Thursday, January 31, 2008

Most Proud of Our Team...

  • It's official! Brandon Roy is an All Star, named as one of the 7 reserves for the Western Conference. This couldn't have happened to a better guy or a better team, and further shows how much this team has progressed from its dark days. They interviewed Brandon on TNT, and he spoke how much he respected the team, his coach, his decision to stay at Washington for four years and learn more from his coach, and the vibe of the Trail Blazers resurgence. It's going to be an honor watching him play with the league's best players, and it just validates what is happening here.
  • The Portland Beavers announced they have changed their colors, logo and uniforms for the 2008 season. It shows committment from the ownership to try and establish an identity for baseball by reaching back to the past. No city has had PCL baseball longer than Portland, dating back to 1903, and the city has a rich tradition and history for it. I do recall being in the stands when Crash McCray earned his nickname, watched Fernando Valenzuela try to resurrect his career, and some great playoff baseball as well, but the city has many more baseball nuggets in its past. I'm not 100 percent sold on the newest Beaver, he looks more like a seal to me, but that's just my thought. Otherwise, the new uniforms look classic, not cluttered, and distinctive.
  • In recapping the Trail Blazers game last night, something struck me that I hadn't thought before. I'm a bit tired of the referrees swallowing their whistles when the game is on the line. It's one thing to let guys play and make plays, but when there's an obvious call to make, they overlook it. For the record, Michael Jordan pushed off against the Jazz, and Lebron took three steps last night versus us. It's not sour grapes, it's simply enforcing the rules for everyone equally.
  • When did Portland become such a pedestrian crazy city? I had an incident driving in this morning, where I was making a right hand turn near my house. I looked at oncoming traffic and the light, and not seeing anyone, proceeded to make my turn. Apparently there was someone behind the light post because suddendly, the intersection had a person. I stopped in time, but then he proceeded to point at the crosswalk sign and then walk very very slowly in front of me. I looked at the light, and he never pressed the button, but yes, pedestrians have right of way in some cases. But then again, I have never encountered so many people walking in front of cars, walking in traffic, generally expecting people to stop and then seem surprised when they don't immediately. I admit, I am not the most observant driver at some times, but I'm getting a lot better. I spent many years walking, riding, and using transit to get about, and I felt that pedestrians were pretty good partners in sharing the road. Living in NW Portland, though, changed that philosophy, as people darted out from in between cars, shopping carts slid through intersections, bike riders repeatedly ran lights, and it was basic anarchy of the road. Now that I live near MAX, it's the same thing as people run for trains, not paying attention to cars but expecting them to stop. Maybe I'm missing something here, but shouldn't the road be shared by everyone and everyone follow the rules of the road? Make yourself visible to cars if you are walking or riding, and cross where it's safe, not just where it's convenient. And driving means driving, not talking on your phone, texting, or reading a book or the paper.
  • I truly feel like an old person yelling about kids being on the lawn after the last comment, but I do feel better about venting. Apparently, obsessing, not sharing feelings or overthinking is a bad thing, while being resilient and adaptable is good. Maybe Dr. Phil is onto something?
See you all in the funny papers.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Long Weekend of Not Posting

I have been a little busy the past few days, and so the blogging has been put to the wayside a bit. My friend Obi's dad turned 75 on Sunday, and some of the TA and myself pitched in to help out for the party. Was loads of fun, although I was exhausted when I was done, still trying to get caught up on a bit of sleep.

Things that have been on my mind so far..

