Well, this feels a little bit like the first day of school: awkward introductions and plenty of new faces. Sticking with that theme, I thought I might tell you a little story about my Christmas vacation. Bear with me.
About a week before Christmas I walked into a cardiologist's office with abnormally high blood pressure and walked out with abnormally bad news. Open heart surgery was imminent.
One of the first things that I did upon leaving the office was to check the Blazers schedule. When's the next road trip? Sure, there was talk of aneurisms and blood tests and bears, oh my. But, guys, we're on a freaking 10 plus game winning streak.
The surgery took place on January 7th, the deep morphine grogginess started to lift on January 8th, and what awaited me upon my return to semi-coherence? A DVD of that night's game against the Warriors, the first game I hadn't seen in months, dropped off at St. Vincent's by a member of the Blazers organization who had been tipped off to my plight by a certain someone who has been running BlazersEdge.com for the last god-knows-how-long.
Moments like that you don't forget. It was about one in the morning- I have no idea how they managed to press the DVD that quickly- let alone get it over to me that fast. Even UPS priority overnight doesn't make bed-side hand-deliveries in the dead of night in the dead of winter in the deathly cold halls of a deathly quiet hospital. One thought kept going through my mind: they really didn't need to do this, but they did.
That moment, my fandom started to evolve. No longer was it just about tricking my Dad into hitting up the Dairy Queen after soccer practice so I could grab another one of the collectible glasses (look how big Terry Porter's head is). No longer was it about picking the old heads's brains about what could have been had Walton just chilled out, man. No longer was it about working myself up over pop can bongs and thrown headbands.
Pretty shortly thereafter, right around the time a surgeon implanted a mechanical valve into my chest, I gladly lost a little bit of free will. Now, my fandom was different. It was about randomly fighting back tears after a Martell jumper in the middle of the second quarter. Now, it was about hoping, really hoping, that these grown men who play a game for a living are able to understand the effect that they have upon other grown men, upon our community. Now, it was about trying to figure out how in the world I can repay Dave's thoughtfulness and the Blazers' kindness. Now, most importantly, it became about spreading the gospel.
This is an organization, from top to bottom, which is owed my unconditional respect. If their treatment of me, a d-league caliber writer, is any indication, this is an organization that we as fans can be extremely proud of. I suspect you already knew that. Of course, the same goes for Dave. I am certain you already knew that.
Now that the interminable all-star break is behind us, this is an organization I look forward to covering for the rest of the season. Even if the ball isn't bouncing our way; even if we see more scowls than smiles on Nate's face; even if poor Brandon continues to take a beating. I've got to say: it feels really good to know that class is back in session. It's good to see everyone again.