Unofficial Contest Entry: How the '90 Blazers saved my sanity but got me fired

[I'm sure it's bad form to enter another blog's contest when one is merely the occasional visitor, and for that consider this an unofficial entry. Reading all the other entries has brought back some very fond memories of my youth, and I just can't resist sharing mine.]

The summer of 1990 started out badly. I was home from my first year away at college and chaffing at the return to parental interference with my life. More significantly, I was having trouble finding a summer job. Most kids commuted to Portland (I lived in St. Helens) for temp positions, but I was without transportation - and the best offer I had locally was a daytime babysitting job till the end of the school year. This was actually a decent job, but it wasn't going to pay enough for the next year of college.

And this is how I ended up with the most miserable job of my life, cleaning a local bank at night. I was a janitor other summers as well, but this job was different. They turned the air off after hours, and inside the building was generally too warm for an active job like cleaning. And they complained about everything! One day my vacuum pattern lines on the carpet weren't straight enough. Another day they accused me of stealing cans of soda out of the break room - and actually started a log of how many cans were left at the end of each day to be sure I wasn't! One of the managers used to hide piles of staples around her office as a test of my cleaning thoroughness, and the other manager thought I should sort his single trash can into recyclables and non-recyclables for him. It was a job I never wanted in the first place, and one I quickly grew to hate with every cell in my body.

The only saving grace to the whole situation was a radio in the main lobby. 1990 was an incredible year to be a Blazers fan. Over the previous decade the team had been semi-successful - generally going to the playoffs, but losing in the first round most years. But 1990 was different - the first full season under Adelman, 59 wins, and the team that remains one of my favorites to this day - Clyde, Terry, Jerome, Buck, and Duck. They played fast, and they played both sides of the floor. I had really suffered while away at school in Utah - this was pre-easy-internet-access, so I had to follow the team through short newspaper blurbs in the Salt Lake paper. I still remember watching the games against the Jazz in the boys' dorm lobby and getting heckled mercilessly as the only Blazers fan in the room - but it was worth it to see the men in action. (They split the season series - I might have actually sold my soul for a sweep...)

But back to the sanity-saving radio in the lobby of the bank. I started this job around the beginning of the San Antonio series. And while I carefully vacuumed in ruler-straight lines, and searched high and low for that day's hidden pile of staples, and wished bad things upon the man too lazy to recycle his own junk, and rearranged the sodas in the fridge so it would look like I might have taken some, thus forcing whichever anal employee was so concerned about a can of coke to actually count - during all of this, I would listen to the games. There is nothing so angst producing as following a game on the radio. Dependent on another's words to visualize the action, what seemed like interminable breaks between "he shoots" and "he scores." I had never before understood how addictive it can be to follow sports by sound instead of sight.

And then there was that incredible series itself. A loss on my 19th birthday that left me devastated. A double OT win just a few nights later. I faked shots with every jumper the radio guys described. I shouted semi-obscenities in the radio's direction when things went badly. I jumped and cheered like an idiot for the great plays. And after the double OT win, I actually took a victory lap or two around the lobby. (Fortunately, I wasn't working weekends, so I got to watch the Game 7, 3-point OT win in person. My family is full of wrestlers, and they really didn't get why I was huddled there in a fetal position, chewing on my sweatshirt hem, and periodically uttering unintelligible groans and shrieks. They think I'm weird....)

And then on to the 6-game series with Phoenix, featuring nail-biting wins at home and agonizing blowouts on the Suns' home court. I thought I could endure that job as long as the team was still playing. But a funny thing happened in the middle of the Phoenix series - the bank fired me. Why? The rearranged sodas? The unsorted recyclables? A missed pile of staples? No, I was done in by a surveillance camera I didn't realize existed. It was there, of course, for evidence in case of bank robbery, but my suspicious employers decided to check me out instead. And while I was officially "let go" for "lacking a certain decorum that they expect in their employees" - The janitor? Seriously? - the manager (recycle man, not staple lady) did wonder aloud in our last conversation whether I might be a drug user. He just couldn't understand what else would cause someone to jump up and down at random and run circles around the lobby!

So the '90 Blazers taught me the beauty of sports on the radio, made my roughly 3 weeks of employment at the bank bearable with their thrilling playoff run - and they also got me fired faster than I imagined possible. I'm not sure which of those things I thank them for more. ;)