In my wayward journalism career, forays into sports have produced mixed results.
I once wrote an impassioned column for one of Portland’s weeklies on the premise that Maurice Cheeks was the Trail Blazers’ first black coach. As I discovered by 10 a.m. the morning after publication, he was not. Here at Portland Monthly, I asked local poets to compose verses paying tribute to Gerald Wallace, briefly a Blazers cult figure. I considered this an innovative approach to the subject. The team traded Wallace the day we went to press.
Come to think, our sports coverage may be mildly cursed. By my count, we’ve featured 20 Timbers players or coaches in preseason coverage over the past three years. Four remain with the team. We recently worked up a nice little human-interest story on two amateur triathletes—then one broke her leg in a cycling accident.
Still, we try, motivated more by sheer enthusiasm for Portland’s teams and athletes than by knowing what’s good for us. We print the magazine long before readers see it—a scary prospect when it comes to sports, a cruel realm of injuries and sudden player transactions. When we send a sports article to press, I spend two weeks wondering who’s going to blow an ACL, tweet a nude selfie, or demand a trade to Cleveland (actually, no one does that) before our story comes out.
Occasional surprises make it all worthwhile. We previewed last year’s Portland Thorns debut with predictions that our new women’s soccer team would charm fans and maybe win a title. They did both. We looked forward to this Blazers season with guarded hope, little dreaming that they could be one of the best teams in the NBA. (Though, of course, right after I drafted this column, they went down in flames against Memphis.)
Maybe, in this one area, exuberance is more important than analysis. Sports are supposed to be about fun. And fun is about the moment: when Damian Lillard marauds into the paint with one second left against Detroit; when Diego Valeri flicks the ball off his boot, off his chest, and into the back of New York’s net.
These next few months could become a great moment in Portland sports history. The Timbers gear up for a premier international competition. The Thorns are back with a new rock-star goalkeeper, Nadine Angerer. And the Blazers have Rip City rocking. (At press time, at least.)
What will happen? Who knows? As fans and proud Portlanders, let’s just savor our sporting spring, in all its unpredictablity. For Portland Monthly’s modest contribution, we offer a preseason guide to elevating your Timbers fandom. Win or lose, we’re always happy to cheer along.
(Sorry in advance, Futty Danso ...)