  • Lebron James is pretty amazing, but the Trail Blazers essentially gave away a game tonight. They had the Cavs on the ropes with aggressive play, timely shots, and keeping Lebron in check. Then, with about 5 minutes left, they forgot everything they'd done in the first 3 quarter, Lebron hits 3 uncontested 3 point shots, and the offense stalls. The game was in the balance until the end, but really it came down to a lack of aggressiveness. There were too many times a guard broke down their man driving to the basket to have an open 10 footer, only to pass it to another guy for a difficult shot. It doesn't help when we shoot close to 35 percent for the night, either, but this is a game you can look at and say "woulda, shoulda, coulda, but didnta". They face the Knicks on Friday with Zebo in town, and I hope they drill them.
  • PGE Park gets some new grass, and it's about time. The old Nexturf had been installed when the park was first renovated in 2001, and seemed to get more dingy and flat as the years went on. The past couple of seasons I imagine the stuff was like concrete painted green, and when I got a chance to walk on it after a match last year, I think concrete would have more give. It's sad that players needed to play on such crappy turf, but to the credit of our new owner, he's trying to get facilities upgraded for new events and possibly to bring MLS to town. I'd love to see it, cause I think we'd do amazing in the league.
  • The past few days, we've been threatened with snow, ice, wind, and other winter weather, but so far, the snow in my area has been limited to a couple of light dustings, and an ice day on Monday that kept me from going to work although things were thawed out by early afternoon. I appreciate weathermen trying to keep us informed, but I could do without the gloom and doom forecasts. Although last year, they misforecast something and we ended up getting 5 inches of snow on a random March day. It's a tough job to do, I'm sure, but I'd also like to be paid to do something where you can be off that much and still be believed.
  • Wedding planning is coming along for the Row N wedding. April 5th, my life changes again and I couldn't be more happier about it. The past year, things have been a whirlwind getting to this point, and I really appreciate what having girl in my life has done. I feel like I'm a happier person overall and as crazy as it sounds, I have things to focus on outside of work. I know, they say being single shouldn't matter, but at the same time, it's fun to come home to someone and share your day. Pets are great in that respect, but then again, I'm not sure I would want to take a cat to the movies or to a Trail Blazers game. Well, maybe Daisy, she might like the constant action, and balls flying about.
Peace out for now, talk to you all soon. It's been almost a week, and I still am having trouble processing the Timber Jim retirement. I know he'll still be about at games, but I'll miss the antics. Anyone know anybody that's good with crowds and a chainsaw?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Timber Jim Retires

Things have been crazy, busy enough with trying to plan a wedding and deal with the realities of working a full time job, juggle a social life, and then find time to eat and sleep. But sometimes events hit you that cause you to step back a bit. My blog yesterday was something to that, but today I was hit with another annoucement that has stunned the Portland Timbers community.

Timber Jim is retiring as our icon. To call him a mascot is an injustice, because he is much more than that. He's truly an ambassador to the game and our fans, and to say this is a huge surprise to me is an understatement. Jim has the ability to whip up a crowd in a frenzy, leading everyone in chants and songs, but then quickly switch gears and spend time with the many kids that visit the park. He's spent countless hours working with local charities to help educate people on the benefits of using seat belts after he lost his daughter in a tragic car accident, and gives of his time to help educate people on chain saw safety. I'm proud to say that I know him personally from many after match conversations, and he gave me a Portland Timbers "Spread the Love" bracelet that I still wear during the season. There's more to his story which is located in this link, but he's given so much to everyone in the Timbers community, and the Timbers Army has shared the love, the joy, the tears, the hugs, and the smiles every step of the way over the years. He is a big reason I carry my green toy chainsaw to each game, it just seemed an appropriate tribute to the man.

My hope is that the tradition of sawing logs after Timbers goals remain in place, but let the newest person establish their own identity in supporting the team. I'm sure we'll see plenty of TJ at the matches and other gatherings, but someone it just won't be the same. But I'm sure that Jim will keep busy spreading the love and his smile everywhere. I wouldn't expect anything less from a legend.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Just Taking Notice....

I had a few different topics planned for my next blog, but as I was sitting about trying to come up with which idea I wanted to tackle first, I heard the news that Heath Ledger had passed. Normally, I'm not much of a celebrity buff, but it was the buzz around my office as many of the women in my office cried, and were shaken by the news. The trickle of information was slow, but now more and more tidbits about that fateful day are being shared, and painting a picture of what truly happened. But for me, I couldn't help thinking of his family and friends, who are now having to deal with the aftermath of what happened. I suppose my own experiences with death have shaped that.

One of my first jobs in high school was a groundskeeper at two funeral homes. I drove large commercial lawn tractors, trimmed shrubbery, pulled weeds, and generally made the place look nice. The whole fact that this job was dealing with death never crossed my mind once, even with the constant reminders about - the headstones, masoleums, and funerals most days while I was there. I never worked on any funerals during the 5 months I worked there, but my coworkers were busy dealing with arrangements, plot set ups, and generally doing the work that nobody else wanted to do. My boss said something that struck me to this day, "Death is part of life, and the best thing you can do when someone is gone is to remember the good times. Funerals are for the living to try to jump start the healing process." I'm not sure what happens when someone passes, but seeing the various setups, hearing some gatherings with laughter, some sadness, some large, some only three people, the experience is very personal and very real.

