We continue a recent trend of you guys anticipating my post topics in the diaries a day or two before I make them. Great minds think alike...or there are now so many diaries that every topic is going to get hit at one point or another. Either way it's all good!
In this particular case Lyfefindsaway posted a diary about wins and losses and how much the squeaky new image of the Blazers matters (or not). It's an interesting read. You can find it to the right. It's even more interesting because his thrust is pretty much opposite of mine. I actually spent a lot of time this past weekend thinking what a great time this is to be a Blazer fan in part because of this new image.
The Joe Freeman's Greg Oden article crystallized my thoughts in this area...this despite his mildly annoying use of the "s" word (savior) to describe Oden's role. For the two of you who might not have read, Freeman described Oden as a down-to-earth guy still eating at regular restaurants and talking to regular people. He plans to live on a reasonable stipend and not partake in the typical excesses of the NBA lifestyle. Earlier in the year we got an article from Jason Quick about Travis Outlaw's similar approach. Then there's Lamarcus Aldridge who at last report prefers the home life to nightly clubbing. And it's hard to argue with anything Brandon Roy does.
I'm not arguing that such choices are morally superior to others...not really anyway. People do what they do, especially when they're young. Usually it turns out fine. But with extra money comes extra temptations and correspondingly bigger risk and these guys have a ton of extra money. Having read for years about Zach Randolph's penchant for treading the line between entertainment and foolishness you can forgive a long-time Blazer fan for being a little gun-shy and wishing things could just be calm and worry-free for a while. It appears we have that now, and I think it'll make things a lot easier.
I know it's already made my passion a lot easier. Obviously there are more people willing to talk about the Blazers now. Part of that comes with expectations of better on-court performance, but make no mistake that image is a big part of it too. You can actually mention the word "Blazers" now without getting an abundance of icy stares or wisecracks. You don't have to hide your devotion like it was Japanese horror flicks or the WWE. If my dad knew I was a world-famous Blazer blogger (cough) I think there would be a glimmer of hope that he'd at least understand why now. Three years ago? Ugh. And who could blame him? When the casual perception of your team is so negative you have to do a lot of explaining to justify following them. In some ways the more you have to explain the more it confirms that there's something wrong. (This was lost on the faithful fan base for many years. The problem wasn't which end of these pro-con discussions you ended up on, it was that you had to have them in the first place.) Besides, not many people are willing to think that deeply and tortuously about what is supposed to be a fun, leisure-time pursuit. If you have to make a lot of moral justifications to engage in a recreational activity you're probably not going to engage in it and if you do you're not going to talk about it. That's why for most of this decade you'd get a better response passing gas loudly on a bus than trying to explain why you're a loyal Blazer fan.
Almost overnight that has changed, of course. Now you don't need to spend any time explaining, which is exactly how it should be. Conversations revolve around whether Greg Oden will be good or great and who's starting a power forward. A lot of people are interested and those who aren't will be once we actually start winning again.
It's an important lesson for the Blazers and their media/PR arm: you have to make it easy for people to love you. That usually means making it possible for them to hop on board without reservation. I hope that lesson is not soon forgotten. This way win or lose (and right now it's still "lose") the team is going to be reasonably popular. The other way we could only draw at the height of winning. That doesn't come along that often.
You know, between the new-found warm, snuggly relations and the near-boundless optimism about our talent base (as-yet-unclouded by the cold reality of young teams in the regular season) this summer is probably the pinnacle of good times for Blazer fans...certainly since spring of 2000 and possibly for another year or two yet to come. I, for one, am enjoying it.