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A Wave of Apathy

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Hey, the Celtics won by 26 last night!  It may only have been against a team that - even before Tayshaun Prince went down injured in the second quarter - was already having one of those years - (we call it a "2006/07" around here), but you can't criticize the Celtics for taking care of business.  A 26 point win is a 26 point win, complaints?

Not quite.

Another development that Red Auerbach would have never allowed: Fans did the wave in the second quarter. Longtime observers said they could not remember that happening at a Celtics home game, ever.

No, no, no, no, no, no, NO!

After having won a championship (less than two years ago, believe it or not), you expect the dynamic within the arena to shift - more corporate hospitality, more families, more bandwagon fans - but this is a step too far.  There's a reason why Red would never have allowed it.

This isn't the first time the wave has been seen at a Celtics game.  Here's what I ranted about following the Celtics' trip to London in 2007:

What annoyed me most of all was the wave - or as we Brits call it, the Mexican wave (because we only found out about it after the Mexico World Cup in 1986) - "I am trying to watch the game!" - to me, this just says that the crowd was bored with the game, which is not a great sign for basketball in this country, as the wave started halfway through the third and continued in the fourth

I'd been critical of the in-arena experience for a long time, not just at the Garden, but throughout the NBA.  The "entertainment" that teams had been increasingly forcing upon us was killing the momentum of the crowd, or so I thought.  However, once there was a competitive product on the floor, I had to admit that these bells and whistles, rather than causing a distraction, actually enhanced the atmosphere - especially during the playoffs.

The wave, though?  That's the last straw.  Is the Garden filling up with people who are more interested in shouting "Sheeeeed!" or sarcastically chanting for Scalabrine than who wins the game?  If I follow the instructions on the Jumbotron to "Make Some Noise!" is the person sitting behind me going to tell me to sit down?  Is the unspeakably irritating wave going to become a permanent fixture at Celtics games?

As I sat in the crowd at that game in London, trying to watch what I considered to be an important game - the second game ever played together by what was potentially the best roster the Celtics had put together since I was a child - the wave made its way round the arena and the palpable buzz of anticipation grew as it came nearer to where we were sitting.  I sat motionless and steely-eyed as the wave washed over me like twenty thousand Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm-Flailing Tubemen, just hoping that it wouldn't prevent me from seeing anything important.  After a while, the wave stopped and the crowd booed.  The players on the court were noticeably wondering what was going on and eventually, of course, it started up again.

That was almost understandable though.  That was London, where half (if not more) of the crowd were there purely for the novelty factor, which had long since worn off, leaving them watching a preseason basketball game between two sets of players they knew little about.  At the Boston Garden though, in the middle of one of the team's most impressive on-court runs since the all-star break, as the team struggles to get back on track and consolidate its position before heading into the "business end of the season"?  Unacceptable.

Somewhere towards the end of the 2008 season, Celtics home games became the place to be, especially on a Friday night (and I don't think it's a coincidence that these have been the games in which the Celtics have underperformed most of the year).  As often happens with successful teams, the influx of non-diehards tends to lead to a situation where the fans sit on their hands waiting to be entertained, rather than getting behind the team from the start and firing them up to perform well.  This taking-for-granted approach permeates the whole building and can affect the atmosphere of the crowd.  That's my concern, anyway, and the manifestation of the wave in last night's game has me more concerned than ever that this is where we're headed.

Why did the Celtics win that title in 2008?  Yes, they had the best team, but there were struggles, self-doubt and tough tests along the way.  They couldn't have done it without their rabid fanbase behind them every step of the way.  Similarly, they almost reached the Eastern Conference Finals last year for the same reason, despite being decimated by injuries and completely overmatched against the eventual Eastern Conference Champion Orlando Magic team.  This year, the Celtics have had their struggles and the fans have not been "behind them every step of the way".  The question is, come playoff time, will they be?  If not, I fear an early exit could be on the cards.

Of course, the main question all this raises is this:  Out of all the things I could have picked to be concerned about, why did I choose this?  It's a good question - and not easy to answer - but somehow, it's just easier.  This is one problem that can be easily fixed.  Everything else?  Maybe I don't want to think about that...