Part of the role as fan is capitalizing on the distance and hindsight we're afforded. We have nothing invested but emotion; nothing falls on us. If our owners trade Dirk Nowitzki for Robert Traylor, after a few years' time we get to sound off asking how in the world anyone could authorize such a trade. It's the easy and cathartically fun opportunity we get as fans.
But it's also really soulless. Filtered through our television, through multi-million dollar contracts, and advertising bonuses, we often forget those we're lambasting for unmet expectations are indeed humans with reserves of emotion. Author Thomas McGuane talks of John Cheever and cites the negative reaction from critics and the public alike over Bullet Park as to part of the reason Cheever fell to alcoholism. “People don't understand how much influence they can actually have on a writer, how much a writer's feelings can be hurt, how much they can deflect his course when they raise their voices…”
Which, of course, brings us to Greg Oden. Portland has compounded a series of poor choices with poorer luck, and Oden has been the most recent target from its community and NBA fans in general. It's beyond easy for us to ridicule Oden or criticize Portland management, which in a way is criticizing Oden, but at the end of the day, Greg Oden is just a kid. A really big and goofy kid who wants nothing more than to play ball and have one of his knees not implode when he comes down from getting a rebound.
The kid hasn't played since 2009, but now reports are out that he's making moves and getting closer to returning. Oden was probably partly screwed over by the lack of knowledge and/or resources provided by the Portland training/medical crew, but he's been deliberate and much more conservative this time around. Though he's had at least 117 microfracture surgeries, it's of note that he's not rushing a comeback, and is aiming to return no earlier than the 2013-14 season. Already, the Miami Heat are reported to be in talks with the big man as they have potentially two roster spots that could open up this off-season.
It's high-risk, obviously, but I don't care. I'm just a fan. Hell, he's only turning 25 this year. I want the kid back in the league. Have you read his old blog he used to write? It's on some Richard Yates perma-winter level.
He needs to play, he needs to be in the league. I just hope when and if he returns, we go a little easier on him.