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The Trail Blazers Are Having a Moment

Damian Lillard’s 37-foot dagger is still reverberating one round later. No matter what happens the rest of this postseason, that will always matter to Portland.

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

I recently started going to therapy. And my therapist’s office? None other than FENWAY PARK, BABY—THE CRACK OF THE BAT, THE BRIGHT LIGHTS, TEDDY WILLIAMS HIMSELF.

No, I’m kidding. I really did start going to real, honest-to-Freud-ass therapy. At the age of 34, I’ll admit, I felt too young of a man and too old of a Jew to be taking my first foray into professional help—but a brining mix of overwork, undersleep, melted cheese, and double tequilas forced me to confront the reality that my depression and anxiety weren’t the emotional equivalent of a calf cramp I could just grit my teeth and leg out. I can tell you, talking to someone really helps. It really helps me, at least. It took me so long to start going because I always thought I was too smart for therapy, that there was was nothing that anyone could tell me that my brain hadn’t already screamed at itself a thousand times over to no end. I was like a coffee shop corkboard littered with aphorisms and platitudes like “It’s not about a diet, it’s about a lifestyle,” and “When someone shows you who they are, believe them,” and other witty little show ponies that have been trotted out so many times we forget they’re actually true.

They are true, though. Some of them. One such truth that I’ve been working to excavate out of the irony is that moments are important. Obvious, right? If you rolled your eyes reading it, fine. Whether through momentum or monotony, moments get blurred and smudged into one another, so beholden to what came before or what came after that they seem to stop mattering on their own. I’m starting to think they do, though.

I was alone, in my house, in Los Angeles; I was shouting. My mother was in Portland, in a hospital, humping the graveyard shift, exaltation booming through the walls of the nearby waiting room. Damian Lillard was in the Moda Center, 37 feet from the basket, mug so mean Meryl might play it in a movie. I landed at PDX two days after Dame hit his now-legendary “bad” shot, waved goodbye to the Thunder, and sauntered into the second round with his teammates, his family, his city swarming around him. Portland was buzzing, even 48 hours later. You didn’t even have to say what you were talking about; you had to say only where you were. I don’t say this to minimize tragedy or to unnecessarily aggrandize sport, but it was like a bizarro, sunshiney version of the Kennedy assassination.

For days I received text messages from friends and unknown numbers alike, congratulating me on the shot like my wife had just given birth. It would have felt like a completely alien experience, except I went through almost the exact same thing five years ago when Lillard hit a series-clinching 3-point shot over Chandler Parsons’s outstretched lacrosse stick of an arm. Twice in a lifetime would be enough, dayenu. Twice in a five-year span? Forget it.

Now, if this column were a tweet, here’s where you’d be subject to the replies of cold-oatmeal misanthropes ladling out stark realities. The Trail Blazers may have beat Houston, but then they went and lost to the Spurs and it wasn’t even close. Lillard ran Oklahoma City out of the building, but can’t catch his breath against the Nuggets. Is that what y’all celebrate in Portland? First-round victories? Rings, bro. Riiiinnnnngggggsssssssssss, bro. Lillard looked good making that shot; he’ll look even better making it for the Lakers next year. Here he is, hastily photoshopped doing just that, next to LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Jesus Christ himself—all resplendent in purple and gold.

I’m not sure of the right way to enjoy sports anymore. That’s not coming from a place of detachment; it’s coming from a place of confusion. Stats are more important than aesthetics are more important than story lines are more important than stats, and it seems like the only thing people really believe in is what they’re mad about other people doing. We’re up to our necks in information and interaction, but we wield both clumsily. I’m tired of being right; I just want to be happy, and that’s why I’m for the moments. It’s a platitude we’ve all rolled around in our heads, but I’ve taken it out and examined it, and listen, it’s true. I’m for the moments, and that’s why I love this Portland Trail Blazers team.

The shot over Paul George still matters even if we don’t win the championship. The four-overtime game still matters even if we don’t win another game against the Nuggets—ever. Dame and 0.9 seconds matters. Brandon Roy yanking his jersey out of his shorts matters. Rasheed fading away matters. Jerome Kersey and Buck Williams on a fast break matters. It blurs together. You can’t help it. But slow down, look at it—it matters. They may never hang a banner for the things that make you really love a team. I’m sure people are going to read this and tell me that this team doesn’t matter unless it wins a ring. They might say this entire column is sour grapes speculated upon up by a loser, but as sure as I am that I had butterflies in my stomach every single time I first kissed every single one of my exes, I’m just as sure that nothing could feel better than those moments I’ve spent with this team. People love to rain on your parade, but that’s all right; I’m from Portland, we’re used to throwing parades in the rain. Here’s another one.

Ian Karmel is the host of the All Fantasy Everything podcast and the head writer of The Late Late Show With James Corden.