Embracing the struggle

USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Celtics are preparing for the upcoming season, one that will likely see many bumps and struggles along the way. How they respond will we be key. How fans respond will be even more interesting.

In sports, fans share great joy with one another when their favorite team is successful. On the contrary, when the team fails, that sorrowful feeling of unfulfilled potential or the almighty 'what-could-have-been' leaves fans with a bitter taste in their mouths. Both feelings are beautiful, an example of the highs and lows of human emotion.

The Boston Celtics are just under a month away from starting training camp and embarking on a journey through the upcoming NBA season with a new coach, fresh faces and an unfamiliar set of circumstances for many who follow the team. For the better half of seven years the Boston Celtics have been one of the best teams in the NBA, guided by the leadership and coaching of Doc Rivers and the good fortune that comes with having three future Hall of Famers on your roster.

But like everything in life, things change. Important people walk out the door. New challenges arise and we're pitted with the task of facing new circumstances whether we like it or not. And, oftentimes more than we would like, those new circumstances bring about a struggle.

How the Celtics respond to that struggle remains to be seen. It's going to take time for new head coach Brad Stevens to learn the intricacies that separate the NBA game from college. The roster he's inherited consists of a hodgepodge of players who don't seem fit to make a run at anything more than a spot in the lottery.

For the fan, though, there's another level when responding to hard times. Celtics fans have been incredibly lucky. Many fans who hopped aboard the train ahead of the championship season in 2008 haven't had to deal with too much disappointment. Many don't understand what a losing season looks like. And so the upcoming season might be difficult for some to endure.

But there's a lesson to be learned from everything, whether it's sports, school or things that happen in our everyday lives. Especially when times get rough.

My perspective on this matter changed forever on April 27, 2011. An EF-4 tornado tore through Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and destroyed my apartment complex and much of my city. A total of 44 people were killed, including two in my apartment complex.

While that may seem morbid and extreme, allow me to explain. In the immediate days following the tornado myself and so many others in Tuscaloosa were left struggling to make sense of what had happened. For me, everything was going so well. Life was great. And then it all changed. So many of us in Tuscaloosa lost everything.

And yet, in the midst of all the confusion and chaos around me, it was in those days following the tornado that I was able to learn one of many important lessons. Even when things don't go our way, when we're left with more questions than answers, we need to be thankful for everything and embrace our circumstances.

I was blessed to be alive. I was blessed to have people donate clothes for me to wear. Even more, I was more thankful for life and all of the little things than I had ever been before.

On a much smaller level, Celtics fans can choose to respond the same way this season. It's not uncommon for humans to take things for granted and then respond negatively when that thing is stripped away from them. Boston has provided fans with more happiness and success in the past seven years than some fan bases have felt in the past 20. So it might seem natural for those who took that success for granted to become frustrated and respond negatively to an awful season. But that's not how it should be.

The Celtics are going to be mediocre at best. They might even be hard to watch will be hard to watch. And just like we see in the different phases of our lives, they will struggle, learn and get better. Eventually, the hope is that they will be successful again in a few years.

It's up to the Celtics to respond to their struggles in a positive manner.

And it's up to the fans to be thankful for the good times Boston has had and be grateful for the opportunity to watch them play basketball. Don't sulk. Try not to complain about the inevitable difficulties. Embrace the 2013 season and learn something from it.

Life was never meant to be an easy journey. Struggling is natural. How you respond to the struggle is what really sends the loudest message.

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