I learned the lesson myself when I lost my mom to cancer in 2005. Up until that point, I had never lost anyone close to me, and my mom was a big influence on my life in many aspects. I tried so hard to live up to what I thought she wanted me to be, yet it only mattered to her that I was happy. I didn't realize that fully until my last real conversation with her three days before she died. I told her about the Timbers Army, the fun I was having supporting my soccer team, and how I was thinking of going to England the next year. She told me that I was the happiest she'd seen me ever, and that I would regret not going to England so I needed to go. At that point, I was convinced I needed to do this no matter what. Thankfully, girl helped me through the process and putting things together, along with some great nudges from fellow TA members. I had to do this not for myself, but for her because she knew it would make me happy.

Something my stepdad said to me a few days after the funeral stuck with me as well, as my mom had said to him that I would be a huge mess if she ever died. Supposedly, I wouldn't be able to function or know what to do. While I was angry at the comment, I realized that in her own way, it was her prodding me to be happy because that's when I would be at my best. Now, over two years later, I have the bestest fiancee in my life, I have great friends and a great team to support, and I get to declare my love for girl in April before we go back to England. I had never been there before, but the place spoke to me and I have only felt that way about one other place - Portland. I just knew I was where I should be, and I think my mom knew that. In death, she was more worried about all of us being OK, she stopped worrying about herself and was at peace. I suppose that's the best we can hope for at that point, and at some level, it's probably incredibly uplifting and terrifying as hell.

But that's what death is all about. It's part of the cycle of things, and without it, life doesn't take on as much significance. As I think of my niece just 5 months old, it's the whole cycle of life without the dumbass Disney tune in the background. We deal with things as best we can, and move on with the love and support of those here and those from beyond. Death shouldn't be something to be scared of, although not knowing what's out there is a struggle for some. For me, I just look at it as the next big adventure whenever that may happen. Right now, I'm having too much fun around here.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Monday Update

  • The Trail Blazers continue their insane 7 game road trip with a loss on Saturday at Orlando and a crazy win in OT today in Atlanta. I was working today, so I huddled at my desk with the NBA ticker going while working. As I was typing along, I'd check the game and saw it was a very tight battle all the way. And then Travis Outlaw hit another game winning shot, and suddenly, it was me dancing in my cube scaring some of my fellow employees. Whatever, it's a holiday and I'm excited for more than just being able to wear jeans at work.
  • The Trail Blazers also are getting great love in the press from ESPN. One article has the story of them visiting the Atlanta YMCA during the MLK holiday weekend. Most of the team was there voluntarily during an off day between games, chatting with the kids that go there all the time, playing hoops, and learning more about a great man and a significant historical figure. I don't put much weight into athletes saying they aren't role models, as kids and adults look up to sports figures and in many cases, choose to root for someone based on things besides talent. I don't think you could go wrong rooting for anyone on this team, especially after reading this piece.
  • ESPN's power rankings also give the Trail Blazers some love as they remain in the top 10. Apparently, those that think this team is going to implode might just have to keep waiting.
  • The Timbers schedule is out finally, and overall I'm happy about it. Lots of games on Thursdays at PGE which makes for really long Fridays at work, but overall crowds attend Timbers games better on Thursdays so I can't fault the schedulers for that. I am going to miss a couple of the early games due to my honeymoon, but hey, I think going to England with the love of my life and seeing some BPL action while I'm there isn't so bad.
  • Went to the Winterhawks game on Saturday night, and was extremely disappointed in the experience. I used to attend games a lot in the past, as the team was talented and the ticket prices weren't too terribly priced. But as the costs rose and the team struggled, I found other ways to get my sports fix. Getting some free tickets, I was hopeful to see them in action, and see if coming back was an option. The team had a decent first period, keeping the score level, but then they got drilled with 5 goals in the second period as they played lackluster hockey with very little passion at all. The only saving graces were the Dash for Cash in the second intermission, and a late goal to make the score more respectable. I'm not sure what happened, but I've never seen a Hawks team play with such little passion and energy ever, especially in a rival game versus the Seattle Thunderbirds. It's too bad, because the crowd was pretty loud, despite the antics on the ice. I'm hoping the team pulls it together, but their current record puts them at worst in the WHL. These fans deserve something a bit better, and I'm hoping it starts up soon. Otherwise, the loud fans may find their outlet somewhere else.
Peace oot for now.


