Like any good local publication it's fun to get competent fresh faced cool peeps to do guest articles. A couple months ago the good Steve Magnuson approached me with the offer to go to a show, analyze it, and then get back to me the results and like a good biologist he did just that. If you need more info on Steve and how he functions as a human definitely check out his edition of Good Funny People as he was featured earlier in the blog.
The Missing Minute – a Review of “The Blazerhood”
By Steve Magnuson
When I hear that basketball slam against the hardwood court, my keen game instinct takes over: that instinct is to sit politely and watch my brother play basketball. He taught me everything about basketball. Here is what you need to know about “The Beautiful Game”:
- Basketball Game: When two groups of hoop-owners accidentally put their hoops on the wrong side of the court. They fight each other to get the ball through their own hoops for basketball points. The struggle can last 1 hour.
- Basketball Points: An incentive system to get basketball players to put balls through the hoops. Works a lot like Safeway reward points.
- Basketball Winning: A basketball player’s job it is to win - no matter what! If you are not doing your absolute best to win basketball games, you are wasting everyone's time.
I was always a tall guy, so the world of basketball had its eyes on me. I do not play basketball, but it was always nice that they wanted me. People always asked “do you play basketball?” and the answer was always a “no” that confused or frustrated them.
I took a shot at wielding the basketball. In high school I signed up for a ragtag basketballing team. I headed to practice, uncoordinated and unconfident. The coach explained my job very clearly: I needed to block and defend, and reach to the heavens to get rebound balls. I would stand below that basket, reaching for the balls like mana coming down from the immortals.
I am proud to tell you that I touched that ball a few times and foiled a few plays on defense. Without me, who knows how many rewards points the other teams would have scored on our hoops? I did good by keeping basketball points at a very low level. Think about it – some of those basketball points would have probably gotten loose in the atmosphere and trapped all of the heat from the sun, creating a “not-in-my-house effect”. I am proud that I stopped all of those basketball points from tragically hurting our environment.
Unfortunately, height alone was not enough to keep me on the court. I just can't play. My swagger is about the level of Baby Huey. I would have looked more natural in a diaper and a blue bonnet than ball shorts and a sweatband.
That's what drew me to the show “The Blazerhood”. I don't use my height on the court. I use it to look over people's heads to watch stuff – basketball even. It's a viewing party of Blazer games paneled by comedians, sports people, and journalists. They comment on the live game, goof on web content, read books, tell stories, perform sketches, and give prizes. It's a real hootenanny. It’s time to put on my visitor's jersey and watch the game.
The Blazerhood is hosted by Dylan Reiff and Nick Walker. Dylan is an improvisor and a professional presenter. He has a flair for engaging audiences and building a joke. Nick has stage-tested experience as a comic. Dylan and Nick are standing in for my brother. They're out warming up on the court of comedy and basketball.
Jeremy Eli joins the starting lineup. We all know Jeremy “The Kid” Eli and love his comedianship and producership. Jeremy and Nick run a hot and popular open mic night at The Lamp. You can go ahead and credit some of my own quips to that comedy gym every Tuesday at The Lamp as well.
Clever cartoonist/comic Shane Hosea brought his own heat to the show as well. He is a Twitter cartoonist who created “Adventure Knight”, a project where Shane puts someone on Twitter in charge of a Knight's choose-your-own-adventure. He tweets the next step of the knight's adventures at the player, the player makes choices and Shane draws what happens next. Shane also comes off of the bench occasionally to do a slam dunk stand-up comedy/drawing show.
Mike Acker also hustled onto the show. He is a writer from the Willamette Week. Mike Acker calls the Blazers “a good, bad team.” While it is realistic to say that, it’s not getting much support in a town of believers.
Tonight's basketball game is happening at the Moda Center. The venue for The Blazerhood is “The Funhouse Lounge”, which is the venue’s original name. Funhouse Lounge never sold out for a few bucks to change it's name to “ZoomCare Comedy Center”.
Dylan and Nick have a lot of classic basketball jerseys proudly hanging from their booth. They are true fans of the game and not just the Blazers. Dylan starts to flex the soundboard for the 10-20 audience members watching. He has NBA Jam soundeffects. You could say he’s on fire.
Dylan introduces us to a cotton-stuffed “Little Dylan”. It's a stuffed doll version of Dylan wearing a Timberwolves jersey. It's a charming doll until Dylan shows the wiener hidden in it's shorts. Where is the Build-A-Bear that this thing came from?
The broadcast starts and immediately we get the first image of Damian Lillard. This image is of him, with the ball, and an eye towards the hoop – will he score? How dramatic. There are more Damian Lillard appearances during the commercials than there are Kim Il-Sung statues in North Korea.
The game starts, the Blazers make a 3 pointer. Nick turns up the broadcast volume, insisting that Mike Rice is brought on the show’s panel as well. While the Blazers work on the court, the crew makes their own play at Meyer's Leonard's “Blessed Forever” tattoo.
Suddenly, Jeremy lines up on the free throw line of jokes. He is ready to drop a doozy of a line. He dribbles the joke. Jeremy says “...well I guess that makes him an Arvidas Sabonified celebrity!” It's good!
