About a week ago, the Blazers played the Miami Heat at the Rose Garden. The Heat are a juggernaut, a dizzying collection of unfathomably talented basketball players led by the impossible LeBron James. James is the best, most famous player in the world. If you don't know who he is, you're trying too hard. Your mother and a toddler could talk about LeBron James. A baby duck and someone who's been dead since 1973 could talk about LeBron James. LeBron James is all of the Monstars from Space Jam and his team are NBA champions. Out of everyone who tried to play basketball last year (your dad and his friends, North Medford High School, the Sacramento Kings) the Heat were the best at it. The Heat will probably be the best again this year. They're the disquieting future of professional basketball, and they lost to the Portland Trail Blazers 92-90. We beat Miami. Yes, we.
The win won't end up meaning that much—it's a beautiful memory, but this Blazers season is going to end up like Brandon Roy's career, dazzling highs eventually punctuated by exhausting disappointment. Still, I was there, losing my for-god-damn mind. When that game ended I was hanging over a guardrail bellowing like an ape while the crowd erupted like a choir full of jet planes. I hugged strangers. People I hated for their small talk just minutes before became beloved for loving the same thing as me.
I don't know what it means to be a Portlander, but I know I think about it and I know I'm conscious of it. I know most people are dubious of most people. I know that I get petty and judgmental when I see some gorgeous hipster prince spending his parents' money at a bar that once regularly housed my boozed-up grandpa, making his ghost listen to the Magnetic Fields. Sometimes I see a Washington license plate on the back of a car that's fucking up my Slurpee run and I want to take that license plate, cut the driver's head off with it, put it in a box, and make their significant other open that box in a desert next to Morgan Freeman. There are people in the suburbs passive-aggressively praying for you. Beaverton isn't Portland, Portland isn't Oregon, Gresham isn't anything—except that night in the Rose Garden. That night, hugging strangers, while some dumb top-40 hit was drowned out by uncut mirth, I didn't give a fuck where you laid your head down to sleep, or what was in it when you did. I wasn't concerned with how you fit into my definition of what made Portland into PORTLAND. The win was merely a catalyst to explore this togetherness.
The Trail Blazers have been around since 1970, and while that's not old, that's old enough to remember that we're only living in a moment of time. If you shackle your definition of Portland to some de rigueur notion of cultural cachet, you're dooming yourself to a bitter future. It's better to celebrate the totality of our population, to find those moments when you can connect with people who were previously thought unconnectable. Know that Bill Walton is now an old man, and that hipster prince might end up a ghost in that same bar. That's why I say "we" when I talk about the Blazers, because it's better than never saying "we" at all. @IanKarmel