweating and rooting and fearing and crying that came along with being a fan of this team. I can adopt any NFL, MLB, NHL, or whatever league's team I want but it's never going to be like this. We're not just dating this team...most of us are married to it. Some of us have had children with it, or were children of it ourselves with our parents. And no matter what semi-mutual separations have occurred in the last few years, that never goes away entirely and it doesn't get replaced. This wasn't going to be old friends saying goodbye, this was going to be a divorce...and a divorce in a relationship that otherwise should have worked because all of the links were there if anybody just had the wisdom to see them and believe.
I feel like today somebody has that wisdom. Maybe others wouldn't put it in exactly those terms because it's a business deal and business people don't think that way, but that's what it seems like to me. There should be a Portland Trailblazers. There needs to be a Portland Trailblazers, because the relationship between this town and that team has been something with few parallels in sports or any other public venture and if that can't exist, well, something's wrong with the world. The business aspect and the NBA publicity aspect and all of the other aspects can just go and hang because all of those are brain things and hand things and feet things in this sports body, but things like this...this is the soul. And if you keep everything else but lose the soul you don't really have anything worthwhile left. This is something that no marketing genius or accountant can really understand through their disciplines, but they need to understand somehow anyway. It says somewhere "What is salt without its flavor? If it has lost its saltiness what good is it?" Could you get a few more bucks from a few new seats sold via the old new-team-in-town hype somewhere else? I bet you could. But where's the flavor? It's gone...lost between the pages of sterile numbers-crunching. And once you've lost that, how are you going to get it back?
That's why I hope beyond hope that this move is a sign that somebody got that...that somebody understood that once you get beyond the ability to buy the food you eat, some basic necessities, and...well...everything else you could conceivably want, all the money in the world is just numbers on a page, an abstract way of keeping score in a game nobody wins. There are things more important and more enduring...things like people and memories and community and something to believe in and celebrate together. If you make a bad business deal, so what? Nobody's going to remember that in fifty years. In fact nobody will remember it if you make good business deals either. You can die a billionaire and all anybody will remember is, "That was __ __, a billionaire." That's a pretty darn cold memory. That's why when you have the opportunity you have to do something meaningful, to touch something that makes a difference to people and to make it better. And maybe sports, especially professional sports, isn't the deepest measure of our existence. But you know what? It means something to a lot of people. It means something to the grandmothers and the teenagers and the fathers and the twenty-somethings and the business owners and the students and everybody who takes the time and trouble to write into this site. It brings us together. In some small, stupid way it breaks the boundaries between us to the point where people who don't even know each other feel a common bond because they know at 7:00 on Tuesday night they'll be in completely different places wearing the same jersey and yelling for the same things and talking about it all the next morning. People...that's what makes a difference, far more than any money or paper or egos or scores. And to be known as someone who did his best with what he had to give people something to believe in and gather around and root for...that's a memory that money can't buy in any other way.
I don't care about business deals, good or bad. I don't care who was right or who was wrong in this whole Vulcan-PAM thing. It doesn't matter. Four days ago no matter how things were going everything was wrong about it. Today no matter how things go everything is right. Assuming what we're being told is true, I want to thank Paul Allen for that. I want to thank him and everybody who had a hand in keeping this team in Portland. I want to thank him for doing what I would have done in a heartbeat if I had the resources, but I don't. I'm not naïve enough to think that thanks weighs much in this world next to $1000 or $10,000, let alone the millions we're talking about here. But you know what? Paul Allen already had plenty of those millions a few days ago. Maybe at least this is something new. Nobody makes all perfect decisions in this life. The best you can hope for is to make one or two that make a difference for the good. This one does. Thanks. You better bet we'll be here as long as you are.
Now let's get back to talking some basketball...from now on without that shadow over our shoulders! WHOOOOO! Feels good.