My buddy Ray and I recently started an exercise to flex our creative muscles: We’re giving each other writing prompts each Sunday and publishing the results on Friday. The only catch? A self-imposed 500-word limit. This week’s prompt: Why am I such an irrational sports fan?
I attended my first Blazers game in kindergarten–late 1988, maybe early 1989–back when I was most impressionable and my mind most malleable. My Dad and I sat on a wooden bench in the final row of the Memorial Coliseum, a tinderbox full of passion and noise and glee and pride and so much more. I don’t remember who won or lost, but I do remember the crowd: Loud, proud, engaged, occasionally enraged, from the opening tip to the final horn. I remember thinking that the Coliseum’s glass facade might shatter if the crowd roared much louder, and I loved that these grown-ups cared as much about something as I did cereal box prizes.
And that was it: I became a Blazers fan. It wasn’t a conscious choice, not like choosing a retirement plan or figuring out the best route during rush hour. The Blazers were now my team, and that was that. Even when they let me down—and they always did—finding another hobby that wouldn’t leave me emotionally crippled never entered my mind. I was stuck, for better or worse–usually both, often in the same game. You can’t be heartbroken if you’re not in love.
So, there’s that question: Why? Even after weeks of reflecting and writing and contemplating and philosophizing … I don’t know. That’s just how I’m wired. It’s like asking why I breathe or why I eat. I don’t feel like I have a say in the matter.
Then again, I’m not sure I’d do anything differently, even if I did have a say (and, again, I don’t). Because being a sports fan, especially in a tight-knit town like Portland, is like plugging into the community’s power grid. Wherever you go, you feel that current surge through every facet of daily life.
Perhaps someone asks about last night’s game when they see your Blazers jacket on the train ride to work. Sometimes, you walk into Subway, only to learn that the Blazers’ starting center just depleted the store’s meatball supply with a hefty lunch order. Maybe you wax whimsically about the Timbers’ newest Argentinian import while downing a pint at the neighborhood pub. Even when they’re not on the pitch, in the arena, or on the TV, they’re as much a conversation starter as the weather or traffic.
In following my teams, I feel connected to something bigger than myself. I feel connected to my Dad, who introduced me to the Blazers and came around on the Timbers during their magical 2013 run. I feel connected to my friends, who cheer with me in the stands and drink with me at the sports bar. I feel connected to my community, which supports these teams with an energy that has long drawn suspicion and awe from the rest of the country in equal measure. Here and now, though, the the fan experience is both wholly personal and nigh universal. When we’re rocking the same colors, it’s not about you or I or them or the bridge or the divide; it’s about us. It’s about the collective energy we draw from the grid.