Where the Rose City and Rip City meet: remembering a devoted fan
I was one of the fortunate people to grow up in the golden era of the Portland Trail Blazers. I traded Buck Williams, Kevin Duckworth, Clyde Drexler and Terry Porter cards with my friends at lunch – cards that arrived at my house inside a loaf of Franz bread. While I wasn’t alive for the Championship win in 1977, I was born and raised in the wake of the still pulsing Blazer mania that swept our state, and enthusiasm that transformed our Beloved Rose City into Rip City USA. Despite the rise and fall of fan support throughout the years that followed our single championship win, my love for the team and my recognition of the important role the Blazers play in the identity of our city has never wavered. Seven short months ago a remarkable woman reminded me that the Portland Trail Blazers have meant this much to so many, not because they were once a champion team, and not because some of the greatest players in the NBA have played in our uniform, but because this team is a part of our city, a part of our history, a part of each of us.
Louise (1917-2007) moved to Portland as a newlywed in the 1940s. As so many before and after her have, she fell in love with the Rose City and devoted her life to making Portland a more beautiful and more livable home to all who call it so. In the 70s she was thrilled to find herself captivated by our beloved Blazers and was an enthusiastic fan for over 35 years. A woman of fierce devotion, she became an avid watcher of the team and was known to pawn theater tickets off on friends in order to stay home and watch important games. An advocate primarily of music and literature, Louise had only one small television in her Northeast Portland home, which was rarely turned on except to tune in to a game. Her love of the Blazers perhaps paled only to her love of Portland, though I believe that to Louise the two were inseparable. She often discussed the politics of sports with friends and family, stating firmly that the Blazers were an asset to the city and a source of pride for Portlanders.
She maintained an active interest in the team always, believing as so many of us do that the Trail Blazers are as much a part of Portland as Powell’s, as Nike, as eating elephant ears at Saturday Market, as rain. While lying in a hospital bed in the final days of her life, she showed her true colors – red, white and black: she looked at me with tired eyes and asked: “Before I go, I would like to know… Who did the Blazers choose with their number one draft pick?” “Greg Oden, Grandma,” I said. A smile crept across her face as she slowly nodded. “Good choice.”