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The fun conundrum

With each passing victory, the lines between fan and analyst get blurrier.

Brooklyn Nets v Boston Celtics Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

The Boston Celtics are fun again! No, that’s not a new revelation, they’ve been trending that way for several weeks now, but it’s still awesome to bask in the team's growth as a unit and to marvel at the individual developments across the board.

There was a time, earlier in the season, when the team was tough to watch. Forget the losses and the late-game collapses. The Celtics were just flat out ugly. No cohesion, a lack of offensive spark, and most importantly, there was no sign of any pizazz. Basketball is supposed to be entertainment after all.

For writers, podcasters, and content creators, the Celtics struggling was a double-edged sword. Nobody wants to see the team they root for and/or cover fall by the wayside early in the season, and they definitely don’t want the daily negative interactions on social media.

But losing and the frustration that comes with it drives interactions. More people hit play on a podcast episode or get into spats in the comment sections. There’s reason to re-watch games two or three times because you’re trying to figure out where everything went wrong.

Losing is horrible, but you can always lean on the potential for trades to occur or spend your time hunting through draft prospects, selling yourself in the hope of better times to come. And like it or loathe it, there’s more to cover, which in turn, means more content being produced.

But, if you, like me, are a fan of this team, then all the content in the world can’t paper over the joyous feeling of watching the Celtics string together multiple wins or register a W over a conference rival as they did on Sunday afternoon behind a monster performance from Jayson Tatum.

When I first started on this journalist/content creator journey, one of the first pieces of advice I received was that you may start out covering the team you love, but as you move into the professional ranks - if you’re fortunate enough to do so - you’ve got to be willing to cover a different team. And part of me thinks that might be easier at times, to cover a team where emotion is off the table. Where every word is unbiased, every opinion is 100% shrouded in cold, hard fact.

“You might be covering the Celtics now, but what happens if the full-time offer comes to cover the Orlando Magic or Portland Trail Blazers? Are you really going to turn that down?,” I recall them saying. Of course, those opportunities are extremely unlikely for someone in my position, but for others, this is the nature of the beast, and a reality you come to accept.

Don’t get me wrong, every fledging content creator who takes this gig seriously is putting in the work. They’re finding their way and developing their own style and tone, and in my case, trying to create a specialization to lean on for years to come. But, that doesn’t mean any of us are devoid of emotion, and that our opinions are swayed by a deep-seated connection to the team we love. I grew up watching the Celtics every chance I got, I hunted around for the best coverage, exclusive interviews, and the latest jerseys just like everybody else.

So it’s only logical that my thoughts and opinions, however researched, are somewhat swayed by my fandom.

And that’s where winning comes into it.

As an “analyst,” and I use quotations because that term is thrown around far too often these days, I try to watch games while sitting on the fence. Every bucket is nothing more than a possession to break down and analyze. Every play is just a string of movements that need to be broken down into cause and effect.

Recently, that’s become increasingly difficult to do.

When Tatum pulls off moments of pure genius like this, how can you not get riled up? If you’re cheering for this team's success, how can you keep your emotions in check? This is the same player we’ve all seen grown from a rookie into a borderline top-10 talent. Emotion has to play a part.

Against the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday, like many other times in recent weeks, the fan in me won the battle. Sitting on the edge of the sofa, marveling at Tatum’s scoring prowess, Grant William's sudden ability to offer resistance on the perimeter, and Jaylen Brown’s understated connective performance, I cheered, groaned, and berated the officials. This was a game for the fans, and a fan I was.

This morning, as I sat down for my re-watch of the game, the fan won again. Sure, the excitement was dampened, and knowing the outcome changed my viewing experience, but every time I tried to be calculated, I found myself glued to the screen, waiting for the next back and forth between Tatum and Kevin Durant. My notebook was empty, my heart filled with joy.

Winning might solve everything when it comes to team chemistry and your chances of retaining elite talent long-term. But for those in the content creator/analyst business, that’s when the problems arise. Or at least, for those lucky enough to cover the team they love. Obviously, the predicament some of us journalists, especially here at CelticsBlog, find ourselves in, is the better of the two evils. Nobody wants to spend every day shouting angrily into the abyss, spewing negativity into the ether.

But, the struggle is real, and it’s a struggle that’s been far more prominent this season because of how the year began. When you’re expected to win and you do so, it’s easy to compartmentalize. When you’re expected to win and you don’t, well then you’re job is clear - break it down and find out why. But when you’re expected to win and flit between shocking apathy and sensational camaraderie, well there’s no blueprint on how to ride that dragon.

And that’s why this current season has many of us “analysts” scratching our heads on how best to cover this version of the Celtics. As the title suggests, we find ourselves in a fun conundrum, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.