One time when I was in college, I think I had failed a quiz or something because of a ridiculous reason that led to me being agitated. In turn, this led to one of my more chill friends at the time looking at me while chuckling at my misery to say, “dude, just don’t be mad.”
There’s no doubt in my mind that he was taunting me, and to be fair to him, probably for good reason. I can’t even remember if it was for a quiz, so I’m pretty much making up every part of this story besides the fact that I had a friend tell me once, “dude, just don’t be mad.” On another occasion (perhaps 5 minutes later from the original instance), he also used the variant, “yeah dude, just don’t be angry.”
My life has never been the same.
Watching the 2018-19 Boston Celtics has been irritating, joyless, even funny only in the most ironic sense and most of all, disappointing. For months both here and on Twitter, I’ve lamented the pain that we brought on ourselves by expecting great things after coming just minutes away from the NBA Finals. From the summer onward, the Celtics transformed from the scrappy overachieving Hospital Celtics to candidates for a 65ish-win season. We even got tweets like this:
And you know what? I’m completely guilty. It sucks, but this season has been disastrous in a number of ways. I want to write “lol” after almost every sentence here because I’m not actually mad, but I feel this emptiness that can only be encapsulated by a texting acronym that is equally meaningless in today’s communication.
The Celtics most likely won’t even crack 50 wins this season despite reaching that number and beyond last season. There have been endless thought pieces on why they’ve “failed” or what the “problem” is when in reality, it’s a lot of problems and a lot of issues. We’ve gone through Kyrie Irving drama, starting lineup drama, drama drama, drama about drama, and more. It’s incredibly entertaining for fans of 29 other teams, but as Celtics fans, it’s tiring.
And you know what? There’s nothing you can do about it.
This is a hard pill to swallow, but that’s the only way you can gain some form of joy from the weight of the massive and crushing disappointment of this season. The only thing you can control is your attitude in watching what unfolds. There are a number of reasons to be optimistic, but I honestly can’t fault you if you don’t feel that way. If you expect Boston to lose in the first round against the Indiana Pacers, I don’t have anything concrete except maybe this month’s West Coast road trip to counter with.
But I’m still going to stay optimistic. Boston still has the tools to compete on paper with everyone in the Eastern Conference at any given time. A team still has to beat them four times in a seven-game series. The key is just making it there.
For the rest of the regular season, I’m going to look for things that can bring a little optimism into my system. How quick is Gordon Hayward’s first step? How does he react when it’s taken away? What can I learn from Boston’s two remaining regular season match ups against the Indiana Pacers? Will Brad Stevens shift the ball-handling responsibilities away or toward Terry Rozier as the playoff rotation comes into shape? How does the team look with Kyrie Irving on the bench? How many sets will we run for Al Horford?
I don’t want to say you should be optimistic, but looking ahead to where things can actually get better might be beneficial for your state of mind.
For me*, what matters now between now and April 13 is finding answers to the questions about things that the Celtics need to work to have a successful playoff run. Riding the highs and lows of regular season wins and losses has grown tired on me personally. I know and understand that this approach basically goes against the fundamentals of fandom, but the only choice this unenjoyable Celtics team has left us with is to wait for April 13th. If they come out on fire with the proverbial “switch” flipped, then it’ll be easy for nightly engagement to return.
Until then, “just don’t be mad.”
*This approach works for me, but I understand that it might not be for everyone. Listen. I’m just trying to spare you!