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I haven’t been a Blazer fan all my life. Heck, I haven’t even been a basketball fan all my life. If you had asked me in 2005 what I knew about basketball, I would have said “Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers, Colby (is what I thought) Bryant, Shak (is also what I thought), and Michael Jordan. It wasn’t until I was bored sitting in the car in the Fred Meyer parking lot and scanning on AM radio that I picked up a basketball game when the Blazers were in Orlando to take on the Magic. For whatever reason, it stuck, and I went to my first NBA game later that year. So believe me when I say that I really do feel like a part of the development of this new era in Blazers history.
For me, the most magical season yet was the 2007-2008 season. That’s when they really made the jump to a winning team. Remember the thirteen game winning streak? Amazing was really happening in Portland. Travis Outlaw, Mr. Fourth Quarter, would come in and do his thing to put a lid on the game, or James Jones would seal the deal with a corner three pointer with two-and-a-half minutes left, as the fans would be “DANCING IN THE ISLES HERE AT THE ROSE GARDEN!” (Brian Wheeler). What most people thought was that the team had something going that excited the fans and that was why they were (are) so great. I put forth that it was somewhat the other way around. The Blazers were the youngest team in the NBA, and their young players really embraced their new environment and fed off the energy that only a Rose Garden crowd can have. It just seemed as though the players were a lot closer to the fans then. Or as Mark Mason would say, they were really the SIXTH MAN!
Not to make a brutal contrast or anything, but it seems as though the fans are now the bench warmers. The distance between the fans and the players has grown, for a number of reasons. I think the most important reason is that we traded away a lot of our young men that had a connection with the fans, and got weathered veterans of the business. Perhaps their effectiveness on the court was greater, but there just wasn’t that same mesh. I really do think that the Rose garden misses people like Steve Blake, Travis Outlaw, Jarrett Jack, Martell Webster, James Jones, and Sergio Rodriguez more than you know. The players no longer seem to thrive (as much) on the Rose Garden buzz. Sometimes I wonder if that will ever return.
Blazer fans have been doing their part for… What is it, 190 straight games now? The players need to learn to re-embrace the crowd and let us be the sixth man again. We will RISE WITH YOU.
Gotta respect your unique fan experience, but my perspective is completely different: It's hard to imagine more accessible players than, say, Patty Mills and the Internationals. New media (such as this very site, and its numerous satellites) have brought Blazers and Blazer fans closer than they've ever been before. It's still a young team, the only veterans being Andre Miller and Marcus Camby —and even Marcus is on Twitter.The RG continues to sell out and gets incredibly loud. Gerald Wallace was, by his own testimony, completely overwhelmed by his welcome to his first game here.My personal feeling is that it's all good, and getting better all the time. I hope you can get to feeling the same way. ;-)
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