Woolard’s Words

Ripcity makes the Blazers special

I wouldn’t consider myself a fan of NBA basketball. I don’t get the same enjoyment that I get from watching other forms of basketball or other sports for that matter. If a random NBA game is on TV I probably won’t watch it. During the regular NBA season I just don’t really care all that much.

Despite this, I’m a huge Portland Trail Blazers fan. I love the Blazers more than life itself. Recently, with the start of the NBA season I’ve been wondering how can I love the Blazers and at the same time be somewhat indifferent to the rest of the NBA.

I think my love for the Blazers is a lot deeper than the actual basketball games. Growing up in the greater Portland area, the Blazers have always been a constant topic of conversation. It seems like everyone around me knew at least a little bit about Blazers.

Portland and the Blazers seem inseparable. Portland really isn’t Portland without the Blazers. And the Blazers would be nothing without the people of Portland. The people of Portland love the Blazers through the good and the bad. I’ve been going to Blazer games for over a decade now. Over that time the Blazers have failed to make the playoffs, and they’ve made it all the way to the Western Conference finals.

Through constant trials, the passion from the Blazer fans has never faltered. I can’t remember a time when Blazer games weren’t well attended even when we were terrible. Why is that? The greatest thing about Blazer games is the atmosphere.

One of the best parts of Blazer games is when they announce the starting lineups. At the conclusion of the visitors’ introduction the lights begin to dim and the PA announcer says “everybody on your feet.” A loud chorus of synchronized clapping begins and the energy in the arena is unreal. Suddenly there is action on the jumbotron and an introduction video is played. It’s usually some sort of a highlight reel. Even if it is really simple it’s gets the place fired up.

Then come the introductions themselves. I’ve been a witness to a very long list of Blazer starters. No one has ever gotten an introduction like Damian Lillard. The first four starters have been introduced and it’s just Dame left. The PA announcer’s voice booms throughout the arena as he practically shouts “…and wearing the letter O, Damian Lillard.” The Moda Center will just lose its mind at this point. No matter how many Blazer games I attend, the energy never ceases to amaze me.

The energy on just any random game is top notch. I don’t know how it’s possible but the playoffs are even crazier. This past season I had the privilege of being at the Moda Center for Game 5 of the first round of the Western Conference playoffs. For those of you that don’t know the Blazers won that game on a last second shot from Lillard.

The shot clock was off and Dame was dribbling at practically the logo. He was kind of dancing around and wasting a bit of time. Finally he makes his move at Paul George, his defender, steps back launches a three. Before the shot can reach the basket Lillard does a little wave goodbye to the Oklahoma City Thunder. All of Portland is holding their breath as the shot goes up and as time expires it sails through the net.

It was the greatest thing I have ever witnessed in my life. The first thing I did after that shot was look to the people around me. I wanted someone else to share this moment with. Thankfully, that’s what everyone else in the arena wanted too. I was screaming my head off and high fiving everyone around me. I think I even hugged some random lady sitting next to me. It didn’t matter that I didn’t know any of these people. What mattered was that they had witnessed what I had just witnessed. We had something amazing that we could all share with each other. All 30,000 of us.

After this experience I thought that there was nothing in the world that would ever compare to what I had just seen. There was no way that that feeling of just pure joy and excitement could ever exist again. In the moda center or any other environment. I was wrong.

Flash forward a few games to Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals. It’s been a hard fought series and the Blazers are on the road for Game 7. This game happened to land on Mother’s Day. For whatever reason I found myself at the Beaverton Buffalo Wild Wings watching the game.

The game was back and forth, neither team truly being able to pull away. The other people at Buffalo Wild Wings weren’t decked out in Blazer gear like I was. But when it got down to the end of the game, everyone stopped and had their eyes glued to the TV. When the Blazers won a roar emerged from the people at the restaurant. Random people were congratulating each other and everyone was in awe at what had just happened.

It was the same feelings of joy and excitement that I had experienced in person at the Moda Center. I came to the conclusion that what I love about Blazers is the sense of community that it brings. It doesn’t matter who plays for the Blazers or how many games they win. It doesn’t matter if you are on your couch or sitting courtside. The spirit of Ripcity lives throughout Portland and the rest of Oregon. I’ve come to the conclusion that the best thing about the Blazers is that they bring people together in a way that I’ve never experienced elsewhere.

As a Portland kid I’ve seen it all. I’ve been here for the days of Greg Oden. The glorious and not so glorious trials of Brandon Roy. Rudy Fernandez and the three goggles. Nicolas Batum and Andre Miller. I was at the game where Wesley Matthews tore his ACL. I screamed for Lamarcus Aldridge and booed just as loud when he returned as a Spur. From the days of the Chalupa and the Rose Quarter.

If you’ve never been to a Blazer game you are missing out. Even if you hate basketball and sports it’s an experience that’s worth your time. There is nothing else like it. I don’t really care for the NBA. I don’t go for the basketball. I go for the Blazers. Being a Blazer fan is just the way I’ve grown up. It’s part of who I am. I love the Blazers, but what I really love is being a part of Ripcity.