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Top shelf athletics, like the NBA and Portland Trail Blazers, are a study in marketing.

More than wins and losses, the NBA Experience draws the crowd. Except the crowd doesn’t know this at first.

True fans show up and buy tickets to watch a game played better than anywhere in the world they’ve seen it played.

A win sends them out of the Coliseum, Rose Garden, Moda Center with an “I’ve seen the best players to ever play” feeling to share.

Until the next game they see.

After a loss the questions start.Then you hear things like, “We’ll get them next time,” or “They got lucky.”

Winning seasons lead to playoffs, either a one and done series or a deep run ending with the O’Brien Trophy paraded up Broadway.

Forty years ago that parade idled up Portland’s main drag in a party for the ages.

Call it lightning in a bottle.

The faces in that crowd looked ecstatic, even blissful.

This was a coming out party, a coming of age gathering of huge proportion, one of many on the horizon that never happened.

Sports have that effect. Win once and your a champion forever. There’s hope, then expectation, then the realization we can settle for whatever comes next.

Dreams of eternal victory dip on that horizon to a more measured reality, one every man or woman who ever stepped into the arena of competition for anything worthwhile understands: You can’t win ’em all.

Sometimes the best effort just isn’t good enough.

Veteran sports fans know this whether their team is local or thousands of miles away.

As long as you see a winning effort there’s hope.

Diehard fans carry the flame in excess. Never up or down, all they want is effort.

They show up for effort because it rejuvenates them.

Like a life force flipping an internal switch, a winning effort from favorite Portland Trail Blazers shines a light in dark places.

Lost the game, but didn’t they look good? Came out on the down side but look at those stat lines.

Winning seasons keep dreams alive; losing seasons kill the soul.

Doubt replaces elation and this is where the NBA experience matters most.

Bad teams playing bad games do not add up to a bad night out.

Fire and smoke introductions along with rock concert sound levels and the biggest, clearest, video screens this side of IMAX pump feeling way up.

Halftime shows of half court shots to win a car, beautiful women dancing like your private harem make a great night out. Score for you.

Court side seats, private suites, and Lexus level feasts give the nose bleed section something to aspire to.

Even the cheapest seats in the glamorous sports palaces give everyone a chance to mingle in the concourse.

Just like every champion puts on their pants one leg at a time, lace up their shoes one foot at a time, fans all enter and leave through the same doors.

That’s how the NBA experience works to keep you coming back, keeps you engaged.

Turn against your favorite team, no matter the league, at your won risk.

They won’t know the difference, but you’ll feel a new hole growing bigger every year in your gut.

Ignore your rooting interest and you’ll be sorry. The blank face, the pale skin, you’ll get sick.

Stats won’t matter, conferences cease to exist, and before you know it, so will you.

Before you call the Portland Trail Blazers losers, look in the mirror.

Does your effort match their effort? Are you up to their standards?

Go ahead and jump on another bandwagon. Start over with someone new and it’ll never be the same.

Learn from Laker fan, Celtic fan, Bulls fan.

Even Cavs fans have lessons to teach.

About David Gillaspie
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