Cliff Gardner

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Ready for War

Two days ago, the Portland Trailblazers clinched their first playoff birth since 2003, when Scottie Pippen was on the team. For a Blazermaniac like me, this is obviously a huge deal, compounded with the fact that this is my first year back from isolation in a land where I didn't own a TV, but it didn't matter anyway because nobody cared about the NBA. However, what I didn't realize until yesterday was the extent to which all of Portland is on the same page on this one.

I'm judging at a speech tournament in downtown Portland, right on the waterfront, and I've had some pretty big holes in my judging schedule which have enabled me to take long walks by the water. It's been unseasonably warm the last few days, high 70's/low 80's (and if that's not a great analogy for this team, I don't know what is--beautifully awesome much earlier than we expected or had any right to ask for), and the stretches by the waterfront were packed with people. Yesterday, it seemed like every other person I saw was sporting some type of Blazer gear, and since I had my Blazer hat on, I exchanged dozens of smiles, compliments on attire, and exactly 8 fist-pumps or high-fives with total strangers (including one homeless man who really liked Brandon Roy).

If there's one thing recent history has taught us, it's that sports can bring people together and help in ways that are both important and difficult to quantify. After 9/11, people saw how the Yankees helped get NYC through the worst parts of their grief, and when the Hornets returned to New Orleans the year after Katrina, people felt like they could start living their lives again--that it was ok to enjoy things. I've always liked the movie "The Legend of Bagger Vance" because it demonstrates this point--at the worst part of the great depression, a local boy does something amazing in golf and it gives everyone hope again.

Right now, Oregon has double-digit unemployment. Our schools are in crisis, our state health plan--once a model for the rest of the country on providing health coverage to the poor and children--is on the verge of collapse, and millions are out of work and scared. But I'll be damned if I didn't see hundreds of people on the waterfront yesterday pumped about the boys in black and red making the playoffs again. Thank you, Rip City.


  • Awwww! Every time I think of the Blazers, I think of you. Congrats on the win last night!

    I'm not doing a lot of driving these days due to broken foot, but SERIOUSLY, we must get together some time.

    By Anonymous Christine, at 8:58 AM  

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