Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Man Crush

The Trail Blazers gave their fans a nice Christmas present with an
89-79 victory over the Seattle Supersonics for their league-best 11th straight win. Leading the way is Brandon Roy, who has averaged an amazing 23 points, 5.5 rebounds and 6.8 assists during the streak.

And I have a man crush on him.

I'm not sure when it started. My wife only just made me aware of it. I'm not exactly sure why I have a man crush, but here are some possible reasons.

In only his second year, Brandon Roy is the leader of this team and the face of the franchise. On the court, he's a phenomenal young talent, who plays like a veteran. He works hard and plays unselfish team basketball. But when needs to, he will take over a game and be the Man. He is a good citizen, popular with his teammates and the community.

Roy is a welcome site to fans who remember the special relationship between the Trail Blazers and the Rose City. Portland's love affair with its team began in 1976 when players like Bill Walton and Maurice Lucas brought the city its first championship. It continued through the 1980s and exploded from 1988 to 1992 as the team, led by Clyde Drexler, Terry Porter, and Jerome Kersey, appeared in two NBA Finals and was among the league's elite teams for several years. These players embraced the the fans and the city.

Blazer fans took this special relationship for granted until the mid-90s when everything changed. New General Manager Bob Whitsitt tried to assemble a team of all-stars through free agency and big contracts, with little or no thought for the chemistry and character of the team. The result was disastrous. Players like Rod Strickland, J.R. Rider, Qyntel Woods, Damon Stoudamire, Rasheed Wallace, Bonzi Wells, Ruben Patterson, Darius Miles and Zach Randolph demonstrated an utter disdain for the city, the fans, and their teammates. And their routine disregard for the law earned them the embarassing moniker "Jail Blazers."

With fan support plummeting at the end of the 2002-03 season, the Blazers were forced to start cleaning house. They got rid of Bonzi Wells and Rasheed Wallace. In 2005, the team hired Nate McMillan as the new head coach. The following year, the team traded away troublemakers Ruben Patterson and Sebastian Telfair, while making some brilliant draft day moves to land Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge. After landing the number one pick in the 2007 NBA draft, the Blazers selected future-star Greg Oden, while dumping talented, but longtime problem-child Zach Randolph.

Today, despite Oden's injury, Blazer fans have a lot to be excited about. Not only is their team winning, but the players are guys you feel good rooting for. And none more than Brandon Roy.

Last February, the Blazers entered the locker room at half-time of a game against the Lakers in Los Angeles. The team was struggling and star Zach Randolph began pointing fingers at Portland's guards. Roy (a rookie) immediately scolded Randolph and put him in his place for calling out individuals rather than taking responsibility for the team. The Blazers regrouped and came back to win the game. That was the moment when the Blazers became his team. And it was the moment when the culture of the Blazers really changed.

Brandon Roy represents the shift from a dysfunctional, poorly run organization, full of criminals and malcontents to an exciting, fan-friendly team of young stars who want to win.

Last week, I had the good fortune to get in on the fun as I watched the Blazers notch their 9th straight win against Toronto. I watched in amazement as Brandon Roy pulled off this amazing move. The Rose Garden went crazy. The Blazers won. It was awesome.

That's why I have a man crush on Brandon Roy. And I don't care who knows it.


Jason Campbell said...

It's good to know that the Blazers are finally becoming something other than an embarrassment. They say being a "fair-weather fan" is a bad thing, but why would I force myself to watch basketball when the team sucks, is full of jailbait mailcontents, and end up souring the experience? I'll start watching--well, right now, thank you. When the hope of good stuff is returning. I ain't no fan of "The Blazers" as a logo, but as a team of team-ball-playing stars, I'm a fan of that.

But I ain't got no man-crush. I'll leave that to the professionals...

Anonymous said...