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Mike Rice was the Portland Trail Blazers’ crazy uncle

Screenshot via Portland Trail Blazers YouTube channel
Screenshot via Portland Trail Blazers YouTube channel

Portland Trail Blazers fans have rarely had it easy. My generation in particular has taken many knocks: There was the end of Arvydas Sabonis’s knees, the Jail Blazers (most of whom were in legal trouble for a now-very-legal-in-Oregon vice), the end of Brandon Roy’s knees, and yes, I know we took Greg Oden (RIP Greg Oden’s knees — so many knees lost in this fair city) over Kevin Durant. (I get it, but seriously, any team with that lineup would have made the same decision — we needed a big man. And yes, please, I’ve heard the Jordan–Bowie thing, just give it a rest.)

But this year felt like turning a corner. After losing all but one player from the 2014–15 starting lineup, the Blazers made it to the second round of the playoffs (our favorite spot!). We even held our own against the Warriors. It was a pretty damn good year. It almost felt like we caught a break.

And then, we were dealt another blow: Mike and Mike, the Trail Blazers’ TV broadcast duo, were axed last week. Without warning, without reason, amid no scandal, with time left on their contracts, and incredible fan appeal, the beloved voices of Portland were cut. (Only to be replaced by a Sonics commentator. Insult to injury much?) Mike Barrett, a hometown boy with many years left in his career, will find a new job easily. It’ll hurt when we hear him call the game elsewhere, but he’s very talented and will be fine.

But then there’s Mike Rice. (Mike Rice Sr., to be clear.) Over his 25 years with the Blazers, the elder Rice became the unofficial mascot of the team — maybe the city. He was the most unabashedly biased fan of us all. He was not the best play-by-play voice; he would ramble, misidentify players, and chastise the refs. But he was a fan; the Blazers could do no wrong, and he loved the team as much as the rest of us. So we weathered — really, enjoyed — his nontraditional style for the following reasons:

  • He is the only broadcaster to ever be ejected from a game. It was in 1994, for criticizing Steve Javie. Rice has said they still don’t speak.
  • He once yelled at a ref to watch a replay because he was sure he got the call wrong.