Being a sports fan can be a tough racket at times. Oh, its easy when your team is winning. When they're favorites to win the conference, when your highest paid players are all in their prime, and clearly on the short list of the most talented and skilled athletes on the planet. When they're winning, you can wax poetic about their clearly superior leadership skills, or the veritable smorgasbord of intangibles possessed by your deep bench players. Everyone is a superstar or a quirky and loveable 'good lockeroom guy', and the biggest problem you have is the question of 'just how much crap do I want to pile on my friends about how much better my team is than theirs?'
But when your team is losing, and the guys you've had on a pedestal for the last five years start to really and clearly wane in the execution of their duties, being a fan can be downright hard. Well, not hard like feeding your family and putting a roof over their heads is hard. Or not hard like building a house or waiting in line at the DMV hard. And definitely not hard like unlocking the invincibility cheat in Goldeneye 007 for the N64, but tricky nonetheless.You see, I think there are layers to being a fan of any team, player or sport. And the first is that being a fan of a team, player, or sport are different delineations. For instance, I love the sport of football, but beyond the guys I have in fantasy leagues each year (praise Cam Newton), I'm not really a 'fan' of any particular team. I dislike watching hockey in just about any form (mostly because it competes with basketball, so screw those guys), but there are players whose careers I follow pretty loyally. Baseball and soccer I both appreciate as very demanding sports played by very talented people, but I hated playing them, I hate watching them, and that's final. Rugby, I love to play, love the sport, can't stand to watch it.
But basketball, I love the sport. I can watch just about any form of basketball, highschool, college, professional, doesn't matter. I just like to watch talented people play basketball. I love certain players, and not just guys wearing green. But as far as teams go, I love the Celtics. Been enamored with them since the early 00's, and never really looked back.
Here is where it gets tricky. Because I love the sport so much, I've got a pretty good idea of just how poorly the Celtics are playing. And I don't mean just 'in a funk'. The Celtics, these Celtics, have been 'in a funk' before. In 09-10 they went 4-8 over a string of games. Last year there were times when they looked like a second-tier squad. But, you always had the feeling that at the end of the day they were still contenders, still in the hunt for a championship.
The 2012 Celtics, by just about every measure I can conceive of, don't look like contenders. At this point, they don't even look like a playoff team (although I imagine that will be remedied; Garnett ain't goin out like no punk). Rondo is generally playing the best, but he has disappeared at pivotal moments. Pierce has one good game under his belt, and that was a 14 point loss. Garnett's defense and offense are both down considerably from last year, and his best game so far was also a 14 point loss. Ray Allen..I got no qualms with the way Allen has been playing. The bigs rotation, despite Brandon Bass's promise, is just not up to snuff. The bench looks 'okay' at best, but are a long ways from being the type of unit that can consistently hold a lead, or even turn a loss into a win, as has been the case in a few of the Garnett-era Celtics second units.
So on the one hand, I want to believe. I want to have 'faith'. But I've always believed that 'faith' in a sports team is different than 'faith' in God or Gods, or whatever is your particular cup of tea. This is not a 'there is no spoon' type of situation; there is a clearly a spoon, and right now it couldn't hold a bite of Legal Seafood's Clam chowder.
And yet where does that realization get me, as a fan? Am I going to just stop watching the Celtics? Of course not. But it'll frustrate me when I do. When I talk about the Celtics, I have to temper what I say now, I can't just assume they're running with the elite teams in the league. Even when they were at their worst last season, you couldn't blithely pretend that they weren't still in the top 5 teams in the league, with a shot at a ring. Now, today, that's not the case. They're 4-7 to start the season, with not a single win over a quality team in the four W's they've got.
Am I less of a fan because I see this and acknowledge it? I don't think so. Remember Randy Quaid from Major League II? He was still a fan. Remember Robert DeNiro from 'The Fan'? He was still a fan. Fans come in all shapes and sizes. Are you less 'die-hard' because while watching your team just absolutely flop down the stretch you keep telling your fiance that you're going to launch your pint glass through the plasma TV at the bar you're at unless Rondo will freaking get something going already? I don't know. I don't think so. I think it makes you a different kind of fan, but a fan nontheless, and a loyal one. Taking the bad with the good, and feeling both very acutely makes you more as die-hard as anyone else not named Bruce Willis, because you're still paying attention, and you still care, deeply.
So as a fan where does that leave me? I'm gonna watch the darn Celtics game, Gloria, and that's final.