We've been talking a little about the ins and outs of fandom this week, and this will pretty much be the close of the subject, but I wanted to highlight something that is a case in point as to what I'm talking about and why I think these discussions are valuable.
I was catching up on my reading with the good folks at the O-Live Blazers Blog when I came across their link to this HoopsVibe.com article written by Christopher Sells.
I won't recap the whole article here. Basically Christopher's point was that, having only seen the Blazer play a few times, he thinks Blazers have great talent, a great coach, and a great future ahead of them but he doesn't think they'll make the playoffs this year because:
--The Western Conference is tough
--Their closest competitors, Houston, Golden State, and Utah, all have experience doing this playoff-run thing
--The Blazers have been hot and cold
--A lot of the streak happened at home and the Blazers have some extended road stretches coming up
He then said he'd probably be labeled a "Blazers hater" for saying these things.
There were 18 responses to his article. I'd like to reprint some of them here for you:
Granted I've selected the most offensive of the comments. These mostly came first and I think some fans saw those and decided to represent a little better. But still reading this stuff...which is hardly uncommon around the `net...makes me wonder:
Is this who we really are? Is this what being a Blazer fan means?
Please tell me it's not, because it's just depressing.
--If you took the name "Blazers" out of the equation, substituted in "Hawks" or something, put them in the exact same situation, and then asked us who we thought would make the playoffs we'd say the same thing Christopher has. "We like the team, but the success is new and the competition is tough and proven. I need to see more before I believe they'll make it." People are yelling at the guy for saying the same things they, themselves would say!
--We complain endlessly about how national people don't write enough or pay enough attention to the Blazers. How in the world do you expect people to write about the team if they can't offer an honest opinion without people insulting them, yelling at them, and accusing them wildly?
--This guy called his shot. He knew he'd be accused of being a "hater". That means we have a rep, at least where he is from. How the heck did we allow that to happen? And where in the world did we learn that being a loyal fan means shouting down anyone who says anything that isn't completely rose-colored about our team? At what point in our evolution as a community of fans did that become commonplace, accepted, or legitimate? Are we so insecure with our position and our team's ability that we cannot stand to hear anything but praise without falling apart? I remember this happening all the time in the Jailblazer era. People would say Zach was not a great defender or that he didn't always bring it 100% and the cries of "hater" would commence. Apparently it was the truth, as the people in New York would already attest. Maybe you could understand the "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" approach when the team really stank. It was like salt in the wounds. But now the team has changed! We don't have to whistle past the graveyard anymore. So why are we, as fans, still acting like it's 2005-06? Is this how we want to be known and remembered?
--I'm assuming the whole point of complaining about an article like this is to make sure we get respect...to make sure the team looks good. Don't people realize that things like this make us look completely Bush League? So do a lot of things people do...like calling into sports shows and demanding respect when we haven't won anything yet like we talked about the other day. Spurs fans don't do that. Suns fans don't do that. Even L*ker fans don't do that...because they've all tasted success. We've tasted success too! I know we haven't been in the playoffs for a couple years but we did get there for over two decades straight before that. We've been to the Conference Finals twice within the last decade. We've been to the NBA Finals. We've won a championship. Once upon a time we were known as one of the proudest, best franchises and one of the most knowledgeable, passionate, truly great fan bases in the world of sports. Seeing stuff like this makes we wonder what the heck has happened. Whether we agree or not why do we act like a guy making a reasonable argument in a reasonable way robs us of all the respect we've ever had or earned? We're going to fall apart and lose everything because of what one guy says? Every time we act fragile like this it just proves more that we're not really confident in our team or our future and confirms people's skeptical impressions of us. Under the guise of giving people more to believe in, we actually confirm their disbelief. That doesn't make sense to me.
I know this isn't everybody, or the whole fan base. But it's hardly uncommon. And nobody remembers most of the fan base is reasonable when they read a bunch of comments like those above. We get defined by our loudest and weakest. I sincerely hope we do not let that happen, nor let that style of conversation carry the day, because it would be a sad day if this kind of thing ever seemed necessary or reasonable, let alone what Blazer fandom is about.
When other media people and bloggers write to me almost invariably they comment about what a wonderful community we have here. They say they read here precisely because the conversation is so good, and thoughtful, and a joy to be a part of. That makes me very happy. I appreciate all of you and what you've helped build here and there's not a day I forget that. Almost always in the same sentence those people also point out how rare that is. That makes me kind of sad. Why should it be rare? And why in the world should ANYONE have to anticipate that as soon as they say "boo" about the Blazers they're going to be attacked? Is this how we want our fan base to be defined? Our team is WAY better than that. Our reputation as fans should match it.