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Here's To The New Generation Of Fans

I'm pulling this article out of the archives to repost for tonight's game.  This originally was posted November 10, 2006 - shortly after Red Auerbach passed away.

I wrote most of this on Saturday, well before learning of our patriarch's passing.  After a weekend of reflecting and looking back to the good old days, it seems oddly appropriate to peak back at the recent history and look forward to the future.  Hope you enjoy.

A thought occurred to me recently and it stopped me in my tracks.  I'm 31 years old, and I think that would make me 11 years old when the Celtics last won a Championship.  That alone is enough to stop me in my tracks, but there's more to it.  I don't know how young you have to be to start appreciating sports, but for the sake of argument, lets say 6 years old (give or take).  That means, any Celtics fans younger than me (and especially those 26 and under) really have no real grasp on what it felt like to watch their team win it all.  Said another way, there are adults walking around that are diehard Celtic fans who have no recollection of when Banner 16 was raised.

This isn't taking anything away from the older fans.  This site is blessed with a number of folks that not only remember Bird, but also Cowens, Hondo, and even Russell and Red and the rest of the greats.

Still, I wanted to take some time and salute the diehards of this generation.  The teenagers and twentysomethings that bleed Celtic green.  You lived through the ML Carr years.  You had to endure the Rick Pitino experiment.  The best coach you've known (after Bird's retirement) is Jim O'Brien; a castoff from the Rick Pitino experiement.   Any time the team made a brief appearance in the playoffs, the legends of the glory years came out and tried to get excited about fatally flawed Celtics teams that simply got bounced by the Nets or Pacers.  The pinnacle of your experience was losing (badly) in the Eastern Conference Finals.  Yet here you are.

I got hooked watching Larry, Kevin, Chief, DJ, and Danny scoring in the 100's and dispatching the early Jordan-Bulls teams and Bad-Boy-Pistons teams and of course the Lakers and Rockets.  They made it look easy.  I thought things would be like that forever.  1986 was the last I saw of the Dynasty, but at least I had that.  What do you have to hang your hat on?  A miracle comeback game against the Nets?  Dee Brown's dunk championship?  Almost drafting Tim Duncan?  Yet here you are.

The Pats had never won anything, but now they have 3 Super Bowl trophies.  The Red Sox went 86 years, but even they have a World Series title. Those (like me) who still count basketball as your favorite sport can enjoy those moments in local sports history, but not quite the same way you would if it were the Celtics.  So you've been buying the same promises this team has been selling for 20 years and the latest edition rewarded you with a 33 win season.  (No wonder many of you are bitter.)  Yet here you are.

You know the tradition, you've seen the footage, you've admired the banners, you pay respect to the retired numbers, but you never witnessed it yourself.  You share in the grief of losing our great leader, but you never saw him light up a victory cigar drenched in champagne.  Yet here you are.

Every Celtic fan has had to endure the hard times, but you didn't even have the good times to make it all worth it.  This is not to remind you of what you've been through or to pity you or even to convince you to abandon ship.  Far from it.  This is my effort to raise a toast to you.  Thank you for sticking with this team and for hoping for a return to a greatness you were never part of.  Thank you for injecting a sense of energy and exuberance while helping usher in the modern age of basketball.

This team needs to bridge the gap between young and old.  They must honor the tradition of greatness while embracing the new era.  Red and the Celtics were great because they were innovators (fast breaking, 6th man) and pioneers (first black coach, etc.).  This Celtics team needs to start a new tradition of winning, not just to honor the past, but also to reward the fans of the present.

Here's to Red.  Here's to the new generation of Celtics fans.  Here's to the Celtics, forever.