Celtics Life submission #1

The following article was written as submissions to the Boston Celtics site Celtics Life, who are accepting open applications for a position on their writing staff.  I figured I’d give it a shot.  I started out writing about sports once upon a time.  I’d love to get back into writing about sports.  Cross your fingers for me.  And, since I’ve always been a terrible headline writer, hook me up with a headline, too.  Thanks for reading, cheers.

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I cried when ReggieLewis died.  I was 11.

Rick Pitino came and we were excited about the new regime.  All we got was one of the best sound bites in Celtics history.

We watched Antoine Walker try to be Rade from the movie Hoosiers before he learned the four-pass before every shot move.  “Chuck it from the cheap seats,” Shooter would have called the strategy.

I recall an apathetic San Diego bar while a friend and I agonized over our young team getting bounced  – once again – by the Indiana Pacers in the first round of the playoffs.

The crushing blow of seeing the Celtics lottery ball come up on pick #5 in 2007.

I’m one of the members of the Boston Celtics fandom that missed out on Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and the glory days of the 1980’s.  Growing up, we caught the end of Larry’s tenure, and, even though we watched some fleeting greatness, the good times of the past were exactly that, the past.

We missed those years.  We never saw – at an age where we could have appreciated and processed these skills to a deeper degree – the up-and-unders, the no-look passes, the champagne toasts, the wins.  ’81, ’84, ’86.  A victim of the ages.  We never lamented Len Bias.  Then Reggie died.

And we got Heinsohn and Mike Gorman calling games on Sports Channel New England.  Chris Ford led guys like Sherman Douglas, Eric Montross, John Bagley, Dino Radja, Dee Brown, Rick Fox, Pervis Ellison.  I can’t believe I did that from memory.

But Celtics fandom didn’t escape us.  We watched most games and yearned for a past we didn’t experience.  We went to the Garden, which became the FleetCenter, but we went to watch guys on other teams because they were, well, stars.  We didn’t have stars, so we went to watch Barkley, Malone, Stockton, and, obviously, Jordan.

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The Pitino Era in Boston proved to be a bust.

We got optimistic every autumn.  Each addition to the team would bring us back to the greatness my father and his father knew as Celtics fans.  It did start to get better.  Walker came to Causeway Street and became an All-Star (which, however, could have been a product of the putrid era of NBA basketball) then came Paul Pierce.  We were contenders in a very marginal way, never an authentic threat to the Larry O’Brien Trophy, but a team that might steal a playoff round victory, maybe frighten a team in a seven-game series.

Then we stunk again.  Our young team – looking back now – on paper was stacked: Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Al Jefferson, Tony Allen.  But we were young and we got beat.  A lot that year.

In the parody that is professional sports, league titles are cyclical.  Teams succeed, get old and rebuild.  On the other end, teams stink, draft well then grow as contenders.  In basketball, this trend had been false.  In the formidable years of my NBA fandom (1992-2003), just four franchises won titles.

Then the Big Three happened.  A title, finally.  Everyone in Boston was a fan again.  Success breeds fans.  It was probably easy for the adults in the world to look at all the Celtics apparel (which was barely sold in stores outside the pro shop at the arena) and shake their heads, call us bandwagon fans.  In many situations, it was probably true.

But for people like me, we have the scars of frustration, of regret, of sadness of those years of 15 wins, 19 wins, 24 wins.  Of Reggie dying.  Of M.L. Carr.  Of a product of basketball we weren’t exactly proud to call Celtics Basketball on the court.

Being a fan isn’t supposed to be easy.  It’s supposed to come with tough losses, bad coaches; with a guarded optimism and healthy pessimism; With objective criticism and unwavering loyalty.  If we look at the professional sports in Boston for the past decade, our younger fans don’t know anything but success.

The confetti has been cleared off Causeway Street.  Ray Allen is in South Beach.  Pierce and Kevin Garnett are in Brooklyn and Doc went Hollywood on us.  It will be interesting to find out who the fans are now.

  • Ubuntu (truthoncauseway.com)
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