Off and on for more than 40 years, the best basketball players from Portland and Seattle have battled each other in small, packed gyms with little media fanfare. Find out what got the rivalry restarted as the two cities play a home-and-home series for pride and the right to call themselves the best in the Northwest.
A few days before Christmas 2006, having just arrived home in Atlanta for my break between college quarters, I was driving near the Georgia Dome when I spotted a new arrival in the neighborhood — an odd, trailer-like setup erected in a parking lot. Having grown up around the area, whatever it was seemed out of the ordinary, so I hit a U-turn and went to check it out. In that parking lot sat an "Authentic Louisiana-Style" restaurant operating almost as a food truck. About 15 months had passed since Hurricane Katrina, but this was my first real-life experience with what had previously just been data regarding the sheer amount of New Orleanians that had migrated to cities like Houston and Atlanta. I looked at the establishment and felt good. To know that someone could make a life in my city, especially after such a horrible disaster, was a beautiful thing.
The following year, I remember watching the Saints-Falcons game on Monday Night Football in the Georgia Dome. Fully understanding that there was a sizable New Orleans population in the city that had no plans of going back home, I was curious to see how the Dome would look. The answer — very black-and-gold. It was nauseating. While I felt it bubbling in 2006, especially with our unfortunate "damned if you win, damned if you lose" opportunity to play the Saints in the first game back in the Superdome, it was at this point that I knew a real rivalry was no longer just brewing.
"Mason Plumlee is a man!" I shouted at my girlfriend. She rolled her eyes, but I felt like it was something that needed to be said.
A year, ago, I couldn't have conceived that I'd be complimenting the tow-headed giant. This was the second coming of the hated Miles, the middle of the Flying Plumblebee trio, the guy who was bound to let you down just when he'd fooled you into believing. It was normal to spend entire games thinking up derogatory nicknames for him. (“Plumblef*** the Younger” and “Mason Clumslee” are two that come to mind.)
But now? Now, Mason is having the best season of his life, a coming-out party of epic proportions. He's the best Duke player on the court game in and game out, and on Wednesday night, he refused to buckle in a hostile road contest against the hated Maryland Terrapins. The dark days are over. Mason Plumlee is a big manly son of a bitch, and shall henceforth be known only as "Plumdog Billionaire." Jai ho, you crazy Devil.
1. The Atlantic Coast Conference, Greensboro, N.C.
What bothers us most is the growing lack of regard for geography. What bothers us is that there should be some sense, some inherent logic, to the way these things are arranged. There are always anomalies in sports (Does anyone think the Dallas Cowboys belong in the NFC East?) but college sports are defined by conference alignments in ways that professional sports never could be. All those years Pittsburgh and Syracuse seemed perfectly happy in the Big East (a conference that hasn’t been “East” for several years, unless you consider Chicago a suburb of Philadelphia), and then in one weekend, they wind up joining yet another league whose name no longer holds any geographic relevance. (Colorado:Pacific::Texas A&M:Southeast.) We might as well rename them Conference A, B, C and D; it’s all Legends and Leaders now, and no one can tell the difference.