Sunday, June 18, 2006

More of Our Stories

The response to the post about Blazer stories and community was significantly positive. Many of you shared some of your own stories by e-mail or in the comment section. I figured re-printing them would be a good weekend post.

I'll start off with a couple more of my own then share some of yours.

I remember the first time I ever saw a Blazers game in person. It was 1978 and we had won the championship the year before. As a little kid I had stars in my eyes over anything having to do with the team, but the idea of actually going to a game was out of the question. For one thing they were always sold out. Besides, my family didn't do stuff like that. We weren't poor but we weren't rich either. As a little guy I didn't know how much Blazer tickets cost, but the way I loved them I imagined it must be at least a thousand dollars. Maybe more. But one evening after a quick dinner my mom and dad piled my little sister and me in the car. They wouldn't tell us where we were going even though we pestered them the whole trip. When we pulled into the parking lot of the Memorial Coliseum and actually out of the car there I was excited. I thought, "Oh cool...the circus!" (We had been to Ringling Brothers a couple times and that was my only frame of reference.) As I held my dad's hand walking across the lot I kept asking, "Is it the circus?" And he kept saying "No..." but he still wouldn't tell me what it was. Then I remembered once at school they had taken us on a field trip to see the symphony and that was in a big building like this. (All big buildings seem alike when you're a kid.) This was fine for school but not so great for an evening all my own, so I asked in a much more subdued voice, "Is it a concert?" Dad said no. Then I remembered hearing about some kind of flea-market weekend sale going on and my mom like garage sales, so I asked, "Is it a sale?" He said no again, but he still wouldn't tell me what it was.

My folks hid the tickets as we walked through the turnstiles. There were big, lighted pictures of Bill Walton, Jack Ramsay, and even an NBA ref (I believe it was Mendy Rudlolph) on the walls. I rubbernecked as we passed each one. It still never hit me what we could be there for. You know how some things are so amazing, so huge as to be totally incomprehensible? Like you know they exist but it never actually enters your consciousness that you'd be a part of them? I think that was it. (Because really, I was a pretty smart kid in most other ways. Honest.) By the time we got to our entrance doors I had made up my mind that it was the circus after all and my dad was just trying to surprise us. I was wondering about the elephants as we walked into the arena. Then I saw the basketball court.

It said "Portland Trailblazers".

I stopped dead in my tracks. I looked up at my dad and he nodded. I would give anything to have a picture of what must have been the expression on my face at that moment. And as it turned out, dad didn't buy these tickets at all. His boss had them (whether they were the company's or his personally I don't know). So instead of walking up the stairs we walked down, down, and down until we were in the second row. The first row was reserved for that night's opponent, the Denver Nuggets. We were right behind their bench. They had David Thompson and Dan Issel and they ran a lot. But we won the game 123-110 anyway. Boy was I happy.

An odd memory from that game: At a timeout one player said a word that I wasn't supposed to say. (I didn't know what the word meant, but you could tell by the tone.) The coach, who I now know was Larry Brown, also said one of those words. Then somebody, one of the assistant coaches or players, said, "Guys, there are kids." Then about eight of the people on the bench looked back at me and my sister. I think the coach grimaced a little. In fact he looked like he had swallowed an alligator and was trying to keep it from crawling back out. But the language was pristine the rest of the evening.

I wrote my dad's boss a big thank-you note after I got home. It would be fifteen years before I'd see another game in person and I've never had seats that close again. But I'm not greedy. That one experience was enough to last an entire childhood and beyond.

A quicker one:

That same year the Blazers were running a promotion where two of their players would sit and sign autographs for whoever came. It was at the Lloyd Center. My older sister decided to take me. The players that day were Dave Twardzick and Larry Steele I believe. I don't know for sure because we looked and looked and looked all around the Lloyd Center and couldn't find them. I remember searching behind circular racks of clothing at Meier & Frank to see if that's where they were. We never did find them. As it turned out the signing was not at Lloyd Center but at the Lloyd Building a couple blocks away. By the time we figured that out it was too late. Fortunately they had another one next week. Graciously my sister took me again, but she didn't tell me who was there. (That seems to be a habit in my family.) I was hoping they'd be as good as Dave and Larry, but let's get serious...I would have even loved Corky Calhoun. So we walked up to the building, went inside, and sitting there side by side were Bill Walton and Maurice Lucas. I shook their hands and got autographs from both. My sister had to prompt me to even say hello. They were VERY big and I was totally in awe. They laughed and were nice to me.

