I enjoy the almosts, and I think we all do. I am sadistically thankful for not drafting Michael Jordan and blowing three consecutive home games to the Pistons in 1990. I am grateful Uncle Cliffy played hot potato with that outlet pass in Game 6 against the Lakers and for our meltdown nine years later against a very different Lakers team in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals. But I don’t want to be just another fan whose moods undulate with the Blazers as they never seem to quite meet their great potential. I want to feel what it is like to be a Portland Trail Blazer experiencing these same tribulations. I want to be able to empathize with the plight of my team, my players. So last fall, I decided to embark on a new level of fandom—Method Fandom.
For those of you who are not familiar with method acting, it is when actors immerse themselves in their character’s persona. Daniel Day-Lewis famously prepared for his role in “My Left Foot” by spending all of his time on and off set in a wheelchair, being fed by crew members and speaking in his character’s dialect. This form of preparation for acting has produced some of the best actors in modern history, including Nicholson, Brando, and Vladi Divac. So if actors can perfect their craft by living as their character, feeling what it’s like to be them, why can’t a basketball fan perfect his craft by experiencing what his beloved team and players go through? I give you, Method Fandom: when a fan goes through life just like his or her favorite players.
To employ the concept of Method Fandom as a Trail Blazer fan, it could only mean one thing—enduring outpatient surgery and months of rehab before being able to return to not-quite-yourself on the court. I have always seen myself as a Nicolas Batum type ballplayer, someone who hustles on both ends of the floor and has a smooth three point shot that can regrettably be streaky. To try and understand why Nico has yet to break out and consistently meet his astronomical potential, I had four tiny cameras probe my right shoulder to repair a torn labrum before training camp began. Because of this surgery, I was out for all of pre-season and basically the first half of the regular season. I learned to use my left hand to write, flip off Bron Bron for his condescending smile, and do the chicken dance left wing style. My right arm atrophied, jealous of its counterpart and craving the loving slug of my cousin after an LA oop. Yet, after five months of solid rehab, I was ready to imitate Touchdown Jesus after a Rudy 3, both arms and all.
However, if you are a serious Blazers fan, you know things don’t work so seamlessly. Once a player has recovered from a major surgery, what must happen next? An unexpected surgery to an ailment that surfaces from Magic Kingdom! One week away from being able to do a back handspring, full tuck, round-off, layout, and just as the media was pronouncing the season will be saved because of my return, cartilage spontaneously combusted in my left knee requiring microfracture surgery. Sound familiar?
This time, the surgeon drilled three tiny holes into the cartilage deficient part of my knee to generate scar tissue to fill in the gap and act as a softer version of cartilage. I was so close to being the difference maker on the court for my Tuesday night basketball league, but alas, I was out for another 6-12 months. I’m currently four months into my rehab and can understand better than most fans out there what Mr. Oden has endured. I get losing all the muscle in your quads and hamstrings. I empathize with having to follow your doctor’s directions to “take it slow” and wait to run until your leg is strong enough. I know the path to full recovery is annoyingly long. Yet I also know Oden, like me, will return better, stronger, and more mentally tough than anybody anticipates.
I have been there. I have felt the pain. Weaned myself off percocet. Recovered only to have to recover once again. I know, like only a Method Fan can, that the Portland Trail Blazers can still achieve greatness, because I’ve lived it.
Are any of you method fans? Have you had both of your knees scoped only to return to work for a huge meeting a week later against the advice of all your clients? Have you tried to sneak weed onto an airplane by masking it in a leftover tinfoil crane from Montage? Share your stories and pay forward the madness of Method Fandom.
May this be a great year for my brothers in black, white, and red…I can finally say after 30 years of being your fan, I feel like part of the team.