I can remember when Steve Duin wrote a sports column for the Oregonian during my time in Portland. Of course, this was back when the Blazers were actually good citizens. Sure, there were occasional dust-ups with the local constabulary, but any infractions were easily smoothed over and soon forgotten. That is no longer true, and Duin is tired of the double standard that is the current edition of the Portland Trailblazers. Frankly, so am I.
There are prime numbers and rational numbers, sacred numbers and exponential ones. But the figure I find utterly mystifying is 20,169, the number of enablers who filed dutifully into the Rose Garden Sunday night.
After one of the most reprehensible, revealing weeks in team history, even the Blazers didn't bother to show up for the pivotal game against Minnesota, losing 97-78 in an aimless, gutless performance.
But 20,169 "fans" reportedly packed the place: 20,169 suckers stank up the joint, each and every one giving lie to the argument that this town will no longer tolerate these misfits.
Owner Paul Allen and chemist Bob Whitsitt have made their priorities clear in recent years.
While assembling the monster they send out onto the floor, they don't care about drug use. They don't care about registered sex offenders. They don't care about Zach Randolph's stolen-gun conviction or Ruben Patterson's domestic abuse charges or Rasheed Wallace's threats against the referees or Bonzi Wells' spitting on opponents.
And they sure don't care about the city of Portland.
All they care about is the number of sheep who pay their money, take their seats and occasionally say, "Baaaah!" Each die-hard supporter vindicates them. Every time you step through the turnstile, you tell Allen and Whitsitt you accept this abomination. You convince them you care as little about the ugliness of their creation as they do.
It's true; everyone loves a winner, but while some fans have jumped ship, there are more who are still willing to enable the anti-social and criminal behavior that the Trailblazers have become infamous for. Frankly, I would rather see 12 beer truck drivers wearing black and red than the current collections of miscreants, misfits, and criminals. I would much rather support a team that goes 1-81, loses by an average of 40 points a game, and yet somehow manages to stay off the police blotter.
I've said all along that if Paul Allen and Bob Whitsitt field the same collection of players next October, I'm done with the Trailblazers. I love the team and I love the city, but I'm not about to accept the same group of sex abusers, druggies, and immature, pampered thugs. I may even become a (gulp) Rockets fan. After all, they'll have a new arena, and as long as their new uniforms are an improvement over the current pajamas (and what wouldn't be?), why not root for the home team? Besides, I've managed to become an Astros and a Texans fan, so perhaps becoming a Rockets fan wouldn't be a stretch.
Is it too much to ask for the professional athletes who make untold millions to at least be good citizens? I don't expect them to be smart, or funny, or articulate (though those are all admirable qualities), but I don't think it is too much to expect them to conduct themselves in a manner that any law-abiding, morally upright citizen could applaud. Or is it?
Memo to Paul Allen and Bob Whitsitt: I know I'm not the only one who feels this way. How long are you going to allow a once-proud franchise to remain a laughingstock? Or do you really NOT care?