By Bruce Garlinghouse, Staff Commentary
I have two confessions.
One, I hate the Portland Trailblazers. There, I said it.
Since I'm a loyal Utah Jazz fan, this should be obvious.
The teams have a checkered past, dating back to their meeting in the 1992 Western Conference Finals. The Trailblazers won the series 4-2, eventually losing to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in the NBA Finals.
Seven years later, and after losses to the Chicago Bulls in the NBA Finals in back to back years, the Jazz were ousted by the Blazers in the second round of the playoffs in 1999 and then again in 2000.
I was 10 years old at this point. Fandom is born and deeply rooted at that age because you're becoming old enough to understand the meanings behind all of the expletives pouring out of your dad's mouth, but still young enough to cry if your team loses.
Interestingly enough, crying becomes OK again when you're a grown man. But I suppose after fathering four boys, raising them to be Jazz fans and then having your heart ripped out year after year as the team consistently underachieves in the playoffs, a man has earned a few tears.
And as your loyalty to a team continues to grow, so does the hatred for any team that repeatedly foils its plans of winning.
So grew and was set, my hatred for the Blazers, despite my unconditional love for Arvydus Sabonis, the greatest passing center to play the game.
All of the mixed emotions attached to seeing your team play as a visiting fan were doubled when entering to the Rose Garden Monday night.
On the one hand, I was excited to see the Jazz play live because I hardly even get to see them on television.
But on the other, all of the shit you receive from home fans is royally frustrating. Most of their jeers are more a drunken muddling of curses and Mormon jokes. Seeing as I'm not Mormon this entertained me more than offended me.
On top of all that, Trailblazers fans are the absolute worst. Any chance of civil sports dialogue is thrown at the window after the first round of Widmer I.P.A's. Being a small market team in a town that has had only one professional sports team for the last 30 years until the arrival of the Timbers, their love and loyalty for all things Rip City is both irrational and annoying especially because the Trailblazers have barely touched relevancy in the last decade.
Now for my second confession: I don't hate the Trailblazers and their fans as much I used to.
When pen is put to paper, the similarities between the Jazz and the Trailblazers are glaring.
Both teams fell to the almighty Michael Jordan and the Bulls in the NBA Finals.
Both teams have had their fair share of heartbreak recently:
• Trailblazers fans had to watch Roy's knees crumble, and his promising career turn from "what could be" to "what could have been."
• Greg Oden. Enough said.
• Last year, the Jazz front office let Deron Williams' big ego - and even worse haircut - force out Jerry Sloan, a future Hall of Famer and one of the most beloved men in the state.
• Williams was traded, Tyrone Corbin became head coach and now the Jazz are looking at another year without making the playoffs, as are the Blazers after recently firing Nate McMillan and trading fan favorite Gerald Wallace.
But still, Jazz fans continue to fill Energy Solutions Arena for home games, purchase season tickets and buy jerseys of players that probably won't even be on the team in three years.
And that's exactly what happens here. Fans still fill the Rose Garden even though a chance for the playoffs is a long shot. With last night's game on the line, even though the outcome had no real bearing on the future, fans still truly cared, cursing at every missed opportunity, telling me to sit down with every Jazz score.
Being the fan of a small market team is hard. When it's good, it is really good. And when its bad, holes might get punched in walls.
But it's a beautiful opportunity to connect with a city and the people that live in it. Every win not only shows up in the standings, but also in the hung over face of someone who celebrated too hard or the 10-year-old boy who, without caution, jumps head first into fandom.
The Jazz won. I was happy and Trailblazers fans weren't.
But they'll be back for the next game and for that I don't hate them quite as much.