After an improbable 8-game winning streak and a 10-2 start, I have a statement for my fellow Portland Trail Blazer fans: let’s sit back and enjoy the success.
It’s true that sports reporting has come very far since the days of radio and newspapers. Sports journalism, in some areas, is starting to resemble a science.
That makes it very tempting to dig as far as one can into the depths of every game, and it goes several layers. It begins with statements like, “Wesley Matthews had a great game against the Nets.” Then it’s, “he had 24 points and 6 rebounds.” Then it’s “he shot 9 of 13 from the field and 5 of 8 from three.” Then it’s, “his usage rate was 18.2%,” then “his effective field goal percentage was 88.5% and his true shooting was 86.5% and his offensive rating was 175 and his GameScore was 20.8.” PHEW!
I know this is useful, and maybe I’m bitter because I just don’t understand it all, but seriously… how much of this crap do we really need to know that a guy had a damn good game? Besides, stats are inevitably flawed because they can’t possibly take into account everything a player does on the court. It’s like taking a 240p video and yelling ENHANCE, hoping to catch a reflection of someone in a mirror 200 feet away.
Is there a stat for when a defender perfectly funnels his assignment into a trap that leads to someone else picking off a tough pass? Is there a stat for when someone’s playing so hard that their dunk invigorates the crowd, instantly making all of their team play that much better and the other team play that much worse? Can you give a guy 4 points for making a bomb that stops an 11-0 run? Those momentum-changing shots sure as hell mean a lot more than anything a guy does in garbage time.
To that end, we have people doing their best to pick apart the Blazers’ 10-2 start: they play terrible paint defense, they shoot too many threes, players are converting an unsustainable number of shots, their opponents are weak. You even have people who take ONE stat, minutes played, and suggest… in their HEADLINE… that because Blazer starters are playing 72% of the team’s minutes as opposed to, say, the Pacers’ 67%, that they will collapse as they did last season.
OK, fine. Ignore that the Blazers’ bench is about 4 ticks better than lasts’. Ignore that CJ McCollum will be making his way back in the next month or so. Ignore that they’ve been intentionally sticking to a 9-man rotation and leaving off two guys that got significant run last year. Really. It’s a frustrating proposition when a writer with an NBC-backed Internet platform gets to fling platitudes around like so many dinner rolls in a food fight.
More than that, it’s missing the point, at least a very important part of the point, of being a fan of a team.
Now I’m not saying to bathe in ignorance. Stats are fun. And they can be really helpful. But besides connecting with the players, following their ups and downs, and generally sticking through times both good and bad, part of the fun of being a fan is enjoying when they WIN. And for this team, an even bigger part of the fun is to look at the standings every day and see YOUR team right at the top.
And no, it hasn’t been one game, or two games, or three games. It’s been 12. That’s a decent chunk of time. And are there fans that deserve to see their team rattle off 8 in a row more than you Blazer fans? After seeing the face of the franchise deteriorate from one of the game’s best guards in his prime into a hobbling mess in just two short years? To see our other franchise player’s knees explode one after the other? To see the disgusting aftermath of trying to tie everything together when everything and anything went wrong?
Portland: we deserve this. We stuck through a lot of tough times. I wear my black-and-red Oden shirt to the gym without irony. And while the letters may be crumbling, my interest, my passion, my love for the Blazers is not. Now, early in the season, during this brief days-long rest before fighting another battle, they’re 10-2. They’re at the top of the pile. They’re looking down on everyone else from above.
Enjoy it. Relish it. Be like a little kid and brag to your buddies about it. Jump on Twitter and #8inarow about it. Go to the playground and bomb a 6-feet-from-the-line three and shout LILLARD about it. Because after the last few years, it’s really the least we can do to keep ourselves sane.
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