I live in a crappy neighborhood.
Yes, outer southeast Portland is the gas station men’s room of our fair city. My family’s been burglarized twice. My little brother’s bike lock was cut and his bike was stolen the day before yesterday from a rack at David Douglas High School. Two years ago, I woke up to a shotgun blast as the neighbor next door, and I mean right over the fence, killed himself after murdering his wife. Their son moved into the house and started a meth lab not two weeks later. On garbage day this week, someone actually stole our cracked 5-gallon recycling buckets off the curb, with the plastic and glass still in them. It’s a pattern.
On a related topic, the Portland Trail Blazers have been busy the last few weeks. Since today is the day veterans report to training camp, Blazer players have been filtering back into town. And immediately, we hear about them screwing up.
Stud forward Rasheed Wallace was ticketed, and his 1997 Mercedes was towed, because he was driving without insurance or a driver’s license. Weed addict and high-flying swingman Qyntel Woods was ticketed again for the same thing, after getting in trouble in April for driving 92 miles per hour through the Terwilliger Curves in an Escalade. That Escalade is now in lock-down, because Woods’ new license was suspended when he missed a court date in July.
And then there’s Damon Stoudamire, of course. There’s no real reason to go over the whole metal detector spiel again, but let it be known that this guy’s been in trouble for weed more than Afro Man and Tommy Chong combined.
I’ve met a few folks during the time I’ve served in southeast Portland, mostly at the dive bar around the corner. Most of them don’t have driver’s licenses. And insurance? Don’t be silly! Who can afford insurance when there’s swill to be quaffed? Really, the police around here have other things to worry about.
Sports folks have been harping on the Blazers, saying they need to clean up their act. Blazer owner Paul Allen cleaned house in management this summer, bringing in a couple of proven entities in president Steve Patterson and general manager John Nash. They have hired Jerome Kersey, a Blazer from the “good ole days,” to police their players a little. So far, all this new group of dudes has done is release a 25-point “promise” to Portland, a bunch of meaningless words coupled with virtually no action.
The Blazers have made no trades. Instead, they’ve let arguably their three most law-abiding players skip town. The troublemakers they promised would be gone by now are still here. Personally, after all the years of new faces every season, I’m not concerned. I am worried that this new management team will end up having none of the trade savvy Trader Bob Whitsett had, though. These guys haven’t done a damn thing. And Kersey? He’s been on the job for two months, and these stupid problems keep coming up. As a glorified probation officer without the power of the law behind him, Kersey is surely in a tough seat. But this is a guy who had problems of his own as a player, messing with underage girls in Utah. Seems like a hollow hire.
The point I’m trying to make is that with all this talk about teams mirroring their community, about fans being able to relate to players, about people cleaning up their act, Portlanders are missing one serious point. The Blazers are a perfect team for the fans of southeast, and the rest of town could relate, too, if they’d just open their eyes.
When Wallace was pulled over and ticketed a few weeks ago, I heard a guy in the bar say, “Serves him right.” Another patron answered back, “Jeff, wasn’t your car towed last week for no insurance?” And the dude grumbled and sat back down.
Weed? I’ve seen people walking down the street and a baggie of dope falls out of their jacket. I ran up to a guy I was following and gave him back a sack of dirt he’d dropped while shuffling ahead of me. He looked like he really needed it. There are lots more examples.
So, start thinking about the Blazers in a different way. So they drive Escalades and Hummers; you southwest folks can identify, right? They like to play video games and listen to hip-hop; that’s perfectly normal in northeast Portland. They go out on the town, flashing their bankroll; sounds like every other person in northwest Portland. And they keep screwing up, lowering expectations, making us feel sorrier and sorrier for them, just like the rest of Portland feels sorry for outer southeast Portland.
Look, they’re your team, Portland. Quit stabbing them in the back and learn to accept. Love conquers all.