We’ve all probably been reciting the list since last night like an Italian grandmother recites the rosary in times of sadness. Walton. Bowie. Roy. Oden. Matthews. Nurkic. Walton. Bowie. Roy. Oden. Matthews. Nurkic. Walton. Bowie. Roy. Oden. Matthews. Nurkic. Pray for us sinners.
Do the basketball gods hate us? Are we the unluckiest franchise ever? Do we need to find four furry-footed friends to take a 1977 NBA Championship ring and throw it into the depths of Mt. St. Helens? How can we fans bear such pain? It’s just not fair.
Do you know what else isn’t fair? Moda Center crowds. Fans packed to the rafters all season long. We don’t need some hype-man on the PA to get the crowd into a frenzy. When the game is on the line, the crowd knows what to do. Attending a Blazers game in person is one of the best NBA experiences in the league. Compared to what most other fan bases experience, it’s just not fair.
How about some of the least expensive ticket prices in the NBA, not to mention reasonable parking? If we were to play Golden State in the playoffs, it would literally be cheaper for Warriors fans to buy tickets at Moda and pay for flights than it would be to buy tickets on the aftermarket to see their team at home. Knicks fans pay well over double what we pay. To see the Knicks. It’s just not fair.
Damian Lillard? Most fan bases wait decades for a star like that to root for, and we have him now. In his prime. What’s more, he’s made himself part of the city of Portland in a special way. Every team would love to have Damian Lillard the player and Damian Lillard the man. It’s just not fair.
If you want to get a perspective on how special the Blazers fan community is, spend some time on the fan sites of other teams. What we have here is truly extraordinary. Great fans who know basketball. Talented writers and podcasters who put in extraordinary amounts of time to create the best content. Folks who are dedicated to making sure that every Blazers fan is welcome and embraced. The result is one of the most active fan bases in the NBA. It’s just not fair.
While many teams are making the news about locker room dust-ups and players that actively dislike each other, we get stories about about a nearly 300 pound 24 year old from Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina, visiting the one year old son of a man from Oakland to wish the little guy Happy Birthday. Ask any Lakers fan, it’s just not fair.
The truth is that we don’t want fairness at all. We want the extraordinary. We want to be the envy of every other team, we want the benefit of every close call, the luck of the bounce and every draft pick to turn into a superstar. If fairness is what you wish for, be careful, you just might get it.
Walt Disney understood that in order to have the best happy ending you need to first introduce sadness and suffering. The basketball gods are apparently big Disney fans, and they’ve decided to double down. Or is it sextuple down? Trust me on this though, the suffering makes the eventual payoff all that much sweeter. As a guy from Wisconsin born too late to remember the Lombardi years, I never thought I’d even see a competent Packers team much less a Superbowl Champion. When that Superbowl came it washed all of that pain and suffering away.
I have a well-earned reputation among the Blazer’s Edge staff for being an unwavering optimist, and folks, this is my magnum opus. Don’t be deceived though, I’m writing this with the heaviest of heart and I’m dabbing my eyes between keystrokes. Sleeping last night was hard. Dragging myself to the keyboard today wasn’t easy. I was at the game last night with my son, and nothing I could say or do could wash away the horror or remove the sadness. It’s hard.
One thing I do know though is that we’ll get through this. Together. We always do. And things will get better. They always do.