Friday, January 18, 2008

Friday's calvalcade of stuff

  • The Portland Trail Blazers won again tonight in Miami, and the game was one of the more exciting I've seen in a while. Nobody really dominated, rather it was a serious of scoring runs back and forth. However, the young Blazers matched up well tonight, made good shots when it counted, and held off the charging Heat to win 99 to 91. The team also got some love from ESPN the Magazine and Sports Illustrated this week nationally, and ESPN also carried tonight's game. I guess the secret is starting to get out.
  • Been spending my days lately working on wedding invites for the big April event. I honestly didn't know I knew so many people, but leave it to putting together a list and you realize how many folks you interact with on a daily basis. Then, go through the uncomfortable process of comparing the numbers on the list with the number of seats you have at your hall, and try to manage not offending anyone while finalizing the list. I will say this much, our invites are truly one of a kind.
  • Tough week around the work stead, and I think the new year's cheer has finally worn off and people are returning to normal behavior. I remember reading the guy's book about all you needed to know you learned in kindergarten, and how many people forget the simple lessons - treat people with respect like you would expect; don't steal other people's food especially if it's special diet food; when the bathroom says for handicapped use only, don't get pissy when security gets mad at you cause you are able bodied but can't read; respect people's time by meeting deadlines instead of crafting an elaborate excuse that only an out of work Hollywood writer could come up with. But hey it's Friday, and I'm not working for a few days.
  • I bowl each week with some Timbers Army folks in the local Big Turkey Bowling League on Tuesdays. We've had fun doing this for about 3 years now, mostly cause the league is rather different: 6 week seasons, theme nights now and then, crazy prizes, and usually loud and crazy fun. The best part of the league was the 3 spares or 3 strikes gets you a free beer rule, but apparently this violated the laws of nature or the liquor guys whatever is worse. Tomorrow night, the team is getting together to watch the Portland Winterhawks play their arch rival Shittle Thunderchickens. While the Hawks aren't playing well, it's a rival game and so I expect good things to happen. But it will be fun none the less, because we are going because our team got the most prize tickets in last bowling terms' consolation round. A bonding experience over hockey and beer, could be fun.
Enjoy your MLK weekend all, talk to you next week.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Respect - Sometimes It's Earned

I usually read John Canzano's column that is published in the Oregonian a few times per week. Sometimes I find myself agreeing with him, but most of the time I am left to wonder at some of the positions he takes and defends. I realize that some columnists are in the game to rile people up, and if that's the case, this guy does a good job of that. But sometimes he hits upon a key point like in his column today.

The Portland Trail Blazers are 23 and 15 after their game versus the Boston Celtics tonight, who hold the best record in the NBA at 31 wins and 6 losses. The Celtics have three great players, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, easily some of the best talent collected on a team and these guys are on their way to the Hall of Fame at some point. The young Trail Blazers could have walked in there and been intimidated and lost, and for the first few minutes of the game, it looked like they were overwhelmed a bit. But when shots started falling and the team made a few defensive stops in the second quarter, they found their game and went up by 9. They lead at the half, and kept things going until Ray Allen finally got heated up and the Celtics' aggressive play combined with some unusual official calls, the team finally succumbed and lost by 10. The game was much closer than the score indicates, but that probably won't be the story tomorrow. Instead of a team that has surpassed a lot of expectations and doing things not expected of a team this young, the stories will probably focus on the Celtics getting back on track after losing two games.

It's sad really, and Canzano makes a very valid point here. The Trail Blazers are absolutely though highly of by the NBA and some of the writers that follow the team, but they aren't respected very much and are still thought of as "over their head". I mean when sportswriters or other NBA media folks refer to Bo Outlaw for Travis Outlaw, LeMarcus for LaMarcus Aldridge and Greg Olden for Greg Oden, it slaps in the face of disrespect here. Most media places have fact checkers in place, but to make fundamental mistakes like this doesn't make sense unless you don't respect what this team is doing.

I can see why they might be saying that. We don't have a true All Star on the team, even though Brandon Roy should be on the team. His numbers don't leap off the page, he just leads by making others better which often doesn't show up in the stats page. LaMarcus is getting better and better with each game, showing great defensive presence and an ability to hit shots from all over the court. Steve Blake, Jarrett Jack, Sergio Rodriguez and James Jones have all played integral roles making outside shots, key rebounds, and making great passes. Martell Webster has grown up this year, going from a timid outside shooter to a truly complimentary small forward. And Joel Pryzbilla, Channing Frye and Raef LaFrentz have manned the middle, playing tough defense and getting key rebounds as needed. None of these guys is a true NBA household name, you don't see their sneaker ads on TV, you don't have NBA commentators blathering on about how good they are all the time, and playing on the West Coast means most games out here are done while the East Coast sleeps.

