On his radio show and on the Blazers podcast as well Gavin Dawson has repeatedly exhorted Blazer fans to enjoy this season and this time in the team's evolution. Typing the perspective piece last night got me thinking more about that and why it's important.
When I first started blogging I didn't know anything about writing online. I had to Google "blogs" to get an idea of what I was supposed to do. Up to that point I had only talked Blazers with an e-mail group of three friends whom I had never met in real life. At some point we added Eric Marentette, then author of the O-Live blog, which made four. I'm fairly certain that those four would have been the only people reading my first blog post had Marentette not referenced it on his blog.
I remember my very first comment, from Ignacio. Sometimes I'd get four or five comments in a post and I thought I was doing great. Sixteen would have been amazing. I used to read every one six or seven times and think about how to respond. E-mails too. I could respond to every one and I made sure I did...often at length. My writing and my thoughts were a little rough and the focus was all over the place. I had none of the routines (e.g. "Preview-Gameday Thread-Recap") that govern my life today. I went down to my first Summer League on my own nickel (a tradition that continues today) and without any press passes. Marentette let me double up in his comped hotel room and bogart his laptop in the early morning and late evening to post. I met long-time reader and since-friend Ken down there and we talked hoops some. Other than that I just wandered around trying to figure out what to do and staring wide-eyed at Lamarcus Aldridge and Martell Webster when I passed them on the street.
A little bit after that Casey Holdahl called and said he was leaving Blazersedge and wanted to know if I would take it over. I thought about it and said, "Why not?" I figured whatever audience I had managed to gather (a couple dozen faithful probably...whom I enjoyed very much) would probably come along and maybe Casey's audience might come and take a look at the new guy. I remember the excitement of trying to figure out what to post as an introduction. I was proud of the way the community and the style at the old blog had developed and I wanted continuity at the new site, even though some of the regulars likened the move to your favorite restaurant becoming popular and wondered what would come.
I remember my first e-mail from an established media person...Jason Quick as it turned out. That made me feel kind of like I had arrived. I remember the oddness-slash-excitement of being asked to be on ESPN, the actual TV network...like on TV. It was beyond the looking glass time there. Then the first radio interview followed, this one back on the East Coast for the Charlotte Bobcats market. We were suddenly disconnected--I'm pretty sure they hung up on me--when I suggested that Michael Jordan might want to trade his draft pick instead of making it, given his track record at drafting. (He did trade it, for Jason Richardson. Had they not hung up on me he was actually on my list of possibilities for them. But I had done 10 minutes of interview beforehand so it was all good.) After that local radio followed and the podcast too.
We're a long way from where we started now. The blog is among the biggest of its kind with multiple thousands of readers and hundreds, if not thousands, of comments a day. I can barely manage to read the e-mail specifically addressed to me, let alone respond to each letter, let alone read every comment every day (even once...forgetting six or seven times). I'm fortunate enough to be on the radio on a regular basis and privileged to discuss things with Gavin and Casey every week. We not only have Summer League credentials but we get passes to cover the team's home games as well. There's too much stuff for one person (out of town, at that) to do so Ben is on board handling the interviews and arena coverage. The local media know us by name if not on sight and talk back and forth. We know bunches of people in the organization and have interviewed most of them at one time or another. I suspect we count many at Blazer headquarters as readers as well. We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto. (We're in good company, though...neither is KP.)
Here are the points:
1. Every step along the way of this journey has been really good.
2. No two steps have been good in the same way.
3. You don't get to go back and do the old good things in the same way once you've moved on to the new good things.
Every once in a while I get nostalgic for when it was just me and a couple dozen readers and I got to leave six paragraph answers to five comments. Sometimes I miss the times when I didn't have to think much about what I wrote...when I didn't have to pay attention to things like accountability and mass consumption and the need to phrase things accurately, let alone blog moderation and network protocol and other grossness. Mind you, I think what we have now is far superior, more meaningful, more thought-provoking, and more dynamic. I am a better blogger than I used to be and you are a darn fine audience. But nothing--not even success beyond what you could have imagined--completely replaces your first blush, you know?
Gavin Dawson's comments about enjoying the Blazers are meant to tell us the same thing.
Portland is going to be wildly successful as well. Believe me, if they weren't I wouldn't hesitate to tell you. Along with all of the good times I distinctly remember people accusing me of bias against Zach Randolph, for instance, because I wasn't happy with what he brought to the floor, let alone the community. This team is on the runway for greatness. It's just waiting for some last minute mechanical problems and then clearance from the tower. Portland fans are going to get what they've always dreamed of.
But then again, think for a minute. When the team is great a lot of things are going to even out. In a 60-ish win season do you think you'll see the relief and spontaneous celebration for a regular-season win like we saw from team and fans alike following the San Antonio game on Friday? Having been through the Drexler era I can tell you that victories will begin to be expected rather than celebrated and losses will be more shocking and comment-inducing than any but the biggest wins. The whole regular season, in fact, will become simply an extended prelude for the real game...something to get out of the way in as efficient of a manner as possible. Once you've gotten close to a championship only its taste will do and everything else seems like a bitter disappointment...even things that Portland would collectively pee its pants over now like making it to the Conference Finals.
And that's just the regular season. What of the off-season? It'll be a long time, if ever, before you see a team have another streak like the Blazers have the last few years. How many Rookies of the Year do you think you're going to see in Portland? How many Brandon Roys will you find, even? How many incredible leaps will you experience, the kind Lamarcus Aldridge has taken? How repeatable is that whole Greg Oden draft? Will Rudys and Sergios grow on trees? More likely with lower draft picks you'll find Alaa Abdelnaby, Dave Johnson, James Robinson, and Shawn Respert become the norm again. The draft will induce more shrugs than hugs. You'll be lucky to see any Summer League participants make the regular rotation...and you won't even care.
You'll never again get to go wild over Rudy's first games or have your eyes pop in amazement from an Oden dunk you weren't expecting because you weren't quite aware of what he could do. You'll not get to speculate whether a guy like Jerryd Bayless can make a difference or whether Nicolas Batum could be the long-term hidden answer at small forward. On an established, winning team those questions are long-answered. Granted new ones arise but they're neither as broad nor intriguing as these.
Make no mistake, winning is better and playing for rings is better--just as writing for thousands with virtually unlimited coverage is better than writing for dozens when nobody knows your name--but it won't be the same kind of good that this is. That's why you should enjoy it while you have it. The Blazers are going to progress quickly and you're not going to be able to get this flavor of young, wild, unpredictable, surprising, "Oh-my-gosh-I-never-saw-that-coming!" good back.
You may say you're not going to lose it. You can fight the transformation all you want. It won't make a difference. Your eyes are never going to be as wide looking at this team as they are right now. A few, unavoidable losses and letdowns along the way is a small price to pay for that kind of experience.