As I walked into the Rose Garden last Sunday, I was struck by a sudden panic.

As I walked into the Rose Garden last Sunday, I was struck by a sudden panic.

"Why am I hallucinating that I'm in Boston?" I thought.

After determining that my $9 cup of Hefeweizen was most likely not spiked with LSD, I started to calm down.

Bandwagon fans, I concluded.

What else could explain the large patches of Celtic green that snaked from one end of the Rose Garden to the other?

The Boston Celtics were in town, and the Portland Trail Blazers have been struggling of late. It was a perfect storm that threatened to put a chink in the Blazers' home-crowd advantage.

Whatever. I was on my yearly Blazers trip with my five Oak Tree dudes, and no amount of hangers-on to the aging Celtics bandwagon were going to harsh my groove.

We've been hosting the trip for a few years now, and I assume I'll continue to do so until I die, say something so thoughtless and hateful to one of the dudes that they all vote to kick me off the dude island or I join a whaling crew to seek the adventure my life so craves as I drift listlessly into my mid-30s.

My favorite thing about having a group of friends willing to endure a yearly trip with me are the in-jokes that accrue in our dialogue like shower scum on a tiled wall.

For instance, my buddy Stow, after chugging a few whiskeys a few years back, sat near the floor during a game against the Atlanta Hawks.

The whiskeys seemed to conjure up Stow's fightin' side, as every time a Hawks player would handle the ball, Stow would bark, "KILL'EM!!! KILL'EM!!!" repeatedly.

Another buddy, Gar Bear, who was sitting next to this Exorcist version of Stow, said spectators in the area were becoming concerned after the 123rd "KILL'EM!!!!"

"Might he actually KILL'EM?" they wondered.

So, of course, every time we attend a game these days, we shower the opposing team with "KILL'EM!!!" throughout the game.

Now that mass shootings are all the rage these days, you have to be careful that a security officer isn't within earshot or you could end up spending the night in the Multnomah County lockup for such a joke.

We've extended "KILL'EM" beyond the Rose Garden. A bee invaded the Oak Tree during a baseball game, prompting a few people to attempt to shoo it out.


When a guy gets up to head to the crapper during a commercial break.


You get the idea.

Perhaps the most lasting concept at the end of all this is that I've come to adopt the Blazers as my West Coast basketball team.

I genuinely root for them — anytime they're not playing my beloved Chicago Bulls, of course.

This is why I was taken aback at the number of Celtics fans who had invaded the Rose Garden last Sunday.

Could there be this many Boston transplants in Portland?

I suspect the Larry "Legend" Bird era, along with the Kevin Garnett/Paul Pierce/Ray Allen resurgence a few years ago had something to do with it.

People like a winner. More to the point, people like a winner that has the national exposure of an East Coast team from a large city.

Sunday's game was not the most balletic exhibition of sport, but the Blazers got the job done.

After the game, as we wolfed fancy-pants mac-n-cheese at Montage, one of my friends remarked that it was the first Blazers win we had seen together.

It's always been such a fun trip that it had never occurred to me that we'd always seen the Blazers fail.

And that might not be the only change to our routine. We could be losing a valued member of the team. Our buddy @ChipWoodbowl has decided — foolishly — to attempt to better his economic standing by attending grad school in Denver.

I assume he'll make it a point to return for the yearly trip, unless he is too busy counting his stack of grad-school cash to be bothered.

It would not be the same speeding up I-5 toward Portland in a white mini van without him.

It's a weekend out of the year I have come to value as I get older. I only hope I will convince the crew to see the Bulls someday.

I might even yell "KILL'EM!!" at my own team once, for solidarity's sake.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or