Don’t hate me because I have connections.
Don’t fault me for spewing another “look at me” story about my big-time small-town sports writer’s life.
Don’t be upset because I planned three months ahead for Michael Jordan’s final visit to the Rose Garden.
And, most of all, please don’t blame me for having the night of my life Tuesday night.
All disclaimers aside, Tuesday’s Blazers-Wizards matchup was truly a night for the ages. A night that I can barely summarize into words, but also a night so spectacular that I’d be cheating myself and the readers if I didn’t at least share some of the fun.
More than just the spectacle of watching the best player in NBA history, Tuesday was my night to step onto the professional sports stage in a way I never had before. But I didn’t design it that way.
Due to the media frenzy surrounding the game, the Blazers were only able to grant the Hood River News one media pass. This meant that I was alone on sports’ biggest stage for the first time in my career.
I usually have Jim Semlor, our staff photographer, to back me up. He takes the pictures, I ask the questions. That’s the way I prefer it.
But that’s not how it happened Tuesday. I had to wing it as a one-man show. And, while I was still included in the V.I.P. media club, I didn’t even have permission to be on the floor during the game.
How’s a guy supposed to get pictures if he can’t even be on the sidelines? Plenty of persistence, that’s what.
It didn’t hurt that I arrived two hours before tipoff, either. In fact, the pregame festivities are what made Tuesday night the night of all time for this sports writer.
As I took shoot-around photos of the players — mostly the reserves — I got to talking to a couple guys who were guests of the Blazers.
Ivory Manning, a shooting coach based out of Las Vegas, and Carlos Maxwell, a personal friend of Blazer guard Jeff McInnis, took me under their wing and taught me everything I needed to know about the NBA lifestyle.
In exchange, I took a couple photos of them with their buddies. Jerry Stackhouse, Juan Dixon, Zach Randolph, Derek Anderson, Qyntel Woods and McInnis all shook my hand and said, “What up, Dave?”
A couple of them even went as far as to ask, “who’s this guy?” Manning and Maxwell backed me up and explained that I was just a small-town newspaper guy doing my job.
I don’t think any of these players would remember me from Adam the next time we cross paths. But, in that world, I would never expect them to. All I know is, I got to meet ‘em.
Manning and Maxwell asked me if I would send them the photos, saying, “don’t forget us, you hear?” They even said they would call me if any extra tickets ever showed up.
That would be a nice surprise, but just like the players, I don’t expect these guys to remember me next time they’re in town.
Tickets or no tickets, Carlos and Ivory already made my year by introducing me to the players most fans only dream about meeting.
That little two-hour primer gave me enough confidence to walk up to the Blazers’ Ruben Patterson and say “hey.” Only problem was, it was during the official warm-ups, and that is an apparent no-no according to NBA code.
Security promptly advised me of the rules, and I snuck off to my seat. Oh well, I guess I still have a few things left to learn.