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Why we cheer

On the surface it seems -- shallow. It is, after all, simply a game.

Five guys who most of us will never meet try to put a leather ball thru a metal hoop more often than the other guys.

But if you were there and looked closely at the fans gathered at the Rose Garden Tuesday night, you'd see it's much more than a game.

A man in a grey shirt near the floor is on the edge of his seat-veins pulsing in his neck--shouting.

"Pop it--pop it ---yeah---yeah!!!" he yells.

He and the man next to him high five as if they've won the lottery.

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The exchange reveals that for so many at the game, it's personal.

We wanted to know why, since the fans, obviously are not playing the game.

Sports psychologist Brian Baxter has an idea.

"No they didn't play the game but they've invested their time and their energy and they've set everything else aside to help the team win," said Baxter.

He says investing emotionally in a team cuts across social, economic, political and so many other boundaries and binds us together as a community.

"And I think when you're doing it and the guy next to you and the lady next to them and everyone witnesses the same thing and they've all put in the same amount of energy -- no matter that -- they're not playing but they are there and all want the same thing and when that thing happens it makes them happy," said Baxter.

Does it ever. The emotion pouring out of fans after the Tuesday win matched that of championships.

People screamed and yelled and honked horns in joy.

There is the more subtle reason fans pull for the team. It gives them hope.

Brenden Summers, tall and fit, with a blue button down shirt explains how the Blazers helped get him thru a brutal job search.

"It helps -- especially for awhile. You know I didnt have a job for a long time and following the Blazers picks you up in rough times," said Summers.

Perhaps that is the other appeal to cheering for a winning team.

With Oregon's unemployment at 12% and dire economic news everywhere we turn, the team gives us all an escape and something to look forward to.

You could see it in the straight laced business types who pulled Blazers jerseys over their shirts and ties on game day.

Over at 24 Hour Fitness, athletes playing a noon pickup basketball game are eager to talk about the team.

Eddie Johnson, an unemployed warehouse worker says looking forward to the games helps get him thru the day.

"I think it helps a great deal. Cause like you said times are hard, people are losing their jobs you know its just really, really fun to go to a Blazer game and celebrate with them and watch them play good," he said.

Jason Nooris is out of work too.

There's no question in his mind, having the team to cheer for helps make all the gloom and doom easier to bear.

"Oh yah, yah definitely it makes it better. You know. Something to look forward to you know? Alot of people don't have jobs --but they get a ticket -- oh man. It takes your mind off it for that couple hours you know?" said Nooris.

Perhaps having Portland's only professional sports team do well is about more than making baskets after all.

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