Originally written on Oregon Sports News  |  Last updated 11/20/14
One closet door flew off its hinges when an active player said, "I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay." The last sentence defines the sort of fan you are. You either react in horror and break out a bible verse, or wish Jason Collins the best for next season. How would Portland fans react if he made his announcement to the Oregonian as a Blazer? They'd name a street named after him? Maybe a parade? It's the Portland way, man. The Trail Blazer faithful would line the parade route from Cesar Chavez Avenue to MLK and finish on Drexler Drive at the Rose Garden. Portland would gather in Pioneer Square and roar their approval loud enough to echo from Gresham to Beaverton, from Vancouver to Lake Oswego. It worked for Greg Oden, sort of. Portland cheers a big man who can walk and run. They know how fragile they are. From Bill Walton to Mychal Thompson to Sam Bowie, including Arvydas Sabonis and Oden, their wheels don't have a run flat option. Injuries are part of the game, just ask Russell Westbrook and Blake Griffin. Behavior is part of the game too, a part Portland knows too well. And yes, it's usually weird. After Brooklyn Nets coach P.J. Carlesimo left Portland, the enduring image was his bearded face barking instructions. If he had yelled them out of the first round of the playoffs during his three years, he might have been around longer. The screaming stopped when he coached the Golden State Warriors and irked Latrell Sprewell with his style. Fans understand how the hand is part of the ball, but Sprewell took it further. He decided his hands were part of Carlesimo's neck during a practice. A review of the event makes you wonder how Rutger's former coach Mike Rice didn't get throttled when he opened his mouth. Blame the polite nature of New Jersey and lack of a Sprewell. Some choking probably happened when police discovered millionaire athletes on the highway with a pop can weed pipe. Students in college dorms across Oregon rolled their door-towels a little tighter after that news. Another towel played a role during a Blazer vs. Laker game when Rasheed Wallace whipped one at Sabas during a timeout. Bill Walton said of that moment, "It was one of the lowest moments of my life. If I was any kind of a man, I would have got up from that broadcast table and walked across the court and punched Rasheed Wallace in the nose. But I let Sabonis and the game of basketball and the human race down that day." An NBA game lasts forty eight minutes in regulation, the memories last a lifetime. Fans love their teams for better or worse, that's part of the deal. If players leave the court and spiral down with destructive behavior, they violate the fan-team contract. Take another look at Jason Collins before you pass any judgment. By all fair standards he's one of the good guys, one to cheer for.
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