It’s been real
My time at The Columbian is coming to a close but I know we were always meant to be, even if our moment together was fleeting. Life is like that.
A Tom Vogt article from The Columbian about my family cheering on the Venezuelan basketball team in the 1992 Tournament of the Americas hung in my bedroom since I could remember. Vogt, one of the OG’s who was covering the Blazers at the time, wrote about my loud obnoxious family and when I came in for an interview, I told him I’d had his byline by me since I was a boy. A headline about “latin-flavored hoops,” became something of a mission statement in my own life and it led my to the start of my career. That the Venezuelan basketball team is going back to the Olympics this year for the first time since ’92 and that I am leaving at the same time makes me feel as though I closed the loop.
I will no longer be working and/or posting things here. The Columbian is eliminating its original Blazers coverage and the blog will exist but it will mostly be idle. I will no longer be using the legendary @BlazerBanter twitter handle. It was a fun three seasons covering the team for the paper, which included the two most successful seasons since 2000.
I was told of my future last Wednesday and Friday, June 17, is my last day at The Columbian. I have the ominous distinction of being the last Blazers beat writer at The Columbian. It was an honor to follow in the footsteps great reporters like Candace Buckner, Matt Calkins, Brian Smith, Kenny Vance and Tom Vogt, just to name a few. When I first learned the news, I was blindsided and crushed. But as time has passed, I’m truly looking forward to what comes next. The warmth I’ve received from friends, colleagues and readers has truly made me realize how lucky I am.
This is my farewell to you all, at least in this space. I’ll keep firing off tweets (@Erik_Gundersen). The Bulls vs. Blazers NBA Podcast with my buddy Sean Highkin will live on. You should also leave us a 5-star review on iTunes. And I’m sure when I get the urge, I’ll write some Blazers/NBA thoughts somewhere.
This blog had very little on it when I came to the position and I’d like to thank my bosses, specifically Micah Rice, for giving me a shot and letting me make this blog whatever I wanted to make it. I had never filed on deadline and early on, it showed. I can’t thank our great sports staff enough for giving me room to grow.
There are lots of other good people that lost their jobs and I know that I only contributed a small drop in the bucket compared to the others who are leaving the paper. I’m just glad that I got to be a part of it.
I had no idea what I was doing at first. Then things like “The Scouting Report” were born, we blogged even the smallest piece of news and we even broke some too. Big news, even, all of which, I proudly stand by.
My hope was to bring a broader view of the league to this blog, to help people understand the Blazers in the context of the NBA ecosystem. I never wanted to be just some guy who only watched other teams when they played the Blazers. I’m not exactly sure if I did that, but I definitely tried.
I love the NBA, I always have (okay this is a lie, the Jail Blazers almost drove it out of me but Boris Diaw’s 05-06 season brought me back) and I always will. I carry a Drazen Petrovic rookie card in my car as protection. It’s not an exaggeration to say basketball is my religion.
Journalism is the business we’ve chosen (shout-out to Hyman Roth) and it’s a cutthroat one. I’m so thankful for getting the experience at The Columbian and to the Trail Blazers before that for letting me in the door. I’m thankful that the paper took a chance on someone who had only one season of NBA work under their belt but had a passion and truly cared about the game.
It was a pleasure getting to write here and blabber on about basketball. I’ll miss a lot of things and honestly, there will be plenty of things that I won’t miss. I’m hopeful that I will land on my feet soon. I’m hopeful that all of us who were laid-off will.
Erik Alexander García Gundersen