Monday, January 12, 2009

Our Night At The Trail Blazers - 1/10/09 Vs. Warriors

Girl and I love going to Trail Blazer games, and so having a game on Saturday was a welcome diversion from working, keeping our cats out of trouble, and doing mundane things around the house that need it. And the game on Saturday versus the Warriors was also Gonzaga Alumni night, so we got a good deal on the seats. This is the third year I've went, and I've ran into someone I went to school with exactly zero times. I know my class at Gonzaga did have some people move to Portland, but apparently they don't go to functions like this. But I do see some familiar faces from my going to Gonzaga games at University of Portland, but the evening is mostly about watching the Trail Blazers. It's been a tough week with the off court distractions, and apparently Brandon Roy will be back in uniform, so that helps things a great deal.

Our plan was to arrive very close to 6 pm when the doors opened to get food and then find our seats. Subway in the Rose Garden is actually very good, and not overly priced for a stadium, so we decide that's our dinner choice for the night. And it's more healthy than some of the other options around. We leave our house for our customary parking spot near Lloyd Center, and wait for the MAX because it's freaking cold outside. Yes, it's January in the Rose City, and it's cold and wet. The train arrives relatively soon after we get to the platform, and we got a lovely show from some homeless kids crawling about the station on the platform roofs. Girl and I especially loved on a crowded MAX train, they were talking about getting wasted and being high, but girl pointed out everyone of their lines was taken directly from the movie "Trainspotting". So apparently, life imitates cinema rather badly.

We get to the gates right at 6 PM and I give girl her ticket outside the Rose Garden, and we head it. As I move through security and get ready to hand my ticket to the taker, I notice girl isn't behind me. I look back and she's been detained by security, and for what I'm not entirely sure. Apparently, the gal asked her to remove things from her pockets, so there she was pulling out Kleenex and cough drops. The security gal apparently asked for her to remove the contents of the other pocket in a rather stern voice, and I stood there in befuddlement. Girl finally said there's nothing in my pocket, and the line for reviewing purses is now 15 people deep. She wasn't carrying a bag for the simple reason that she didn't want to be searched, and if truth be known, I had more stuff in my pockets than she did, as I was carrying my phone, camera, batteries, an email from the team, and my game ticket. Girl was rather frustrated at the events, and honestly I don't blame her because I'm still not sure why she was picked for searching. But knowing things around there, causing a scene might have gotten us ejected or something, but it was still annoying as anything.

We finally got to Subway, grabbed sandwiches and then headed to the third floor to our seats. It still wasn't very crowded at 6:30, but we were expecting a sell out and our crowds notoriously arrive late. Sure enough, 7 PM rolls around, we are in our seats, and people are still filing in. The anthem is done, badly, not because the gal doesn't have a good voice, she just kept enunciating the wrong notes and so it sounded funny. I realize the anthem is hard to sing, but after hearing Storm Large sing it for the Boston game, I don't want anyone else singing it. She just did too good, although watching Zakk Wylde rip through the anthem last year was a real treat, too.

The game itself was full of runs, as we stunk up the first quarter being down by 10 at the break, and then finally putting together some offense in the second and third quarters to get up to a 19 point lead, and then we almost gave it back in the fourth before prevailing 113 to 100. Brandon Roy was back, but honestly he missed his first shot and first two free throws, and seemed rusty, but LaMarcus Aldridge was anything but rusty, hitting shots from everywhere. The thing about Golden State is that they play hard, and they play a rather unorthodox style of basketball, so you can never really feel like you have enough of a lead. We ended up with six players in double figures, which really emphasized this was a complete team effort. We soon headed downstairs for the meet and greet after the game.

For the past few years of doing this, we got to meet Dan Dickau, shoot free throws, and hang around on the court, and tonight it was going to be Gonzaga alumnus Rony Turiaf who was supposed to speak with us. However, he was injured in their previous game when someone hit him in the mouth with their elbow, and he broke a tooth. While he played in this game in Portland, he was in so much pain afterwards, he was visiting the Portland team doctors to get help for his tooth. So, we may or may not get a meet and greet, but we'll get to shoot free throws. As we wander down on the court, we line up and get about half way through the group when the main Trail Blazers PR guy says they are looking for someone to come down and talk with us for a moment, so we continued to shoot until suddenly Jerryd Bayless walked up. Apparently, the rookie point guard agreed to come talk with us for a moment, very dapperly dressed. He spoke for a few moments, answered some questions and was generally great to talk with. He didn't even go to our school, but he was willing to come out and talk with the fans, which I thought was great. And, Rony felt so bad for cancelling on his part of the meet and greet, he's working on something special for the Gonzaga fans that will be mailed to us over the next couple of weeks.

After the chat, I lined up to shoot my free throw, as I hadn't shot yet. Suddenly, I'm on the floor dribbling the ball with girl perched under the basket, ready to document the moment. I dribbled a few times, launched it, and was determined not to leave it short. And I ended up banging it off the back rim and it bounced out. So, in my short career of free throw shooting at the Rose Garden, I'm now officially 0 for 3. But the moment looks pretty good, courtesy of her. So I can't complain too much.

The news around the team has been rather bleak with the Darius Miles situation, and most recently today, a fan that has cancer passed away after getting her life long dream of watching the Trail Blazers on Christmas Day. Katie Shearer was 24 and was recently diagnosed with a malignant melanoma, which was determined to be fatal. Rather than wallow in self pity, she decided to make the most of her time, doing all the things she wanted to do. She got her degree from Portland State, given to her at home, the first time they'd ever done anything like that. She saw the Trail Blazers versus Dallas on Christmas Day and the team made sure her entire family got tickets so she wouldn't have to decide which ones to take, and she took care of her family right up until the end. She loved the team so much, and it's tragic to hear about such news. What strikes me most about the story after losing a family member to cancer is the maturity Katie showed in dealing with her situation. She was probably scared and angry, I'm sure, but she took that and instead turned the situation into a positive by inspiring others to do things they've always wanted to do. 24 years old is too soon to be dealing with such a life altering event, but then again, life doesn't give you more than you can handle.

But it shows the true spirit of giving embodied in the new Trail Blazers organization, from the owner to the players. While I feel that a certain sports columnist really overstated his involvement to make himself look better to people, it pales in comparison to the good things this team does on the court and off the court. Jerryd didn't have to come speak with us, but he did anyway, and was a great guy. The team make sure Katie Shearer and her family was taken care of, while many of the team take it upon themselves to give their time, money and efforts to help causes around town. It's a different age around here, and I'm happy to be able to see it happen first hand. It sure feels much different from the dark ages of the Jail Blazers.

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