Confession: Food writing was not my first career choice. I dreamed (even prayed) I would be the first girl to play in the NBA. Not realistic, perhaps, for a pint-size fifth grader. But I had the hair (a Jewish fro) and a few crossover moves.
Things didn’t work out as hoped, but I’m still devoted to the cause. Bill Simmons’s 752-page Book of Basketball sits on my nightstand—funny, detail-obsessed, and crazy argumentative. I’ve read it twice. The only people more nuts about basketball than I am? Some of the people I write about: Portland chefs.
Don’t believe me? Consider these gems culled from recent conversations with a pair of chef-superfans. At his Mexican sandwich shop Güero, New York expat Alec Morrison* smack-talks and occasionally beams Blazer games on the wall next to Frida Kahlo portraits. And local boy Leather Storrs actually numbers tables at Noble Rot after his old-school Blazer heroes. These are my people.
Why chefs are often Blazer fans “Chefs are competitive. The kitchen line is like a team—adrenaline-fueled, Us vs. Them, working against the clock, unified for a common goal. There’s no way to predict what will happen during service. You use everything at your disposal, but someone always breaks. Basketball is the same way. We can see ourselves in that situation.”
Prized possession Brian Grant’s rookie card, autographed. “I keep it in plastic, and I’m not that kind of guy. I don’t have ‘lucky things,’ but I have this.”
On local cannabis company Uncle Spliffy Storrs, who sells CBD edibles on the Brothers Apothecary, has found kinship with the Blazer formerly known as Uncle Cliffy. “Cliff Robinson also does weed products. He’s in my phone. We talk on occasion. It takes me back to being a kid, cheering.”
Dream Blazer dinner at Noble Rot “I’d invite players from different eras who I felt a personal connection to. Kiki Vandeweghe, because I had his practice shorts—literally, a buddy who dated his niece gave them to me. Bill Walton. I might regret that, but he’s an interesting dude. He brought us that championship. He repped our city in a true way, a barefoot hippie mixing with people on bikes. And CJ McCollum, who has an eagle’s-eye view on the NBA. I’d love to hear him talk about parity in the league, and if we can ever get back to that. Would be nice to hope we could be competitive again.”
Fandom is not all suffering “We drafted Oden over Durant, missing our opportunity to join the modern NBA. But being a fan is a lot like Portland. It rains all the time, and then come moments of magic: February is warm and sunny; Dame hits a three-pointer with two-tenths of a second on the clock. Like life, we have to feed on moments and streaks.”
Where he sits in the Moda Center “I tend to be loud. I wear my emotions on my sleeve. OK, I’m a shit talker. We sit in Row D, up in the 300s, ‘the people’s section.’ I don’t fit in anywhere else.”
Essential game munchies “Peanuts. They’re extremely expressive. You make a mess. They’re sharable. They’re so good for nervous chewing. It’s all about the peanuts.”
Secret halftime hangout The smoking section. “This is where the real talk happens. It’s an open forum for how the game is going or what we think of visiting fans. Everyone cuts to the chase. I always go there ... and I don’t smoke!”
Favorite sports bar Maui’s on North Williams. “Good sound, local broadcasts, TVs everywhere. The most passionate fans come here.”
Dream Blazer dinner at Güero “My first thought: They’ve been traveling and eating garbage buffets from a steam table. So I’m going 1,000 percent hospitality. Candles are lit. Music is just right. I invite them in and say, ‘Hey guys, this restaurant is a home, just for you.’ Every player’s favorite comfort food gets reimagined as Mexican food. I want to watch Dame come through the door, to feel the appreciation, to say, ‘Thank you, you’ve given a lot.’ That’s my dream.”
Closest he’s come to living that dream “Meyers Leonard’s grandmother came here once.”
*As a kid, Morrison cheered for the Indiana Pacers; now he’s all in for the Blazers.