I once high-fived Clyde as he was on the way down the tunnel and that is the only personal Blazer experience that even comes close.

OK...on to you guys. First a couple e-mails.

Isaac writes:

It was May 27th, 1990 (my 10th birthday) and my bestfriend's mom took us out to greet the blazers uponreturning from 2 games in Phoenix for the WesternConference championship. I was 10 years old andabsolutely in awe. There were my heroes right beforeme... Clyde, Buck, Terry... the whole gang. I evenremember being excited to see Drazen Petrovic... hewas one of my favorites. I've always rooted for theunderdog. Bob Miller was there with his radio show and he wascoming around talking to the fans like Al Rocher. Hegets to me and my friends and they all scream out,"it's his birthday!". So Bob starts talking to me andI just freeze up. All the fans are looking at me andthe Blazer players are standing around shaking handswith people and Bob asks "so why are you here todayyoung man?"... and i reply "uh... i dont know, they(my friends) brought me here." Just completely frozeup and blew my chance at speaking to the masses. AfterI made that stupid comment I think to myself, "whydidn't i say 'because I love the Blazers and I'm hereto support them and help them win it all!'"? So manydifferent scenarios ran through my head. But the pointis, the whole thing was such an amazing event. Heck,the Blazers had lost the previous game, and everybodystill came out in droves. The area around theHillsboro airport was packed. I have a picture of thatday with me, my best friend, and my brother... it's anabsolute classic. I'll keep that one forever.

BlueDuck shares:

I'm only 18 so I don't have a story from the '77 championship year or anything like that. My story comes from about seven or eight years ago when my elementary school class took a field trip up to Portland to ride the Sternwheeler and visit OMSI. I believe this was taking place during the year that the Blazers made a run to the Western Conference Finals and got swept by the Spurs. This trip took place late in the school year, right in the thick of the playoffs. We were on the top deck of the Sternwheeler on a picture perfect day. The top deck was pretty much one flat space where helicoptors could land and there were dozens of people hanging out on the pad taking advantage of the weather. I looked down and noticed that I happened to be standing on a letter "Z" right in the middle of the deck. I didn't think much of it until I noticed that there were a number of letters all over the pad. After following around the letters, I realized that "GO BLAZERS!" was laid out across the entire deck. A couple of days later, I was watching the next Blazer playoff game on TV and as NBC was coming back from commercial, they showed an overhead shot of the top deck of the Sternwheeler and mentioned that businesses all over the city were involved in a contest to see who could display their Blazer spirit most effectively. I really hope we can get back to the days where the entire city is engulfed in BlazerMania. The Blazers are by far my favorite professional sports franchise and I can't wait until we are winning again, with a full Rose Garden and a city behind its team.

And re-printed from the comment section of the "Community" post below:

Blazer Prophet writes:

The year we won our championship, there was a downtown record store open 24 hours. I was in there checking out records at about 1AM and as I turned I was mowed down. With a most sincere apology, Maurice Lucas reached down and helped me up (his hands reached to my elbow) and we had a little chat. He was funny and really cool.

Jorga writes:

Somewhere I have a picture of my daughter wearing her 1976 championship shirt (she's your age, Dave) and I know it got handed down to her brother so I can probably find a picture of him in it too. Pictures are about all that's left from that era for me. Not many memories of community, but do have one of a ferry ride out of Seattle when I had some sort of "Go Blazers" placard in a car window. People thought I was pretty brave to display it in Sonic territory, but Sonics were already out of the playoffs and I just had to rub it in. Got home without anything nasty happening to my car or me.

