Special thanks to JoshZavadil for his well written fan post "Thank You Dad: A Journey That Began in 2002".
Hi all. I haven't been on Celticsblog in awhile - Probably since after the 2010 season. A disdain for NBA management, a time consuming job, and living in distant and exotic Ohio all conspired to keep me from watching games.
Well, this season I remember watching the first few games, as much out of coincidence of having free time as much as anything else. I realized pretty soon that this season's Celtics were special. I admit, I had my doubts - KG really did look old at the start of the season. Ray wasn't himself for much of the year. Paul was Paul, but it didn't seem to be enough. Man, did we miss KP43. But I was determined to watch what I assumed was the twilight of the Big 3 + Rondo era.
Amidst all this green tinted love and nostalgia, I found myself reminiscing about what made me a fan. And when I read JoshZavadil's fan post, I figured I'd share that, and then get other people's stories. Being a true sports fan is an odd thing; it's almost religious. You can't argue with a fan about why they care, they just do - similarly to how pointing out some inconsistency between the Bible and modern science won't shake a believer's faith. You can rationalize that these are 6-7 foot tall multi-millionaires playing a game, and so why should I cheer for them? And that might be the case in some towns, for some teams. But the Celtics are something different. They very much represent New England, and more specifically Boston, with their pride and work ethic and attitude and fighting spirit and unique style of humility. Or if not humility, appreciation for not getting a fat head. Am I right, Sully?
What made me a Celtics fan really was the 2002 playoffs, the epic comeback vs. New Jersey in game 3. I was a sullen teenager, prone to disliking anything my parents and - lord help me - my big brother liked. My parents were transplants; New Jersey and Texas, of all places. My dad decided before I was born he loved the Celtics. I imagine it had something to do with the original Big Three era in the 80s, as he was new to the city and learning to make it the home it still is for my family. My brother, well, I don't know his story for when he started to love this team, but it was before I can remember. Maybe he'll read this and post for us.
My parents had 1/2 season tickets for the Celtics. My father made it a point to drag his teenage son to games, no matter how uncool it might seem to be seen anywhere with his dad. I myself lived in perpetual fear of actually showing emotion and cheering for the team, lest some high-school compatriot see me and know my true weakness: actually caring about anything. So I went to games, I secretly had some enjoyment there but hey, let's be honest, I would have rather been sneaking beers in the park or playing video games until 2AM. I was a semi-fan for 2000-2002, in large part fueled by my brother constantly pointing out how the officiating favored the Lakers in the playoffs, giving the sport a Good vs. Bad, professional wrestling feel. That mistrust of NBA officiating continues to this day, by the way.
But something in 2002 changed. I remember falling in love with Tommy Points, assigning them at random times during the day as my friends and classmates did anything remotely notable. I distinctly remember an old friend getting me into the Knights of Columbus clubhouse to watch some of the 1st series vs. the 76ers, where the mysterious grandeur of adults not batting an eye as I guzzled bud light somehow overshadowed the games. And in the 2nd round, as the Celtics outplayed a mediocre Pistons team, and the 'pick your poison' shouts became more common, I was ecstatic. Antoine's shimmy, Paul's inevitable grinding offense, the I LOVE WALTAH era in full effect, Eric Williams non stop hustle, and the emphatic Tony Battie shouting "get that **** OUTTA HERE!!!" after every block. I could hear the swears on TV! What delight!
And if I began to truly openly enjoy the team in 2002, I fell in love in the conference finals, game 3. My father elected to bring his young son to the games, a selection akin in grandeur and pomp to the opening scene of the Lion King, with Simba being held high in the air. I was excited on the train on the way to the game. I was excited in the 1st quarter. I was exploding in the 2nd quarter. I was dejected, but enthusiastically faithful in the 3rd quarter as the New Jersey lead took on an insurmountable feel.
And in the 4th quarter, when the Celtics had probably the most impressive comeback in NBA playoff history, I was hysterical. I lost my voice screaming at that game. I openly celebrated, and even high five'd with my certainly un-teenage, and therefore uncool, father. I was delirious. The good guys had won! Victory! I was convinced New Jersey (Moria) had been conquered and we would be on our way to slay Sauron (Shaq) and his flopping, fetid, foul Nazgul (Kobe, Horry, Fisher, Fox). I even remember a police officer shouting LET'S GO CELTICS to the euphoric crowd as we walked down Causeway Street, which coincidentally went a long way towards ending my distrust of the police.
Well, it didn't end up that way. We lost in 6 games, even after going up 2-1. And I learned that sports aren't like movies or books; you can't predict the end, not really, until it has passed. That was a harsh lesson. But thankfully it didn't take me off the rails, and I maintain my fanhood to this day. Even after watching Dwight Howard issue concussions from his flailing elbows, watching Dwayne Wade shoot what felt like seven thousand free throws on the way to robbing the Mavericks, counting one two three four five steps as Lebron dunked the ball, I have stayed a fan. And that was rewarded in 2008. And by God it was rewarded in 2012.
That's how I became a fan. What's your story?