December 21st, 2013

Portland Timbers

In which I tiptoe back towards the Trail Blazers

Blazermania in the 1990s was a very special time and place to be a part of. But no championship, no mix of trophies or bragging rights or ultimate wins, managed to come out of that period -- mainly just that moment from that Blazers-Bulls game where Michael Jordan sank a shot and then famously shrugged. But hell yes the Blazers tried. (Maybe I am still bitter about that fourth-quarter collapse in the seventh game of the 2000 playoffs against the Lakers. Yes, we're still stewing about it.)

And then the Blazers broke a lot of our hearts. They became known as the "Jail Blazers" for off-court behavior, and the on-court performance wasn't anything to write home about either. One special low point was brutally satirized by Willamette Week's fake cover of murderer Christian Longo in a Blazers uniform (headline: "It's all about the chemisty," says Whitsitt), and by then I couldn't bring myself to care. I fell away from the NBA then. It was football for me, especially with Oregon Ducks football finally becoming worth a damn.

I've only barely watched the Blazers and NBA basketball since then. But it's still easy for me to remember getting to share the games with both my dad's parents and my younger cousins, especially Jeff and Cindy. Jeff and Cindy were kids then: Jeff wound up playing state championship-level high school basketball, and Cindy now is a coach of a high school girl's basketball team. And I can still think of her as a kid, watching the Blazers' Buck Williams and yelling "Buck!" Heck, back then I even got to a couple of games, one of them being my first time in what used to be called the Rose Garden. (It's the Moda Center now, but it's still the Rose Garden to a lot of us.) The Blazers lost that night, but at least I saw it.

Tonight I saw it again. Not in person, but at Beulahland where I spent several hours this afternoon and evening. I was there long enough to have a chance to think Why not stay longer and watch the Blazer game? Why not indeed? I ordered more to drink* and stayed. By the way, the Blazers? Are on a roll. They were mediocre last season, but a third of the way through this season they're at 23-5, and tonight, against the New Orleans Pelicans, was a 110-107 win. One the team almost let New Orleans snatch from them at the last minute; the Blazers muffed a late pass that a Pelican intercepted, but they couldn't capitalize on that to pull closer or to tie. It had the good drama of a good game; neither team dropped the ball, and both sides kept fighting, and we in the audience were moved to groan or cheer based on game status.

I've watched less sports this year than usual. With one exception, I've not watched the NFL, and that exception was the end of the Thanksgiving Steelers-Ravens game where poor Le'Veon Bell was concussed so badly on an attempted touchdown that he didn't even remember the hit. Reminded me of one of the reasons I've felt less good lately about watching football. (Yes, I know the chances of concussions in soccer, a game where the head is used as a precision directional instrument. I'm not consistent.) Basketball? MUCH LESS LIKELY TO INCLUDE CONCUSSIONS. And a sport I can feel better -- or at least OK -- about watching.



* When I first got there, I started with dessert: vanilla gelato. popfiend would be proud. Then I had a salad, soup and a glass of Squirt, because I needed real dinner food. My game drink was a cider.