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Portugal. The Fan turns Portland-Denver NBA series into a high-stakes showdown

  • Author: Beth Bragg
  • Updated: May 11
  • Published May 11

Guitarist Eric Howk performs with Portugal. The Man on Friday, Oct. 26, 2018 at the Alaska Airlines Center. (Loren Holmes / ADN)

If you follow Portugal. The Man on social media, you know about the band’s alter ego — Portugal. The Fan.

The band, rooted in Wasilla and based in Portland, Oregon, is wild about the Portland Trail Blazers.

It live-tweets games on an account whose handle was changed to Portugal Trail Blazer in honor of the team’s NBA playoff run, it went nuts on Instagram after a game-winning 3-point bomb by Damian Lillard (aka “Lillard. The Man”) and it’s been known to play the Trail Blazers theme song at concerts.

Besides its Grammy-winning music and love of the Blazers, PTM is known for its activism. When the band performed at the Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage in October, the opening act was a group of Yup’ik dancers and drummers. At concerts elsewhere, PTM often brings local Native Americans onto the stage to show their respect to indigenous people.

“Essentially you reach out to aboriginal people from that part of the country and you invite them out to acknowledge that you’re on borrowed land — ‘borrowed’ — and it’s sort of just a blessing and recognizing that this land was once someone else’s,” guitarist Eric Howk of Wasilla told the Orange County Register last year.

Shishmaref resident Dennis Davis gives Portugal. The Man singer John Gourley an atikluk for his daughter Frances before their show last October at the Alaska Airlines Center. (Loren Holmes / ADN archives)

So it’s no surprise the band found a way to parlay its love of the Blazers into a couple of wagers that will benefit young Native American basketball players.

New sneakers for a Native American team in either Oregon or Colorado are on the line Sunday when the Blazers meet the Denver Nuggets in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals.

On May 1, before Game 2 of the Portland-Denver series, PTM went to Twitter to propose the bets to Colorado band One Republic and Colorado musician Illenium.

Illenium and One Republic (neither of which live-tweets games, BTW) both agreed.

The stakes got even bigger on Thursday prior to Game 6, when ESPN joined the fun. It said in a tweet that it will send jerseys to whichever youth team gets the new sneakers.

Tip off for Sunday’s loser-goes-home game is 11:30 a.m. Expect PTM to fill its Twitter feed with game commentary and all-caps cheering.

Band members know the game (sample tweet from a recent game: “Oh they’re calling travels now?”) and are legit fans. In a 2017 interview with Bleacher Report, band members talked about how living in Alaska helped forge their love of teams from the Pacific Northwest.

Zach Carothers (bassist): You have to be, man — we’re from Alaska, and so we never had our own pro team in the city that we lived in, so we were, like, Mariners/Seahawks fans.

Eric Howk (guitarist): He says that, but I mean, I was a huge Sonics fan because those games were always on the AM radio that would go far out in the Valley. We lived in a pretty isolated area. The golden age of like (Shawn) Kemp and (Gary) Payton, Detlef Schrempf, guys like that.

Carothers: I was more into hockey and never really got into basketball until we moved to Portland. One of our old members was just a crazy Blazers fan, and when they made the playoffs, he was like “Come watch a game!” And it was like, “Oh s--t.” Instantly I was into it. It was so much fun. ... The community in Portland is just so awesome. I remember being in some terrible bar with a really low tiled ceiling when Brandon Roy made that last-minute, game-winning shot. People started jumping up and down; beer was going everywhere. Those ceiling tiles were all knocked out. The place was electric."

John Gourley (lead singer/guitarist): That was one of my favorite times, because it was like before we had smartphones in the van. So we’d listen to the Blazers games on AM radio.

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