Jones on the NBA brought the heat with the idea for NBA Stadium Blog Day. I’d give him a fist bump if I could. Not just for the idea but because it leads to some original posts during the always quiet September. A lot of people in the blogosphere or dropping knowledge left and right…I wasn’t invited to the dance but I’m crashing it with an underaged woman.
13 years ago the Rose Garden came into my life and changed it up. From 1995 to 2005 it was my domain for all the rollercoaster ride known as being a Portland Trail Blazer fan. From PJ to Dunleavy, Cheeks to KP I was in there. From JR Rider and Gary Trent to Vashon Lenard and Wesley Person. Even the wonderful bench duo of Matt Carroll and Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje.
My favorite Rose Garden moment? 1997 when the Bulls came to town. I think I broke fan-law #1 when I openly rocked my old school Michael Jordan jersey (with the Chicago in cursive). I didn’t care, Chris Dudley was taking a backseat that night this was my hero here. It wasn’t exactly the game (although watching MJ was amazing). It was what took place afterwards. Nothing short of a modern miracle, I somehow managed to get a picture with Michael Jordan. I had backstage passes (before the times when they carted you to that 5 foot box and made you stand there like sheep) so I was standing in the hallway the whole time. Phil came out, Scottie came out and I shook their hands and got pictures. To say I was shy would be the understatement of the year. And then MJ came out. There were literally men surrounded him as he walked down towards the bus. Somehow, someway my mom snuck in there and convinced him to take a picture with me. So I shook his hand and we took it and it took off. Still the best experience of my life.
To continue talking about the Rose Garden, I’ll say this. I don’t think there is a better experience than being in the Rose Garden when that place is rocking. The amount of passion in that arena at times is unbelievable. You could ask anyone, during the 2000 era the Rose Garden was off the charts. The ‘Beat LA’ chants. The roar gives me goosebumps thinking about it. The crowd chanting ‘DE-FENSE’ while the video board showed various players fist bumping to the beat (sooo cheesy). Probably the last great moment that I experienced was in 2003 during that Dallas series. That’s the last hurrah that I experienced of a rocking Rose Garden. As depressing as that Game 3 loss was (can’t describe how much I hated Dirk I think he had like 40) the Game 4 blowout and Game 6 win were unbelievable. The atmosphere….man. Thinking about it now and watching the Blazer home games from last year…I get a hint of sadness. It’s a tough pill to swallow realizing that I haven’t been able to go to a home Blazer game in a couple of years. I’m jealous of the middle school and high school kids getting to experience another era of great Blazer basketball at the Garden. For one I know they won’t be able to truly appreciate it…I know I sure didn’t. Not only that…but seeing the Garden re-born in my eyes after I watched it’s death is not easy. Make no mistake about it, the Blazers era from 2003 to 2007 was demoralizing in every single sense of the word. My last two years of living in Portland before going to college were smack at the beginning. And to see what the Garden had become was sad. Going off to college, the Blazers were a mess. A hot mess. I was still going but it was different. It was ok to be late. I even left early a couple times. Seeing the Garden last year was definitely like seeing your ex-girlfriend get super hot…except she’s still in love with you but you’re in a different state and she doesn’t do long distance relationships. Pain-ful.
My heart and soul still remains in the Rose Garden. Granted I haven’t graced the building for a Blazer game in a few years, but it’s still there. I believe the task of the day was to remember our favorite NBA stadium experiences…there’s too many to narrow it down to just one. It’s hard to explain the Rose Garden. Obviously it’s the least majestic of the NBA Garden’s. Boston and Madison Square would probably spit on it if they were humans. Sure, it’s a big ugly egg-shaped mess on the outside. Also the cost of food at games….ridiculous. You better eat before you head down to the Rose Garden unless you want to drop $20.
There’s so much more to remember that I can’t really narrow it to one. The random times when the Hippie would show up at the Garden. The Dancing Black Lady who for years has been rocking that hair, wearing those outfits and doing that dance to her song. Literally…she would wait for that song to come on, do her thing and the camera’s would always find her. The Blazer Dancers doing the same routines year after year. The Blazer Stunt Team aka the bald Asian guy giving out free pizza. The annoying nature of the in-arena host Blazer Todd. Everyone chanting Sheed when he’d shoot a three or catch in the low post (yes he did do this). Desperately trying to catch a head or wrist band from a player. The only time I ever succeeded was Jeff McInnis’ headband (which I still have although I just use it as mine now) and Derek Anderson’s wrist band. In case you were wondering, I really had my heart set on ‘Z-BO’ or ‘BONZ’. And I know I just waxed nostalgic but it had to be done.
I talk about a lot of the positives, but there was a lot of personal heartbreak in that arena. I mean for pete’s sake the first game played in the building was a loss to the then expansion Vancouver Grizzlies. Let’s not talk about the countless nights I silently road in the car with my mom hating Western Conference stars. And I mean I hated them. Name one and I’m sure if I thought long and hard enough I could recall a moment where they made me want to tear up (I was young give me a break). The painful playoff losses…and the entire Patterson/Nash era. Yuck. The main reason I’m still not in love with Kevin Pritchard? That stint where he was interim head coach. Yes I’m still bitter about that, they could have waited to fire Mo. Those games were just painful.
I wish I could talk about the Blazers at the Memorial Coliseum…but I can’t. I was too young. I went to the games in my mom’s lap, but I’d have a better shot at remembering my dreams than Clyde Drexler dunking on someone. My memories of the red and black playing in the old glass building are as close to non-existant as Tara Reid. For pete’s sake I managed to fall asleep during every game of the 91 Finals. And for some reason I remember the Hippie.I do know this: the Memorial Coliseum was bar none one of the loudest, most rocking arenas in the NBA. Rip City was no joke. If you look at any footage from back in the day it was LOUD. Louder than Arco Arena on it’s best day. In it’s current stage…it’s a relic. It went from the palace of Rip City and Blazermania to forgotten. It’s sad to see what it’s become. The history is still there…I mean you walk around the concourse and you’ll still see the pictures hanging up. All the threats of tearing it down and building a who knows what (Home Depot?). I guess the word to describe it now is just cavernous. Almost always half-empty. The state moved the Basketball State Championship from there to Mac Court in Eugene because the building was always empty. They moved the Les Schwab Invitational to the University of Portland from the Memorial Coliseum because it was always empty. I mean…it’s the home of the Cheerleading and Dance state finals now. Come on.
So that’s my word.