Scott R. says:

being in san diego, i don't expect to get much love from anyone for my blazers. seems almost everyone here jumps on the lakers bandwagon every year then jumps off as soon as it is the cool thing to do. But, with that said, i STILL wear every piece of blazers clothing i can get my hands on(ducks too, but that's another story for another day). I even have bought a little cheerleading outfit, size 2T, that both of my Girls have worn and i have a set of shorts/jersey that they have worn and my boy will wear too when he is big enough. (i have 2 rules in my house: No Lakers fans. No Raiders fans. pretty simple huh?) back to the topic at hand...I still get stopped probably about 20% of the time i'm out by people of various ages asking about the blazers. I get ribbed by the bandwagon laker fans. But i do get a lot of intellegent conversation from many basketball fans who are looking for everyones perspective. I also get a lot of good spirited conversation from a lot of blazers fans that i didn't even think had migrated this far south! I love those days and it makes me proud to be a blazers fan and have faith in our loyal fan base being built back to the level it was not too very long ago. Bottom line is this: While the fans seem to be in hiding right now, there are still some of us loyal, rabid fans spread across this country(i've had the same conversations in Chicago too, but i was only there for 13 months). I am positive that it won't take much to get the less hard core fans out of hiding and wearing the red and black again!!

I really like this one from Brian:

I'm living in Asia at the moment, but I still were my Blazer apparel frequently. Even though most of these guys have no idea who the Blazers are, I still get people asking me about the team and its players.The most interesting experience was one day when I was in a grocery store on a busy weekend and a woman flagged me down. She was obviously a foreigner (non-asian) and when I went over to talk with her, it turned out that she was from Portland also and had seen my Blazers cap. We talked for several minutes about Portland and the team, the good ole days of Clyde and Terry and what's going on currently.It was kinda cool that half way around the world the Blazer bond was still at work.

I can really relate to Dr. Dave's memory:

You know you're old when the "good ol' days" of Blazer basketball were the times before Clyde and Terry. Living in southern Oregon, a live game was a rare treat. So my fondest memories are simply those times just me and my boys hunkered over a radio at playoff time (it didn't matter how the season went-you always knew the playoffs were coming...). The comforting voice of the Shonz who could draw you right there beside him, front and center. Pumping fists, high fiving, biting nails, at times even hiding our eyes, we would push our team to the end. Win or lose, they had our hearts. I'd do almost anything to have that feeling back again.

And finally an anonymous submission:

I remember listening to the final game of the Western Conference championship, I think in 1990 or '91 with my husband. We beat Phoenix and it was maybe 9:30 at night. At the end of the game, Bill Shonley mentioned that the Blazers would be landing at the Hillsboro airport sometime after midnight. My husband and I grabbed our coats and ran to the car. We got there slightly ahead of the 10,000 other fans so we were right at the fence. I remember the crowd's feverish anticipation of that plane landing so we could get a glimpse of the players stepping off the plane. We waited for probably 3 hours but I never regretted getting to be a part of that! I talk Blazer stuff about the new guys now and people look at me like I'm whacked! But when we get back to winning ballgames, I look forward to hanging my "GO BLAZERS" sign in my car window again.

Thanks to everyone who shared a story or memory. I have many, many more myself and if you'd like to keep sharing yours, this could become an ongoing "once in a while" feature here. Personally I find all this positive talk/energy surrounding the topic therapeutic.

Enjoy the nice weekend!

--Dave (


Anonymous fatty said...

great memories dave i've
e*mailed me mine, remember
they'll always be "team glory"
or "god's team" dave always
thank you b.musberger*d.enberg
for always respecting the blazers fans*community through the years

1:52 PM  
Anonymous jorga said...

I've got a great story showing the absolute devotion of some fans. In my former life as a librarian, I was cataloging the 1991 "Let's Go Mexico" travel guide published by Harvard Student Agencies. I noticed at the top of the pages in one section, instead of the name of the pertinent state or whatever should have been there, the words were "Go Blazers". As a rabid Blazer fan I had to know what was going on so I sent them a letter. I'm a terrible pack rat and still have the reply.

I'll clip parts, but most is too good to omit. It's from (and I'll omit his name) the newly named Publishing Manager of the series. "...I live on the East Coast... But as any displaced Portland native knows, you can't take the spirit of Oregon out of a body... So, at the end of my tenure as editor of decided to pay homage to the greatest state in the nation. What better way than to honor the swiftest, strongest team in the nation? May they go all the way... Oregon Forever..."

That's real chutzpah ...and he even got promoted :-)

9:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oregon department of human services

11:13 PM  

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