Putting On the Grey T-Shirt

A Daily Babble Production

It's coming out tonight.

It sure feels like it has been waiting long enough despite the fact that this has been the shortest offseason in the last two decades of Celtics basketball.

But finally, after months of waiting, that grey Adidas t-shirt will come out of my closet this evening.  The one that feels so perfect from the outside even though it's made of the same cotton material that makes up so many other shirts in the wardrobe.  The one that has never been worn and hopefully won't have its first out-of-closet excursion marred by the world's messiest eater (your humble Daily Babbler) having a bit too much fun out there with some French dressing or honey mustard or barbecue sauce in his pregame meal.

The suspense (in the unlikely event that it was ever present) is gone now.  You know the shirt.  It's the one that reads 2008 NBA Champions and features the logo of the 17-time NBA champion Boston Celtics below those words.  The one I promised myself I would wear over my solid green long sleeve shirt for every Celtics game I watched after this team won that elusive 17th title.

The Celtics raise their newest banner tonight, and the prospect of putting on that grey shirt is just one of the many feelings that excites me about a day that marks the start of something that goes way beyond points, rebounds, assists, blocks, steals and turnovers.

For one time in this space, this isn't a day for numbers and analyses and breakdowns.  We've got a whole season ahead for all of that.  This is a day reserved for the experiences that can't be quantified by efficiency or explained by a zone press.

It is a day for rejoicing.  Because professional basketball is back, and so are the Celtics.  And that means so much more than what's on the scoreboard.

It means the familiar sound of Eddie Palladino's voice introducing the World Champion Boston Celtics, including the reigning Finals MVP - "the captain aaaaaaaand the Truth."

It means being moved by Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight" in a way we never were before when it accompanies the pregame video montage at the TD Banknorth Garden.

It's about spending an entire season's worth of games on my feet in my living room, pacing, jumping, gesturing and doing everything else to try to leave my mark on an event to which I am only tangentially connected by my television (and obsession).

Better not forget the screaming at the television.  At referees who have an apparently inferior angle to the spectator 1,000-plus miles from the game site.  At announcers who can't be bothered to pay attention to the games they make a living watching.  At the other team's players and coaches.  Occasionally, at ours.

It's routinely seeing feats of athletic greatness that we never imagined possible from the world's best basketball players.  Admiring both the plays of grace and beauty and those of hustle and desire - from our beloved Celtics and the those who make up the league's other 29 teams - never seems to get old.

It's so cool when the camera zooms in on the referee just in time to see him emphatically drive his arm down, as if to say, "Count the basket and one!"

It's seeing Leon Powe make one of those scrappy plays that leads to him pulling his arms down to his waist, throwing his head back and screaming for all the heavens to hear.   Or watching Paul Pierce scowl and pump up the crowd after a huge play.  Or Kevin Garnett pounding his left shoulder with his right fist with that ferocity that only he can after another big defensive stand.

It's that creeping smile i get when my buddy Mays can't make it through more than ten minutes of the season opener with me before saying, "Neither you nor your team can maintain this absurd level of energy for 82 games," as he storms out.  And then doing exactly that plus a postseason's worth to boot.

It means that chill that washes over you when a big shot by the home team extends a prolonged run and sends the guests into timeout.  The blaring music, the ecstatic high-fives as the local boys swagger to the sideline, the fever pitch of the crowd: It's the most electric feeling of a game.

It means interminable discussion on talk radio, television and of course our very own forums as we try in vain to fill our insatiable need for chatter about this beloved team and game of ours.

Most importantly, it means sharing it all.

For yours truly, that means sharing it with my dad, The Guru, along with Mother of Son of The Guru (and who could forget the occasional wisecrack or "Pipe down!" from Daughter of Mother of Son of The Guru?). 

It means calling home to have Mother of Son of The Guru remind me that the Celtics' plus-minus when she is watching is astronomical and that she should be on payroll.  It means walking around town late at night talking with The Guru for what seems like hours after every game over the phone  while we're more than 1,000 miles apart.  It means breaking down every aspect of the game together and having one person in my life who can get me to calm down after a loss or who can keep my head on level after a big win.  It means continuing our lifelong game where he plays the immovable pessimist to my eternal optimist, not because he doesn't believe but because someone needs to keep my head from prematurely carrying us to the stratosphere.

Sharing the highs and lows of a season and a playoff run together.  Nearly knocking the wind out of him with an exuberant bear hug after a series clincher.  Adventuring to the Finals together and embracing on the couch at home with the biggest smiles you've ever seen when it's all over.

And it means understanding that no matter the end result, the journey through each season of our favorite game together is worth more than anything I could ever imagine.

Celtics basketball is back.  What does it mean to you?

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