Cut to commercial. Damian Lillard is relaxing in the Standard TV and Appliance Showroom. He is testing a massage recliner, looking like Abe Lincoln testing the marble chair at the Lincoln Memorial.
Jeremy asks “why would you pick the most athletic and active player on your team to try to sell a recliner?” I'll answer that question with another: why did The Rabbit want Trix? Because it sold the Trix. Because we got to be The Rabbit.
One of the audience members gets up for the Funhouse restroom, and on the way discovers “The Clown Room”. Imagine – you're in a new bar and you're looking for some restroom relief. You hit a corner and you are looked upon by a room full of clowns. It's a Coulrophobic nightmare. “If she doesn't like clowns then why is she watching the Atlanta Hawks?”, asks Jeremy.
Jeremy gives more and more wordplay jokes throughout the night. If each of Jeremy's groaners were worth 2 points, he would be beating the Blazers and the Hawks. John the superfan joins the audience wearing a sweatshirt with a blazing 90's logo. Nick passes John a trivia question (at eye level) – what dunk did Isaiah Rider use to win the 1994 NBA Slam Dunk contest? the East Bay Funk Dunk, of course. John's reward was a book called “Black Planet: Facing Race During An NBA Season”, a sociological look back at the Seattle Supersonics and that team's relationship to the people of Seattle and Tacoma. A book that important? Of course John already read that essential book. It was a classic Catch 22 where the basketball fan was nerdy enough to know the answer but too nerdy to appreciate the prize.
Now it's time for the halftime dancers, those dancers are the sketch comedy group, “Don't We Boys”, who are based out of Austin. Their sketches are tight, the sketches hit the comedy equivalent of that little red box on the back of that backboard.
The Blazers are losing to the Hawks. A basketball player's job is to score points to win the game – no matter what. The NBA has it written into every player's contract that the player needs to believe in magic endings. They need to squeeze all possible basketball out of every second on the game clock. “Eye of the Tiger” plays in the arena, sounding more like a desperate miracle spell rather than a jock jam.
A Blazers player knocks the ball out of bounds – or did the Hawks dribble it out of bounds? The Moda center is patched to the NBA replay room to review the difficult play. The replay room is a mission control room filled with review wizards in New Jersey. They are the next best thing to the pre-cogs in “Minority Report”. The hawkish reviewer eyes see that Atlanta dribbled the ball out of bounds – Blazer's ball.
The end of the game drags on and the action is so start and stop it's tough for The Blazerhood to jab in any more segments. The last minute especially stretches on forever.
Jeremy plugs his show “Minority Retort”. “Minority Retort” works to give a comedy stage for voices of color in Portland. Dylan immediately mentions that Nathan Brannon is also on the comedy calendar for the same night. Brannon, a comic of color, is recording a big comedy album on the same night of Jeremy's show. Conflicted and embarrassed, Jeremy has to come down on the side of “Minority Retort” and pretend like he had no idea Nathan was doing a recording.
The game has ended and another Blazer loss is on the books. After the buzzer, Nick and Dylan kick one more jam to play over the Funhouse speakers: “Roundball Rock” aka the “NBA on NBC” theme song. It's a song as familiar to me as “You Are My Sunshine”. Like “You Are My Sunshine”, “Roundball Rock” is a happy song and a sad song. I love its big major tones and also painful minor tones. The song lifts up the victory and celebration of the winners – but honors the loss and re-dedication of the losers. “Roundball Rock” is designed for all fans - both the winning and losing team.
Dylan throws out a question: “Do the Portland Trailblazers reflect the values of Portland?” Does the intense black, red, and white of the franchise match the natural tones of today's “Portlandia”?
I think If the Portland Trailblazers wanted to be more on-brand with Portland then they would play Tegan and Sara during timeouts, or get the NBA to schedule games earlier in the day to play the games on TV's at brunch sports bars.
The Blazer's don't need to pander to today's “Portlandia”. Fans are loyal to these underdogs. They electrify the city when they are doing good. “The Blazerhood” reflects that. It's an underdog show that I want to see succeed. It has the fun openness of a comedy show but the excitement and drama of sports. My favorite part of basketball is when the action flows and I lose myself in the time and the motion.
Flashback – my brother Tommy bursts into dribbling, shooting, playing the court while muttering the commentary. “Bird passes it to Jordan, Jordan shoots!” He yells through the player's names like a stack of trading cards.
I was the ref but I didn’t know enough to call Tommy on traveling or to track all of his superstar transformations. I look at my timer and I notice it goes from “1:00” to “0:59”. How is the time still going with a zero in the front? I did not go to NBA school but that seems like bullshit. If the one goes to zero, time is up. Debate is over.
“TIME!” I yelled, with 0:50 left. A zero is a zero.
My shapeshifter brother, who at that time was Clyde Drexler, said “doesn’t it beep when it’s done?”
“No, it doesn’t” I reported.
To this day, I think of those minute long two minutes that I gave him. All of that time I took away. I think of how much of a faster, more intense player that it must have made him. Basketball is just a better game if you cut the last minute off. Trust me, I have the game instinct.