The Portland Trail Blazers have toiled for more than four decades since they last won an NBA Championship. Fielding players like Clyde Drexler, Arvydas Sabonis, Zach Randolph, Brandon Roy, and Damian Lillard, Portland has trudged Sisyphus-like up the hill, only to have the rock roll down on them. Will that story change anytime soon? Does it ever get old? That, in part, is the subject of today’s Blazer’s Edge Mailbag.
Can you share some of how you see our team? Not the analyzing or stats, but you as a person. You’ve watched alot of games. How have things changed for you since you started? Do you like this team more or less than you did? I think less, I bet. But if so why? Are you still a fan or do you just write down things like a media person? Is the spark still there? Thanks for sharing if you do.
I get this question from time to time...some version of it anyway. It’s hard to pin down a logical answer, so I’m just going to give you stream of consciousness.
First of all, it’s weird. I’m nowhere near Dwight Jaynes territory (who is?) but I’ve been doing this for a minute now. I started writing about the Blazers semi-privately back when Kenny Anderson, Isaiah Rider, and Rasheed Wallace were still a thing. I went fully public before the Brandon Roy-LaMarcus Aldridge era started. There’s nobody left in a significant public-facing role from the eras in which I cut my teeth. The late Paul Allen was the last bit of consistency in my Blazers life.
That doesn’t mean that I accept or love the current team less. You learn to accept change from the first moments of garden-variety fandom and Damian Lillard is an experience worth following all by himself. But gaining and losing so many touchstones inevitably whittles down definitions and emotions.
I suspect this would be echoed by many long-term observers and media members, but I love to see smart basketball as much as I love to see a Blazers uniform nowadays. I’m never as interested in games not involving Portland as I am in a Portland game, but if the Blazers aren’t doing what they’re supposed to, it’s less enjoyable.
I used to think referees missed far more calls—and in far more one-sided fashion—than I do now. It annoys me when they make a call in Portland’s favor *almost* as much as it annoys me when they blow a call against the Blazers. (That’s not really a bankable way to get an advantage, after all...unless you’re the L*kers.)
I used to think the definition of awesome player was anyone wearing a pinwheel. I still think it’s really awesome that players get to fulfill their NBA dreams being part of Portland’s lineup. But I’ve seen enough awesome players lose while playing what I considered awesome basketball to realize that awesome is as awesome does, and no amount of covering up will change that.
Despite this, I think I’ve managed to keep a promise I made to myself when I first started out, that no matter what I wouldn’t become jaded as I’d perceived some writers becoming. Curmudgeon is in the eye of the beholder, but I still write what I perceive to be true first, with all other considerations coming a distant second. That generally means I don’t get too high or to low about anything that happens short of the Conference Finals. Even so, I still want the Blazers to do well in all things. I still pull for every possible win, every success with draftees, and great trades. The environment is just better when Portland succeeds.
Whether that makes me an over-informed fan or an over-passionate media member is up to interpretation, I suppose. The take is a little too cynical, but there’s a grain of truth in saying that people will put you on whatever side of the line that makes their point. When they want to call you on something they think you’ve done wrong, you’re a media-type. When you make a point that changes or challenges the prevailing conversation, you’re “just” a fan. I mostly let people say what they will. It doesn’t change my outlook much. I hope, as I always have, that the site can uphold the joys and responsibilities of both.
When I first started writing, I said a few times that the first thing I’d do if the Blazers won a title is run around the couch screaming, and the second thing I’d do is break down crying. Honestly, I think there’s too much water under the bridge for either now. Watching Brandon Roy lead that massive playoffs comeback against the Dallas Mavericks in 2011, then realizing that was pretty much the end of his career burnt out the extreme emotion buttons. Even more so when you realize we’re eight years on from that now, that Damian Lillard is just as fabulous as Roy was, but that Lillard is also nearing 30 and there’s no prospective championship in sight.
If the Blazers won it all now, I’d probably do what I did during many of Roy’s and Lillard’s game-winning shots. I’d stand up in anticipation, then quietly throw a fist in the air when victory was secure. But in that moment I wouldn’t be thinking about the redemption of all my childhood hopes, nor about the title making up for all the team’s struggles and ills. Those experiences remain real and tangible no matter what; even an NBA Championship wouldn’t wipe them all away.
Instead, I’d be thinking about all the players and coaches who tried to get there over the years, but couldn’t make it over the hump. I’d be celebrating the magnificent squad that actually did it, no doubt high-fiving my son, who would be over the moon himself. More than that, I’d be thinking about all the writers who have passed through Blazer’s Edge and how hard they worked to tell the team’s stories,. But most of all I’d be thinking of you guys.
In many ways, the readers here are as much a part of my Blazers experience as the team itself. It all blends into an inseparable kaleidoscope. I want to see them win one just to see you...the happiness, delirium, the virtual running around couches and joy-stained tears. If the Blazers won a championship, I’d be happy for me and for the team, but I’d be happiest for the people I know to whom it means so much.
Until then, it’ll be as it always was. This journey isn’t about who I am, nor really about who you are. It isn’t wholly about the franchise either, though that’s closer to the mark. It’s about what happens when a group of passionate, interesting people gather around a common center and fill the spaces between them with insight, joy, and conversation. 82 wins a season or none at all, that remains viable and interesting.
Thank you all for participating in the conversation. And thanks for the Mailbag question! You can send yours along to email@example.com anytime you please!
And while you’re at it, why not take a moment to send the next generation of fans to see the Blazers play? Here’s how:
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