James Harden’s list of preferred destinations now includes the Boston Celtics and the Portland Trail Blazers. Sam Amick’s tweet on Christmas Eve morning lit a fire under Blazers fans and my phone notifications. I’ve made no secret of my feelings about Harden coming to the Trail Blazers—between the Dave and Dia podcast, an article for the network, my own personal twitter account and our Blazers Edge slack channel. It’s a big fat NO from me. So when this news broke on Thursday afternoon, my phone was pinging and dinging and chirping and blowing up with notifications.
While that might seem like a bother on a day like Christmas Eve to a mother of 3 young children, I found myself breathing a sigh of relief and smiling at my phone. You see, it’s my first Christmas Eve in 35 years of life that I have found myself alone. My children are with their dad, my family is up North, and the country is in a pandemic. So the dinging of my phone notifications was a welcome interruption from the silence.
It didn’t take long to be wrapped up in a conversation with the rest of the Blazers Edge staff on Slack. Talk of Harden coming to the Blazers—and if it was a realistic option—was flying back and forth alongside light-hearted banter. Staff members were taking sides and making arguments for or against while our Editor, Dave, worked on getting a post ready to go up on the site. The conversation from Slack among staff spilled over into the comments of the post and intertwined with discussion from readers. Twitter began notifying me of mentions as fellow Blazer fans weighed in with their opinions and even asked if I was still functioning after hearing the news.
Social media can be a beast, but it can also be a thing of beauty. In 2020—the year of distance—social media has managed too bring people together. We have watched apps like Zoom and Tik Tok become household names as all of us have fought through complete isolation. We have battled against depression, loneliness and anxiety while trying to be creative in how we connect with other people. For me, twitter has been a huge source of joy and connection amidst a year of staggering distance. I know my internet friends by their handle and small circular profile photo. I know the names of their pets, I’ve watched them find love (often also on social media), I’ve cried with them as they've struggled through sickness, deaths in their family and even the temptation to give up. Though we have never met in real life, my #ripcity twitter friends have become like a little online family.
I sat on my couch, covered in a blanket with the Christmas tree lights dancing in my peripheral vision and found my smile spreading slowly from ear to ear, getting bigger with each tweet, with each slack notification, with each comment on the Blazers Edge post. I may have been alone in my living room, but for those few hours while news broke about Harden, I didn’t feel alone.
We talk a lot about chemistry and community, especially as Trail Blazers fans. Today that community made all the difference, and I don’t mean the players. Basketball has a way of bringing people together. If you walk into any stadium wearing Blazers gear, ready to cheer them on, immediately you can feel a sense of camaraderie among the other fans. Sitting with a group of strangers who also loves Portland will have you leaving feeling like you spent a few hours with friends. COVID-19 has temporarily taken away a lot of those experiences, but it hasn’t taken away our sense of community. It hasn’t taken away our passion or our ability to reach out through technology and virtually bond with people from all over the country.
I never thought I’d be thankful for James Harden wanting to come to the Trail Blazers, but today, I am. Let’s be clear—I still don’t want him (and that may be the hill I die on), but on this 2020 Christmas Eve, while the world moved around me and I sat alone in my house, I didn't feel alone.
If you’re facing the holidays alone, or feeling alone, please don’t be afraid to reach out. Be a part of this community. Find ways to connect. In this crazy year of 2020, full of worldwide pandemics, fights for social justice, natural disasters (and murder hornets... that was a thing at one point, right?), social distancing and isolation, we need each other more than ever before. Community is more important than ever before. Here at Blazers Edge, community is a priority, and we want you to belong.
Happy Holidays, Rip City, thanks for being you.