Discover more from Bald Faced Truth by John Canzano
Canzano: Damian Lillard isn't the only one on a timeline
Trail Blazers fans have a window to win, too.
Years ago, I wrote a column about a die-hard Trail Blazers’ fan who lost his wedding ring at the preseason “FanFest.”
Jason Kaady was jumping around during the player introductions at Moda Center when the ring slipped off his finger. It clanked on the concrete ground, fell through a crack in the stands, and disappeared into the darkness. He sent me a panicked email that Saturday night with the subject line: “HELP!”
I forwarded the message to Cheri Hanson, a long-time team executive, who dispatched a security guard to open the arena on Sunday morning and help Kaady look for the lost ring. The two men crawled around in the dark under the stands with flashlights for an hour and found nothing.
Just when they were ready to give up, the security guard gave it one final pass. He pointed his flashlight up at the metal joists, saw something shiny, and shouted, “Look!!”
The wedding ring was suspended in the air, lodged in a “U”-shaped joint overhead. The two men celebrated the find, whooping and hugging each other under the stands.
It was a big victory.
I’d like to see more winning at the Blazers’ home arena next season. The No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft? A lopsided trade? A solid free-agent signing?
Yes, please, make all of it happen this summer.
“We don’t want to go through this anymore,” general manager Joe Cronin said after the regular-season finale on Sunday. “It’s time for us to start winning basketball games. Not just for [Damian Lillard] but for all of us. We don’t want to have another year like this.”
I like Cronin. I hope he figures it out. But when the GM said “We don’t want to go through this anymore…” I didn’t immediately think of Lillard or any of his teammates. I didn’t think about Cronin or even trustee Jody Allen.
I thought about you, Rip City.
In the last two NBA seasons, Portland fans have rooted for a team that finished with a combined record of 60-104. Die-hard Blazers fans haven’t endured this much losing in back-to-back seasons since the 2005-2007 stretch that featured 111 combined losses.
You showed up.
Your NBA team didn’t.
Over the years, I’ve written a number of columns about the loyalty, passion and love of Trail Blazers fans. That panicked groom and his lost wedding ring, was among them.
I also wrote about “Blazer Betty,” the retired elementary-school teacher who lived alone in a senior-living center. She never married and had no children. Betty Donnelly, 79, rode a city bus to games, kept season stats on a notepad on her nightstand, and had only $130 in disposable monthly income. She spent most of it on Trail Blazers season tickets.
I wrote a column about a couple — Fred and Diane Hogg — who attended games on their date night for years. Diane was blind. Fred would drive the car in from their home in Parkdale, lead his wife to their seats, and put his arm around Diane. Then, he’d lean in and explain what was happening on the court.
Sure, Lillard deserves a better supporting cast. The Blazers roster around him is one of the weakest in the league. I was glad to hear Cronin sound disappointed with all the losing, but also, this is the same guy who promised fans this season would be a “high-velocity pivot.”
The Blazers finished 33-49.
Lillard isn’t the only one who deserves better. Blazers fans deserve better. Team staffers charged with selling tickets and sponsorships deserve better. The ushers and security staff deserve better. The Paul G. Allen Trust may own the NBA franchise on paper, but if there ever was a sports team that encapsulated a city, it’s Trail Blazers, Inc.
Professional sports franchises can only sell two things in the offseason — proof of performance or hope. The Blazers don’t have any recent success. They’re peddling hope right now. But while they do so, I think it’s important to note that it’s not just Lillard’s timeline the franchise should be thinking about.
It’s been almost 46 years since the Trail Blazers won their lone world championship. Lillard isn’t the only one with a narrow window. Fans have one, too.
It really is time for the Trail Blazers to start winning again.
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