Not sure how this’ll translate, but I’m going to root for two NBA teams this year. I realize that this means that I will be being disloyal to the Portland Trail Blazers, the team I’ve followed my entire life, but they deserve it. I’ve stuck by them in the lean years; we used to go see them at the Memorial Coliseum back before they were any good at all, a new franchise that always had the Rookie of the Year but no veterans and no discipline and no hope. I’ve triumphed with them: I actually left the room during Game 6 of the 1977 finals so I wouldn’t jinx the final moments of the game, 55 howling suburbanites screaming for Philly blood and me in the Stark’s backyard with my fingers and toes crossed. They got really bad right after that, then good again in the mid 1980s and early 1990s, only to be thwarted by Detroit’s mini-dynasty and Chicago’s major one. And I stuck by them in the last few years, the “Jail Blazer” era, when we went through a succession of unlikable unmanageable prima donnas and troublemakers and knuckleheaded decisions by management.

But I cannot root for them anymore, not wholeheartedly. This is NOT because we failed to make the playoffs for the first time in two decades this year, and it’s NOT because we just traded two fairly good role players for aging headcase Nick Van Exel, nor is it even really because I never got over the way we rotated our logo 90 degrees to make it “cooler,” only to achieve the opposite effect. No, none of those things.

It is because my heart has been stolen by another team, the gritty overachieving Milwaukee Bucks. Michael Redd, he of the square head and the deadly shooting touch! Lurch-like fellow Daniel Santiago, who will probably start again now that we lost Brian Skinner to the Celtics! Tiny rookie point guard T.J. Ford last year, slicing up defenses like birthday cake, only to suffer a season-ending (but hopefully not career-ending) spine injury! And the guy I think should have been Coach of the Year, Terry Porter, who went to college up here at Wisconsin-Stevens Point, was on the Trail Blazers for the resurgence, and managed to take this team of nobodies to the playoffs when every single pundit had us slated for a bottom-five finish!

My old team is still strong in my heart but my new team is just as strong right now. This is madness, I’m torn between two lovers unless I can learn to EXPAND MY HEART like the Grinch on Christmas morning and love them both equally, tragically, ecstatically, unwisely, too well. Pray for me, Freaky Triggers, pray like you’ve never prayed before.