I just figured out my new creed that I should print up on a t-shirt and wear every day with pride: " No matter what happens , I will always be a Blazer fan".
On Thursday the Blazers face elimination at the hands of the Phoenix Suns. Let that sink in for a moment. This Thursday could be the last time we see these guys on the Rose Garden court until pre season of next season, or the Blazer could win and stretch out this improbable run these last few months for a few more days.... or weeks.
Either way, It will be bitter sweet.
In some ways I don't dread a loss or elimination from the playoffs. Before you go calling me a fair weather fan, queen bee hater , or anything else like that let me explain. This game if lost, would close the door on a horrendous season that has caused players, organization members and fans alike an immeasurable amount of angst. The loss would begin the process of healing. A win would propel the fan base and the team to a game 7 , one they surely could win and the Blazers could even make it to the second round of the playoffs (would that Blazer fans were so lucky).
If you asked me to describe this season in one word I would respond with two: roller coaster . Indeed , this season has taken all fans on a wild ride featuring mile long highs and deep , long lows.
The expectations to begin the season was the ascent to the top of the roller coaster and Greg Oden's broken knee cap was the fifteen story plunge to the bottom. I don't have to explain the rest for anyone to understand. With deep disappointment and little to no expectations (Howard was starting at center) the Blazers were expected to drop game after game, yet they exceeded those expectations and once Roy returned , the team began making a push for the playoffs. With the wins came the ascent once again as expectations slowly but surely began to rise.
All the while many have always had faith that something good would come of all of this - right?. This isn't a championship season anyway many argued after Joel went down, so why not develop young players Dante Cunningham and Jeff Pendergraph? Much good has indeed come from this season and much of that has to do with the opportunities some players have been given. There are many who felt this season was one in which the team has nothing to lose, and yet the Blazers kept winning despite all odds, barreling full speed to the playoffs.
Not only were the Blazers winning, but winning against good teams that should be blowing out a team with no true center. The improbableness of the team's success despite everything created this new story line: this team is full of heart and is a perfect example of the "never say die" attitude. Who can't love and relate to that?
The Portland fans seemed to latch right onto that. For during one of the most difficult financial and economic downturns in years , what is there when regular life is crashing down around you? Many people turn to their favorite sports team for a respite. It could have been a miserable respite for Blazer fans this year , yet things weren't as bad as they should have been. This is a message anyone that has fallen upon hard times can relate to .
Yet cracks in the rosy character facade began to appear when tensions arose between owner Paul Allen and Kevin Pritchard and former VP Tom Penn . The ticket price increases, again , for next season. How dare the organization do this to regular fans that just want to see a game but could now miss out because they were priced out of games in lieu of corporate buyers? The drama was just another part to this complicated roller coaster of a season , and it will probably be one of the lowest points when all is said and done.
Now Paul Allen no longer sits next to Kevin Pritchard and the future of Pritchard's tenure seems increasingly unlikely. What does the team do? They sign Marcus Camby, this season's trade at the deadline that redeemed Pritchard and brought a team from treading water in the Western Conference to legitimate opponents. Slowly expectations creep up once again after crashing in a heap around the front office shenanigans.
The team finished the regular season in high style, beating the former champs on the road no less and then avoiding eighth place with a win over the leagues brightest up and coming team. Oh yeah , the Blazers were going to playoffs and everyone believed the team to have a favorable opponent in the Suns.
Before anyone could get their hopes too high however, Brandon Roy was out and the Blazers were counted out.. Again. But they responded to the adversity in what has become familiar fashion in beating the Suns the first game of the series . The entire city was energized and willing to have faith in this team once again.
No matter what happens on Thursday night, this season has truly been one wild ride. During the heat of the moment and the emotional nature of everything that has happened, many including myself have written the season off as a bust. But I have since come to realize that If anything, this season's ups and down are exactly what keeps me buying tickets to the Rose Garden and tuning in every night , because no matter what happens , I will always be a Blazer fan.