Friday, March 16, 2012

Why You Shouldn't Feel Sorry For Blazer Fan Over The Greg Oden Release

So Portland waived Greg Oden today, the one-time first pick in the draft and this generation's Sam Bowie to Kevin Durant's Michael Jordan, and we are, of course, asked to feel badly about all of this. Oden's a nice guy and Portland Fan has suffered much, and no franchise should have a fan base that has to endure the two most monumental draft whiffs in NBA history.

But, well, I'm going to go the other way on this.

This is, after all, the same franchise that has lived high off the hog as the only game in town for 35-plus years, and has monopolized the sports dollars of an area that has grown unmistakably prosperous. Portland really could have had an MLB or NFL team by now; it hasn't, and you have to wonder if the Blazers have had something to do about that.

Next, the fan base. Yes, these folks pack the building and care way too much while giving the Blazers a home court advantage that extends beyond the travel and isolation... but that also means that they've come out for the Ruben Pattersons of the world, as well as the Brandon Roys. Only after the degenerates had run the asylum for years did Blazer Fan object enough to stop coming, and that, of course, let them to where they are today.

Which is the exact other direction, where you bring in a guy like Oden over Durant, as if the latter had any real character issues.

Finally, there's this. The Blazers' owner is Paul Allen. Allen made his fortune as the co-founder of Microsoft, and every mean thing you ever wanted to say about Bill Gates... goes for him, in spades. His vetunre capital fund, Vulcan Ventures, has managed to spread cash like paper all over the hemisphere, and after a few years of it, they cut off the companies that they worked with at the knees, all so Allen can go fund his next little toy. Whether that toy is the Blazers, the Seattle Seahawks, the Jimi Hendrix Museum, it doesn't really matter. The plain and short of it is that while Gates has gone full-bore into effective charitable causes, Allen has continued to chase dollars like a 12-year-old halfwit.

So what, I hear you say; a fool and his money should be parted, and Allen's doing all he can to do the manual lifting. What does it matter, really?

Except for this. In 2000, I joined one of Allen's start ups in Northern California. I really liked the job, the people I worked with, and our mission statement. We were going to free the world from Guitar Center, and if you know anything about the way that place works, and its fundamentalist wet dream mail order gear sidebar business, you'd know that this would be an unimpeachable good thing. We got our funding from Allen, executed the strategy perfectly, burned through the start-up money the way we said we would... and went from 2 full-time employees to 50, and back to 2, in the span of nine months. Because Allen decided that bridge funding for a second round just was not going to happen. For the simple reason that some of Allen's people decided he had enough toys, and this one had to go away.

Which meant that, thanks to believing the lies that Allen and his cronies told us, I had moved my wife and unborn first child to a part of the world where we knew no one. Then had the unspeakable fun of finding a new job in 2 weeks or less, in the teeth of the dot-com bust, because the man who was worth more than most nations could not direct his flunkies to provide for any kind of notice or severance pay while they went off to go spank their monkeys over a Hendrix museum. Just what a man with a six-month old baby and a single income family needs, really.

So, Portland Fan? I'd like to feel bad for you. I'd like to tell you that the fates have conspired you to watch broken-down centers (and, God help you now, Joel Pryzbilla for a second and even less mobile time) while Chicago and Oklahoma City get an inevitable two decades of thrills, playoff wins and championships from the men you passed up. I'd like to tell you that your situation isn't hopeless, that your ownership can change (whoops, just ran off another not to blame coach), and that your division could be had later on, if your young talent develops and stays healthy.

But I'd be lying.

Because you are basically the old-school Clippers, with maybe 5 to 15 more wins a year mixed in, and none of them meaningful. With a guy at the helm who does as much damage to the world as Donald Sterling, only with better press. Your young guys get hurt all the time, because karma exists.

And for as long as you have Johnny Venture Capital at the helm, that's all you deserve.

Lose, Blazers, lose. (And also, folks? Don't buy anything from Guitar Center or Musician's Friend. Moving on.)

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