Friday, April 17, 2009
Rip City Uprise Rally
Few things arouse the interests of Oregonians more than sun and the Portland Trail Blazers, so it’s no surprise that up to 15,000 fans crammed into Pioneer Courthouse Square to bask in the warmth of a beautiful day and the Trail Blazers’ first postseason appearance in six years at the Rip City Uprise Rally.
Those who couldn’t find an extra inch in Pioneer Courthouse Square lined up along the streets or hung out of windows of buildings adjacent waving red and black “Rip City Uprise” signs. While waiting for the team to arrive, the crowd was entertained by live music, dancing, prize giveaways and various Trail Blazers personalities, including a freshly faux-hawked Mike Rice.
The party was already in full swing by time members of the team and their families boarded buses bound for downtown. Joel Przybilla and Brandon Roy sat with their sons on their laps as the buses departed for Portland. The players know of the interest the public has when it comes to the team, but even they marveled at having police escorts and news helicopters following the buses north up I-5.
For as surprising as it was to see a helicopter following the bus, the players were more stunned to see fans congregating along the street blocks away from the rally. The team gazed in amazement as sparse crowds along the street turned into bigger crowds the closer they got to Pioneer Courthouse Square. All of the players were shocked to see a crowd of no fewer than 10,000 fans lined up to welcome the team by time the bus pulled up alongside the rally,
The rally had taken on a rock concert-like feel by time the players took the stage. The players looked at each other with disbelief as they were introduced one by one by Mike Barrett. Nate McMillan gave a stirring speech to the crowd about his vision for the franchise when he signed on as head coach and how the rally was proof that he had indeed made the right decision.
“The next time we’re here we’ll not be celebrating getting into the playoffs,” said McMillan. “The next time we’re here, we want a parade.”
After that, each player addressed the fans, thanking them for their continued support through the years, to wild ovations.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” said Brandon Roy. “It’s unbelievable. We all wanted to be a part of the turnaround, but we never imagined it would be something like this.”