Sunday, May 14, 2006

Looking to the Future

I had an e-mail conversation with a very nice reader last week who spoke at length about the makeup of the team, especially as relates to character. While I'm on record as saying that character flaws have always been a part of sports and we just know more about them now because of our intrusive media, I also understand why people pine for the "good old days" when these guys seemed like they walked on water.

Maybe I'm a sap, but John Canzano's piece on Jarrett Jack and his mom this Sunday struck a chord in me on this subject. Mind you, I'm not one to fall for B.S. fluff stories. Every year I read with amusement the obligatory training camp story about how Player X has matured and is ready to turn over a new leaf. Never happens. In fact I said a couple of years ago that you'll know the Blazers have truly turned the corner when nobody has to print one of those stories come fall. (I'm still waiting.) I am also not impressed by tales of how Player Y just donated a few thousand dollars to a cause when you know that player has basically been a jerk all season. Don't get me wrong, I think it's a good thing to do and I'm happy for the recipients. But I suspect that most of the time agents and team officials have a hand in there somewhere, either coaching the kid to do it (and making sure it gets publicized) or outright writing the check in the guy's name. Isolated gestures are fine, but real character shows in every moment, not just in special ones.

Nevertheless, stories about a guy's integrity, especially when he's young and the visual evidence backs it up, tend to sway me. This is doubly so in cases where you can see a player's family teaching and backing that character. And it seems like we have a lot of those good stories on this team. Look at this list:

Jarrett Jack
Theo Ratliff
Steve Blake
Joel Przybilla
Martell Webster
Viktor Khryapa
Travis Outlaw
Ha Seung-Jin
Juan Dixon
Sebastian Telfair

Except for Bassy's one incident on the plane, none of these guys have given us any reason to complain or doubt them character-wise, on or off the court. (And we'll give Bassy a pass for now because it's obvious he's tried to make his life stand for something decent, even if only to get better shoe contracts.) What's more, we've heard things about Jarrett, Martell, and Theo recently that just make you proud to have them as part of our team. And anyone who wouldn't want Joel, and to a lesser extent Viktor, watching their backs on the court is a fool. Juan and Steve have been good citizens, and by all reports Travis and Ha are nice kids.

I don't know if the talent is there yet to make a successful team long-term, but I think it's worth remembering (for those for whom character is an issue) that most of our team is made up of really good guys...guys you want here. Even if a lot of them are just kids, they seem like kids we can be proud of. Frankly, I hope we end up able to keep most of them. It's unlikely, because there's usually a lot of turnover on a 20-win team before it gets better (see also: Chicago, and before them Minnesota). But you wouldn't be ashamed to have any of these guys wearing red and black for a long time. Whatever has happened in the past, and whatever may swirl around a couple of our current players, most of the stories nowadays are positive ones.



Anonymous Lance Uppercut said...

I couldn't agree more about 'Zano and the syrup factory he's running out of the Oregonian.

9:51 AM  
Blogger Dave said...

I have mixed feelings about John C. On the one hand I like a lot of the stuff he does (including this Jack piece) and I think hardcore Blazer fans might be too hard on him. On the other hand, ever since the "Damon peeing in a cup" thing I get the feeling that he sees himself as a crusader as much as a columnist. In general, I still prefer my media people to report/comment on the news rather than to make it. I suppose that's the new era though...

10:31 AM  

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