The thing is that the team is great because of the sum of their parts. Yes, no one individually in that group strikes you as amazing, but put the collection together, let them play hard and help each other along, and behold - great things happen. Guys step up as needed, hitting game winning shots, making key defensive stops, scoring when other players are down, it ends up being a true team effort. And if that doesn't scream respect, I don't know what does.

But too many people think respect means doing things flashy or humiliating your opponent to make yourself look better. It's hard for me to watch some of the so called great NBA players, because it's all about what they do to make themselves look better and pad their own statistics. Kobe Bryant may be a great NBA player, but he's the epitome of a selfish ball player who has little interest in making his teammates better around him while he's chucking up shots. He may have NBA titles but I can't respect a player who selfishly thinks of himself before the team.

To me, respect means making your teammates better and looking at the overall goal above anything else, and avoid being caught up in the trash talking, ego game that seems to be prevolent in sports. I have never been a fan of trash talking, although that could be due to my team sports experience participating in Track and Cross Country, the ultimate non-trash talking sports around. You just don't see a lot of trash talking running around a circle multiple times or running a long distance course where you may not see a crowd until the start/finish area. But to me, all trash talking does is mean you have to humiliate your opponent to make your talent look better. An individual's goals shouldn't be above team goals in most cases, and everyone should understand their roles. It's a lot to ask people to sacrifice of themselves and check their ego at the door for the better good, but when it comes together, the results can be amazing.

And that's why I don't necessarily care that much if people don't respect the Trail Blazers. They are doing things the right way, and the results are showing on the court, and slowly but surely the big secret out northwest is being exposed. And having a team that you can love and respect at the end of the day is the most amazing thing a sports fan can ask for.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

It's the Final Countdown

I've never understood the appeal of some bands, and the one I've understood the least is Europe. They burst onto the music scene officially in late 1985 when I'd heard a couple of songs being played on the radio, and I have to say it was bland and totally awful. But then again, a lot of the hair metal being played at that time was truly horrible. I bet if Bon Jovi had to think about it all over again, he might not have the teased hair and some of the crappy songs, but I digress.

Europe was a true hair band, with big poofy hair styles and attempted big crunchy guitars. But they added the most unmetal of instruments, the keyboard, which only added to their unique musical stylings. No other respecting hair metal band would be caught dead with a piano or keyboard at that time, but somehow Europe threw them in and gave them room to breathe. And then their album in 1986, The Final Countdown, caught fire and was gaining some airplay and strength in sales.

They followed the lead of another great band, Big Country, in releasing a song that was the same as the album title, but they avoided the trifecta of song, album and band name that fueled Big Country. Their song, the Final Countdown, starts with a cheesy synthesizer riff that either wakes you from slumber or makes you run in horror. The song then breaks into a big drum/guitar explosion with some lyrics and then the chorus of "It's the Final Countdown" with the same synthisizer riff and the chorus sung over and over. It's pure cheese, but like with many other cheesy pop songs, it's addicting.

girl has it as a ring tone on her phone, and I hear it in the radio now and then and I find myself bopping along to it in shame. The song is truly one of the worst things about 80's music - bland, loud, inoffensive, big hair, cheesy lyrics - but it has one of the best things about pop music is that it's catchy. I can't explain why some bands get popular and some don't, so I can't explain how Europe managed to gain success, but it must have been the synthezier. I'm amazed that you still hear people doing other versions of it, and yes, I even hear it at sporting events.

I'd love to hear comments about cheesy songs you love to listen to but secretly hate, and enjoy the links to a couple of versions of the Final Countdown. Wait, it's trapped in my head now. Crap...ok, talk to you all soon. - Air Version - Cello Version (yea, it's pretty cool)

Thursday, January 10, 2008


Ok, I promised that I would deal with Europe, but I had been thinking about the Trail Blazers all day after the experience last night. While the game antics had some issue, overall, I haven't been as excited about basketball in years.

I first moved to Portland in 1989, and the team had just secured Buck Williams as their starting forward, and the remaining pieces from good Trail Blazer teams in the 80's were here (Kersey, Drexler, Porter, Duckworth) plus a newly drafted Cliff Robinson. While the team was expected to do well, I got indoctrinated into Blazer Mania immediately as the team went all the way to the NBA Finals. While the team had talent on the floor, there was a passion and flair with which they played that impressed me.

