Another Guest Post today, this one from Timmay! Enjoy!
In a chat window, the question just stared at me, taunting me in its simplicity, but leaving me confounded.
"So, you starting to feel excited about next season?"
Flustered, I responded with, "I'm nervous", but I didn't want to admit my initial reaction: "No."
How can this be?
I know how this works. The season ends in the Spring. Then it's draft time (recently with KP-related fireworks), then the free agent buzz and guessing who Portland may acquire. Then it's Summer League time. After that, it's time for the vast nothingness until September. But soon enough, players slowly file in, one by one before training camp officially starts. Then we all grumble and read about the un-televised preseason games. Players jockey for starting roles, others get cut from the team, and finally, in late October, the team is set. The season begins, at long last! We start the season all over again, hoping this is the year we win the big one.
Normally by August, I'm counting down the days until training camp! So... why don't I feel that way this year? As I mulled over this question, I stopped by the local neighborhood Junk Drawer to ask if I missed anything in this cycle, and our own GiantBlazer made it all clear: "you forgot the word 'heartbreak' a couple of times."
That's really it, isn't it? We get excited every year. We think this might be our year. This is the year it all comes together. This is the team we've been waiting for. This is the team that will bring Portland an NBA title! And of course, it's now required to add the words "if healthy" in there somewhere.
Ever since the latest Blazers amusement park ride began (key moment: "...and that means the number one pick goes to..."), all my Blazer thoughts are framed, in the bigger picture, around the NBA title:
"Greg had microfracture surgery. This is devastating in our hopes for a title"
"Brandon is injured again, can he stay healthy for a title run?"
"Is [Lamarcus/Bayless/Rudy] a key piece to win a title?"
But this is a Blazer problem. Have they placed pressure on themselves to succeed, and succeed now? Absolutely, and for good reason. But it should end there. Instead, I've let that feeling migrate to me, the fan. Ideally, the best thing I can do is to LOWER expectations, and enjoy whatever success follows. But I can't. I like these players! I'm loyal to this team. So I build the same high expectations the team does, that every year should be a title opportunity. Which leads to stress instead of enjoyment. What if we really do need a top flight PG to succeed? Miami just gained the big three and built a team around them. Can anyone compete with that? Will these guys mature and stay healthy enough to even get a shot to take the title?
That's when it hits me: I'd become distracted by the championship. I'm letting my desire to see this team hold the O'Brien Trophy get in the way of my enjoyment of simply watching these players play. Every loss, every player setback, every obstacle gets magnified, because this might be a sign of we can't win the title.
That's never stopped my enjoyment in the past though. Like many, I reflect on the Terry/Clyde era as "The Golden Era". Even though they never won a title, I reflect fondly on almost the entire era, minus a few moments I'd rather not speak of. Even the late 90's era, for all its warts, kept us entertained until the downfall. Even at the nadir in 2005, I'd follow all the games on Yahoo, knowing this might be the night they pull an upset. But somehow, for this team, I feel like the expectations are higher than they've been in generations. And I'm letting it cloud my view of the team and the games.
The truth is, we all like this team. We have a group of players we talk about on a personal level, by their first names. Greg, the fun, goofy friend. Andre, the aloof uncle. Bayless, the intense workaholic. Nic, the guy who walks in with a big smile, immediately charming everyone. And Brandon, the guy who brings everyone together. When they win, we're happy for them. When they lose, we feel for them. We accept changes due to necessity, but when players leave, like Jarrett, Travis, Sergio, and Steve, many fans still follow their status, because "they're still Blazers". This team is special. We enjoy an NBA rarity in Portland: a team we enjoy on a personal level and a basketball level.
So, here's my goal, as cliche as it may be: Relax. Enjoy the journey. In 20 years, we'll talk about how much we liked this team. If they win big, we'll remember being a small part of their success. If they don't, we'll lament that they didn't win bigger, but remember them fondly. So, if that's the case, why not enjoy watching them play together now, instead of worrying about every little thing?
This isn't about abandoning the idea of a winning a championship. Quite the opposite, that's still what we all hope and strive for. But it's time for a renewed interest in the long, unpredictable path toward that desired destination. A chance to enjoy the games for what they are meant to be: Entertainment. No worrying about our position in the standings during the middle of January. No growling that a player in a slump "isn't earning his money". Fully accepting there may be bumps in the road, even possible insurmountable obstacles. But we'll see a team that we like, our team, playing a game we love.
I can't wait for the season to start.
So, are you starting to feel excited about next season?