There are not a lot of things I remember clearly from when I was young. I have some vague memories of birthday parties, going to the local high school football games, and swimming at the public pool in the summer with my friends. But I clearly remember when I was 7 years old, and I thought the Trail Blazers were going to win It all.
In 1992, the Trail Blazers had a fantastic season, lead by Shooting Guard, Clyde Drexler. Drexler was an all star in his prime, surrounded by incredibly talented teammates and solid coaching. It seemed like it might be their year. The Blazers hadn’t won a championship since 1977, 15 years before. It was time.
After winning 57 in the regular season, Portland clinched the Western conference title and went on to the finals, where they faced the Chicago Bulls. And Michael Jordan.
The Bulls were the reigning champions. Going into the finals against the Trail Blazers, they seemed confident as ever. But Portland was looking strong as well, and I was convinced the title would be ours. Being seven years old, I had only known the Blazers as a successful, winning team. They’d made the playoffs every year of my life thus far. That, combined with the fact that even as a child, I saw the best in situations, made me believe, without much doubt, that my team was going to take home the trophy.
The series went to 6 games, and ultimately the Bulls beat the Blazers, taking the title for the second year in a row. It was a devastating blow to my perpetually positive seven-year-old self. I couldn’t believe It, It didn’t feel real.
A funny thing happens when your team loses. You think, “Well, this wasn’t our year, maybe next year.” So, at seven years old I learned to pick myself up, brush myself off and hope next season would be better. Instead of jumping ship and finding a new team (perhaps the Bulls?), I pulled myself together, proudly wore my “1992 Western Conference Champions” tee shirt, and continued believing that my Blazers would win.
It’s been 28 years since that devastating loss. The Trail Blazers still haven't won a championship. They’ve made several more runs at it, appearing in the playoffs in 20 of the last 28 seasons. They haven’t secured another Western Conference title, though they’ve made It to the conference finals three times (1999, 2000 and 2019).
Instead of growing frustrated with the lack of titles, I’ve found that the franchise’s history has somehow created a constant glass half full mentality. No matter how hard I try to be realistic and objective, I can’t bring myself to count this team out until they really are out. I’ve heard It described as having “Rose Garden colored glasses”. Every single game the Trail Blazers play, every single opponent they face, I’m convinced they will win.
As the Blazers head into the bubble in Orlando to participate in the NBA restart, in my mind they’ve as good as secured the 8th seed already. I’ve spent the last few weeks having social media debates about their ability to take on the Lakers in round one (spoiler alert: I think they’d win!), only to be reminded time and time again, often by fans of other teams, that they haven’t actually secured that spot yet. Every article I read and every interview I see only further convinces me that this might be our year.
The lessons we learn as children can be hard. Sometimes painful lessons lead to negative feelings as adults, but they don’t automatically have to. Instead of losing childlike hope and becoming calloused, watching difficult losses led me to truly believe in my team. Hard memories don’t have to break us, often they can make way for beautiful growth.