Chemistry is a hard term to define, but to me, it means not only having talent and drive but you also care about your fellow teammates and are willing to do things to make them better. Chemistry also means taking this attitude to everyone you meet and everything you do. The Trail Blazers of the early 90's exemplified that with a long playoff run in 91 and another Finals run in 92. The team still had some successes in subsequent seasons, but the trouble started with firing Rick Adelman as coach. Most of the players were traded away from this era, and the team under new management started to rebuild. The final nail was Drexler being traded away to Houston and finally getting his championship ring with the Rockets.

The Trail Blazers were assembling a very talented team, but it became apparent that things were different in dealing with the fans and media. The team became distant and harder to understand, and the management moved to Seattle and remotely managed the team under the utmost secrecy. But the funny thing was the team was still winning, so many of the danger signs weren't apparent because winning will make people overlook stuff.

When the team made other playoff runs in 2000 and 2001, it brought back the Blazer Mania passion of the city until a fourth quarter against our hated rivals the Lakers. Instead of bringing the team back as a whole, there was more roster tinkering which led to harsh words and bad attitude. Over the next few years, the team imploded with malcontents, problems with the law, drug arrests, and the things labeling the team the Jail Blazers.

New management wanted to turn the corner, but it wasn't until the new coach Nate McMillian and new GM Kevin Pritchard were on board that you saw huge changes. They wanted to build a team that was bigger than themselves, and hearken back to the old Trail Blazer days of the 70s and 80s, and they set up a plan to build a team of solid talented guys who wanted to be part of something bigger and give back to the team and the town. And their plan couldn't have worked any better.

The parallels to old glory teams is apparent, as the core guys Aldridge, Roy, Blake, Webster, Frye, Pryzbilla, Sergio, Jarrett, Jones, and Outlaw have come together amazingly. The youngest team in the NBA has a 13 game winning streak to their credit, and currently own a 12 game home winning streak, doing it completely under the radar from most fans. But in hearing more about the team, you hear about their talent but also the community events, interaction with fans, and the genuine care they have for each other. This team loves playing basketball with each other, and the results show on the court. Like any fan, it's frustrating when they don't play to their potential, but right now, I wouldn't trade this team for anything.

The Portland Timbers, my other team I love, went through a similar renaissance this year after a dismal 2006 season with a coach who lacked direction and a team that struggled to find its chemistry. A new coach came in, players started believing in themselves and each other, and the results led to an undefeated home record. While chemistry in school wasn't one of my better subject, I love watching great chemistry unfold on the court and the field. Here's to 2008, where the playoffs aren't just a goal for the Timbers and Trail Blazers, but a reality..

Postscript -

  • I read my post about Blaze yesterday and the kid's interaction and realized that I significantly downplayed the kid's action. The tail tugging in the fourth quarter was an attempt to spin him around by his tail not once, not twice, but three times. I'm all for mascots getting ribbed a bit and poked/prodded, but I draw the line at attempting to harm them. I must be getting soft in my older age.
  • As of today, the Trail Blazers are in first place in the Northwest division. They haven't been in first place in any division for 7 years, so this is huge. Yes, they are going on a 7 game almost 2 week road trip starting on Sunday in Toronto, but right now I don't care. My team is in first place.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Random Observation From A Trail Blazer Game

I had planned on my next blog being about the phenomenon that is The Final Countdown by Europe. I fail to understand how such a cheesetacular supposed metal song has such a long shelf life after all these year. Europe was a terrible hair metal band and the rest of the album is horrible, but when you hear the opening instrumental bars, I rarely see it fail to cause people to hum or sing along. But I digress, because while I'd like to give this full attention, I was pleasantly amused, irritated and entertained by tonight's Trail Blazer game versus the Golden State Warriors.

The Trail Blazers won the game 109 to 91, but that was one of many details of tonight's game, as girl and I decided to spontaneously attend the final home game for a while.

