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Fans from afar: how bleeding green is more than location

Three CelticsBlog staff members describe how they found the Celtics, or how the Celtics found them even thousands of miles away.

1988 McDonald’s Open: Yugoslavia vs. Boston Celtics Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

My first memory as a Celtics fan was a sad one.

I was 11 years old, so staying up late to watch my Celtics take down Kobe and the Lakers again in the 2010 Finals was not an option. Bedtime for a kid is much like Father Time: undefeated. As you all know, Boston lost. I woke up the next morning to my dad at the side of my bed, prepared to break the bad news to me. “Sorry, buddy. Your Celtics lost.”

A Pistons fan for life, my dad was skeptical at first of my Celtics love, but he soon learned to accept the fact that once I started bleeding green, nothing could cauterize my open heart.

After spending my childhood rooting for the “Goin’ to Work” Pistons, I started feeling green envy, and made the switch once I saw Boston’s new acquisition, Kevin Garnett. His energy and passion reminded me of those same Pistons, and I gravitated toward the historic franchise with a rabid fanbase.

The fact their captain and heart of the team had my last name with a slightly different spelling had me sold on the Celtics even more. Since then, I never looked back. It was lonely at first, but growing up in the age of the internet was amazing for me. Connecting with other like-minded fans through social media has made everything easier.

CelticsBlog writer Michael Pearce in August 2015 at a Michigan Journalism camp wearing Larry Bird on his back.

Sharing my love of the Celtics with my best friend, Brendan, and my dad brought me even closer to the team. I religiously used the Celtics in NBA 2K, setting records with the Rajon Rondo and Kelly Olynyk pick-and-pop. Every year, Brendan and I would try to go see the Celtics whenever they visited Detroit and spend the whole game trash talking each other.

In a way, I still felt like a part of the Celtics family from 1,000 miles away.

CelticsPod host and CelticsBlogger Adam Taylor grew up in the part of the world where football (or soccer, if you’re a Yankee) reigns supreme. In the late ‘90s and early 2000’s, Taylor became a rarity in England as a hoop junkie with no interest in the world’s most popular sport.

“You go to school and everyone’s talking about the latest soccer games,” Taylor said. “I was there and I kind of had no one to talk basketball with.”

That lone wolf mindset is what made Taylor obsessed with basketball. He’d stay at the local court for several hours per day and started obsessing over the NBA. He chose the Celtics because they were bad, and he’d had enough of the casual fans in England claiming to be Lakers or Bulls fans without actually watching the games.

“The era when I was watching, the Celtics were the ones who sucked,” Taylor said. “I’m going to school hearing these kids say ‘I’m a Lakers fan,’ and I never once heard someone say ‘I’m a Celtics fan.’”

Taylor’s first group of Celtics he started watching was made up of former fan favorites, including Dino Radja, whom Taylor said made him believe that he could be the next European sensation.

“I was like, ‘yo, soccer sucks,’” Taylor said. “So, If all these soccer fans are going to support these teams, then I’m going to take the Celtics.”

Taylor used the game as an escape from his problems, shooting hoops and playing with older kids on the local court. A tough day at school meant hours on the blacktop, or searching the local bookstores for books about the NBA from America.

For Taylor, another benefit to being a Celtics fan was surprisingly the thing that made his fandom the most challenging – the 3,177 miles from Birmingham to Boston.

“Everyone says in soccer you support the team closest to your front door,” Taylor said. “As I got older, I realized the Boston Celtics geographically are the closest team to my front door. I kind of doubled down on my fandom at that point.”

A 3,000 mile gap seems like an uncrossable chasm, but CelticsBlog editor Bill Sy grew up even further away in Saudi Arabia. An incredible 6,313 miles from the 617, Sy relied on “box scores and Betamax” to buoy his Boston basketball addiction.

Similar to Taylor, Sy fell in love with the Celtics during a period of strife.

“Funny thing is, it wasn’t the championship seasons that hooked me,” he said. “It was those late-80’s, early 90’s teams when Bird was on his way out and the Celtics were starting to rebuild with Reggie [Lewis], Dee Brown, Brian Shaw and Kevin Gamble.”

Sy was on an island, similarly to Taylor. However, since joining CelticsBlog and seeing the NBA grow in popularity with the evolution of technology, Sy has found a family through the Celtics.

“Growing up abroad and living in California for the last 20 years, it’s mostly been a solo journey,” he said. “But certainly CelticsBlog has grown my Celtics family. What I love about our community is that even though we’re all fans of the same team, everybody has a different take ... and while it can get heated and frustrating at times, we all bleed green.”

After shifting into media roles, both Taylor and Sy have adjusted their perspective around the NBA, while still holding their fandom close to their heart.

“Watching a basketball game to me has always been a solitary thing,” Taylor said. “If I analyze a game, I do it on the second watch. I always want to enjoy it as a fan on the first watch through.”

“When I first started at CelticsBlog, I was drawn to the analysis,” Sy said. “People were studying the game in ways that I hadn’t even considered before ... but over the last couple of years, I’ve shied away from that a bit. Because we cover the team so much closer now in the social media age, I started rooting for these guys as people and not just numbers.”

Community is the greatest part of sports, and no community has gripped me like the Celtics and NBA communities have. Distance is just a temporary number, subject to change at any time. The memories and moments we all can recall from Celtics history are forever.