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Canzano Creates a Firestorm (plus updates)

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Now normally such an occasion wouldn't be enough to grab a headline.  John Canzano creates firestorms wherever he goes.  That's his job.  They say great salesmen could sell ice to Eskimos.  Canzano could probably get the Dali Lama to flip him the bird.  (And not the bird of peace either.)  Many of us read Richard Scary's best word books growing up.  John was weaned on Auntie Cratchet's Guide to Curmudgeonry.  Rumor has it that he got the head cheerleader to go to the prom with him just so she could yell at him for three hours straight.  Slow dance for him, slow burn for her, everybody got what they wanted.  A literary star is born.

But John's weekend piece struck such a nerve with people and covered so many subjects I wanted to touch on that I just couldn't help but bring it to your attention.

Click through to read the reaction...

Before we start with the column itself, I want to mention that I got all of the way through Mr. Canzano's piece but I got less than one-fifth of the way through the reader comments before I just stopped reading in disgust.  Could somebody tell me at what point people decided that just throwing out cheap shots or whining was effective, important, powerful or in any way meaningful discourse?  Disagreeing with a premise is one thing.  But who taught us that being nasty and dismissive was a sign of strength?  It's exactly the opposite.  If you take issue with something, even if it infuriates you, going personal against somebody is like hanging a huge neon sign over your comment reading, "I've got absolutely nothing.  You might as well ignore this."  If you're going to have a voice and you're going to assume that it matters then use it like it matters.  Being a Blazer fan is one of the best things I can think of but sometimes...ugh. 

/soapbox

Canzano's column referenced the Brandon Roy and Nate McMillan contract negotiations.  In essence he said since Nate took a one-year deal maybe fans should follow suit, requiring that the team prove itself to them each year before renewing their interest, passion, and presumably their disposable cash.  In practical terms this is what many fans do.  The piece was a not-so-subtle dig at the Blazers for not making more of a long-term commitment themselves, especially to Roy.  I can relate to this a little.  The instant fan reaction when a team starts getting tight-fisted is to say, "Hey...respect the commitment we've made to you by making a commitment to fielding the best players."  John was trying to be the voice of the fan here.

While the intent was good, I think the aim was a little wide.  Specifically I don't think respecting the fans and automatically signing Roy to the max equate 100%.  Of course it's what I'd like to see.  It's what you'd like to see too.  But taking a couple extra weeks to get there while exploring options isn't unconscionable.  When they let another team sign him, that's a problem.

Were I going to write the same column, trying to speak for the fans and warn the team to toe the line, I would focus instead on the recent comment by Vulcan exec Tod Leiweke to the effect of "Paul Allen should not have to subsidize a team to play in Portland."

In its purest sense I agree with Mr. Leiweke's statement.  I'm not one of those folks who believe a town is entitled to a professional sports team no matter what the circumstances.  You can't ignore or fail to support a franchise and then expect it to be there at your convenience whenever you decide you need it.  Businesses just don't work that way.  If you don't eat at your favorite restaurant for three years you can't complain when they shut down.  You don't have a God-given right to eat there.  It is fueled by your patronage.  Its owner has a right to bail out if that patronage isn't sustained.

However my memory is not so short as to stand on that point of order entirely.  If you're going to talk Portland Trail Blazers patronage in the past few years you also have to mention the organization's culpability in its decline.  History here runs farther back than March 1st, 2007 when Mr. Leiweke's name was formally associated with the franchise.  In the years just preceding--within recent memory of all but the newest fans--this very organization didn't just kill the golden goose, they bludgeoned it, stuck a slotted spoon it its ear, crushed its larynx, flushed it down the toilet, plunged it back up, put it in a pink polka-dotted dress, and set it on fire while playing Miley Cyrus records backwards.  The relationship between the Blazers and their fans is passionate right now, but that's still new.  If Mr. Leiweke wants to remind us of our financial responsibility as fans I have no problem with that.  But he would also do well to remember that the team is yet on probation and that's part of what's making people so nervous about this Brandon Roy situation. 

The Blazers are the cheating husband who, having humbly repented and declared his intentions to work faithfully on the relationship, has been taken back by his spouse.  That would be us.  As long as I can see you're committed to the relationship I am more than happy to forgive and forget.  You don't even have to be perfect.  You just have to show a clear desire to field the best team possible and to have a care for the community that surrounds it.  But if you want to pull out the "inadequate fan" card or you want to start complaining that expenses are exceeding revenues...too soon, my dear.  It's the team's first year back in the playoffs.  It's the team's first year without a major negative story breaking.  This is like the husband complaining about not getting enough nookie the week after the affair is disclosed.  Frankly that kind of statement makes me itchy.  It brings up the specter of power struggles that can only end in, "I'm not supporting you anymore!" and "We're considering moving to another town then!"  You don't want to go there?  Then don't go there.  Field your team, make the moves necessary to make them a contender, take skillful and full advantage of your revenue streams, and then come talk to me if it's not enough.  Don't be thinking a new goose is going to give you platinum omelets when that burnt pink dress smell still hangs faintly in the air.

A Couple of Updates

I received an enormous amount of feedback on the weekend piece regarding the Brandon Roy contract negotiations.  I wanted to clear up a couple of common misconceptions I'm seeing.

1.  I am not saying the Blazers are bluffing by trying to get Roy to take a four-year deal.  I believe that's honestly what they want and they're going to fight hard to get it.  I don't believe they are going to get it, as Brandon appears to hold the important cards here.  But that doesn't mean they're lying about wanting it or doing this just for show.  That it will also demonstrate their intentions in subsequent negotiations gives them incentive to stick with it a while.  They know everybody will not have Brandon's cards and the strategy might pay off later.

2.  Many people described the explanation as "comforting" or "reassuring".  I can see that, but really only if you consider Roy in isolation.  He's going to remain a Blazer.  He's almost certainly going to get what he needs to be happy doing so.  No worries there.  The people who will pay for this are all of the guys who come after Roy.  The Blazers are signaling that they're not going to be a wide-open piggy bank, even for the best and brightest players.  If they're having trouble with Roy's deal, how are they going to feel about the potential Przybilla/Millsap reserve situation we talked about last week?  What happens if a bunch of the Blazers' young players pan out and need to get paid?  I don't find the proceedings comforting at all in those terms.  In fact if Portland is married to a "break even" point then every dollar they give Roy has the potential to take a dollar from someone else.  That makes it less likely that you'll see the team of your dreams, whether your dreams involve most of the current players or a big-name, big-contract guy coming in.  Remember it's part of my argument that this is exactly the image the Blazers are trying to portray, to announce they'll not be easy prey for all of the agents lining up to see them.  But there's fiscal reality behind that stance as well, at least from their point of view.

3.  Looking from Roy's point of view, I certainly can see how these proceedings are distressing.   He's given everything that can be given and then some.  If anyone deserves to get paid, he does.  It's not his fault that we're entering an era where people are questioning whether anybody deserves a max contract.  Both performance and precedent mandate he receive one.   Putting myself in Brandon's shoes, I'd probably be like that bicycle-riding kid from Better Off Dead chasing Paul Allen around saying, "I want my 85 million dollars!"  I guarantee you if I got to the point of hitting restricted free agency I would absolutely extract every dime I could from the Blazers and then make them give beyond that until they cried, "Uncle!"  I would have no remorse in doing so either.

4.  A correction:  Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge are represented by the same agency but not the exact same agent.

Reminder:  Summer League begins this week and Ben Golliver will be down in Las Vegas giving you first-hand reports on the action, complete with analysis and interviews.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)