  • We made it into the arena at 6:05 after picking up our tickets at Will Call. It never ceases to amaze me that the line for the toilets near Will Call is longer than the actual ticket pick up line, but people get confused just the same as to what line goes where. I suppose the picture of a toilet next to the restroom door isn't clear enough.
  • We immediately headed to Subway for the best $9 sandwich in the place, not to be confused with the $9 sandwich from the 76 Deli which you can only qualify as a sandwich because it has bread and a piece of lettuce. The gal in front of us had a full glass of wine while waiting to order, and by the time she made it to the front, the wine was just about gone. Unfortunately, that was only about 5 minutes that had passed. I mean, I like my booze, but not that much.
  • I normally don't sit in the lower bowl for Trail Blazer games, so it's nice to change it up a bit. The view of the court is better, you get the noise makers which can be fun or annoying, and there's plenty of concessionaires about. What isn't very good is that the bathrooms are smaller, and for whatever reason, in terrible shape most of the time. I suppose it's hard keeping up with the cleanliness when 20,000 people show up for a game, but tonight I was horrified at the mess in there. girl said the ladies' restroom was in about the same shape.
  • Just before the tip off, a lady was going to her seat in section 117 with a large drink and nachos. She was welcomed to the section by an usher, who was then asked to escort her nachos to her seat with her. She had an open hand, but apparently, the cheese needed supervision. She and the nachos made it down to the seat, but then she proceeded to ask the usher to put them on the seat next to her. He politely pointed out that a person might actually be sitting here at some point, but complied with the request. She left the nachos alone for at least 5 minutes, and girl and I soon became fascinated with which person would displace the nachos. At tip off, the food still had one of the best seats in the house, although she ate a few chips. About 15 minutes into the game, it appeared a nacho disaster occurred because she scurried to clean up something with a drink tray, and I'm thinking what poor sap is going to have to sit next to this mess. Thankfully, the seat went unclaimed.
  • I like kids a lot, but there was a young lad that I was extremely disappointed in tonight, as he decided that Blaze, the team mascot, needed to be tortured for the night. During the first quarter as Blaze walked by his seat, the kid reached out and grabbed at his ear a few times. Blaze quickly exited without incident, but the real travesty was in the fourth quarter while Blaze was leading the crowd in cheers, the kid left his seat and proceeded to grab Blaze's tail and try to pull on it hard. Not once, not twice but three times. The kid's parents, in a show of complete awareness of their kid's action, encouraged the kid to torment the mascot. While I wasn't close enough to stop the action, I'm disappointed that any parent would find messing with a mascot that was only trying to do his job funny, and encourage their child to do more damage. The final straw was watching the same kid collect 20 or so noise makers for the road. I hope the parents get kept up all night.
  • I did have respect for Don Nelson as a coach, as his teams usually play hard and don't play dirty. But that was until Monta Ellis "accidentally" hit Steve Blake from behind, causing him to leave the game with a calf injury. They may claim incidental contact, but Blake was turned toward our basket toward the top of the key and Ellis could have safely went around Blake to get into the play or grab the rebound, but instead he went through Blake and close to his knee from behind. Way to show some class while your team is getting drilled by 20.
  • Although we won, played well for some stretches and won by 18, we never completely knocked Golden State out to the point where they conceded, even though they got no closer than 8 points to us all game. I know this team is a playoff contender and will make some noise in the postseason, but sometimes the youngness of the team worries me. When we have a chance to bury a team, we don't always take it to the next level. I'm sure that Nate will talk with the team about that later tonight.
  • Chalupah coupons are great, but I personally hate when it gets to 98 or so points and the chalupah chants start. I did love being able to chant "you only stand for t-shirts" during the free t-shirt launch, which they advertised free stuff at least 3 or 4 times before things went flying into the crowd. Apparently repetition is important in advertising.
Overall, we are 22 and 13, and I look forward to my next game on the 30th, when we are back from our long road trip with at least 5 of 7 wins. You heard it here first, folks. I believe this team is for real, and right now, nobody outside of true Trail Blazer fans really understand what's happening here. Let them keep underestimating us, and we'll just keep on winning.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

So Far, So Good

It's been one week officially without my beard, and my face isn't driving me crazy that much. I had gotten used to so much hair on my face, I had hardly noticed that I have dimples when I smile big and I have a cleft chin. Funny what you find out when you actually have face to look at. I've been reading my friend Obi's blog about weight loss, and he's impressing me quite a bit with his efforts. I know that during the past few weeks, I haven't been to the gym as much as I'd like, but we've been busy around here just the same.

It's funny because moving into a house with other people is bound to bring challenges and issues, especially when one of the people living in the house is your future wife. We both had to get used to each other's crazy idiosyncrasies, just like any couple moving in together, but we added some degree of difficulty with her mom and brother still being in the house, too. I have to say it's been truly amazing, and I get along with everyone really well. And most of the time, the house doesn't look like a dust tornado ran through it. But making sure stuff gets done sometimes is hard, because there is the assumption that someone else will do it. Not a good habit to get into, because we are all busy here with jobs, outside activities, and other stuff. Oh, and add in seven cats to the mix, and you get a full household.

Living with seven cats you'd think would be a challenge, but it's not as long as you remember a few rules, (1) know when dinner time is (2) pay attention to them as much as possible (3) clean up the litter box. Cats have different personalities, much like humans. Lucy screams at you around dinner time, but loves to be petted and eats potato chips. Daisy loves any sort of sports balls, and will chase the laser pointer as much as possible and will eat about anything. Pilot loves the bathroom, and will try to tackle your leg while you walk by. Bruts loves to sleep, but he's a bit scared of new people. Moya just loves to be on your lap, as long as Spot isn't there first. And then there's Plabo, the leader of the group who basically runs the place and we all just try not to get into the way. I used to live with pets growing up, but it's been a while since I've had to deal with being woken up early for food, having cat toys fly at you, having your shoes smell like pee, or having feline help in tying your shoes. But I love cats because deep down, they give unconditional love as long as you respect them and take care of them. Whenever I've had a crappy day at work or just feeling a bit blue, I know one of them will find me and purr while I pet them and show me that it's all OK.

With a wedding coming up in a few months, I need all the quietness that I can, and so far, so good there. It's great to be part of something that is bigger than you, even if some of the family members can't talk and shed on the furniture.

Postscript - The Trail Blazers won again last night over Utah, winning their 16th game of 17 and are now 21 and 13. It's amazing to watch this collective group come together and play well, when there isn't really a superstar amongst them. There's great players (Roy, Aldridge, Outlaw), and a collection of talented guys that fill in the gaps and provide support for everyone. When Roy was out of most of Saturday's game, Webster scored 24 points in the third quarter, and the Blazers held off Utah in the end. The attention is starting to come, with recent articles in SI and ESPN about the Trail Blazers, Paul Allen, and just how this team is winning. It's not that big of a secret, but it's hard to put the plan into place - get good solid citizen guys who are talented, and get them a leader that preaches success starts with supporting the team. It's great to see Rip City back in town, and I can't wait to see what the future holds for this bunch.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

It's Been A Rather Fun Start to the New Year..

Well, 2008 has gotten off to a crazy start so far. We had a small gathering of folks here for New Year's Eve, mostly Row N folks and a few other TA folks as well as some of my friends from the bank showed up. The party was an open house format, with the first few hours being family friendly and alcohol free, but then after 8 pm, we opened up the bar and let loose. I don't have any problem with family friendly events, and for the most part, the kids yesterday were very well behaved. Some of the families were a bit scared off by the 8 pm bar opening, but our invite was pretty clear that the first hours were going to be quiet but then notched up a bit. The last guest left at 2 AM which left a few hours for girl and I to clean up. We passed out about 4:30 AM or so, and slept most of the day.

But something of a big event occured earlier on Sunday, as I shaved off my goatee and am now clean shaven. This hasn't happened for at least 10 years, as I've had some form of beard on my face. It started with the movie Clerks, and the character Dante who had a goatee and I thought it looked cool. So I grew one, and have kept it until Sunday.

At first, it was itchy but I thought the facial hair was cool and I wasn't dating anyone at the time. However, my mom hated it. My mom never hated much of anything, except the beard, so I had to listen to her object through many a visit why I grew such an ugly beard. She eventually grew to like it because my friends and sister actually thought it was pretty cool. But admittedly, I was told by many of my dating prospects that the beard was a nice touch because my smile wasn't very good and it covered that up. Not exactly the nicest thing to share with someone, but since self confidence wasn't something I had much of at times in my life, I went along with it.

Then many years later, I met girl and she grew to love me but admitted on many occassions she didn't like facial hair but knew it was me so she didn't mind. But my beard was getting more filled with white and grey hairs, and at points, it felt like 200 grain sandpaper and there were points I was scratching her face pretty bad. She had never seen me without my beard, and it had been a while since I was clean shaven, so on Sunday I took the plunge.

This wasn't something I just did because she asked, but it was more of me realizing the beard was nice, but it was also a bit of a crutch to hide what I thought was a bad feature. I had even admitted to many friends for years that the goatee was a way to hide my face, and hadn't put that all together until Sunday. I have to admit that while my face is still a bit dry and not used to being without hair, it's been a nice change of pace. I can always grow it back at some point, but now that it's not there, I find myself smiling a bit more. Plus, I think I look a bit younger without all the grey hairs on my face, too. While my age isn't something I concern myself with that much, I do want to look good for girl because I want her to feel special when she's with me. Yea, even after all these years, I'm still smitten with her. Not a bad realization to start 2008..