It might be because the Smith house is about a month from having a teenager, but I’ve been thinking a lot about the process of growing up. I’ve also been thinking a lot about what it’s like to have a teenager.
All the jokes I heard growing up, many made by my own parents about me back in the day, are proving to be prophetic and true. Often is a time when I call home to speak with my folks, and inevitably grumble about something our daughter has done to frustrate me. My parents respond by chortling with glee and uttering some form of “Payback sucks, huh?”
But here’s the thing, just like my parents, I wouldn’t change a thing.
Any parent with a near-teen knows that you can go from wanting to strangle them to wanting to hug them to outright laughing at them in an incredibly short amount of time. For us, that often happens on a school morning in the time it takes to leave the house until school drop-off. Some of those mornings are an absolute grind, and can be really hard to get through.
But just as often, I find myself marveling at our daughter. Of course, I’m biased, but she’s incredibly bright. She’s hilariously funny. She’s more kind than I could ever hope to be. She has an out-of-this-world work ethic, whether it be schoolwork, soccer or various interests and projects. Well…provided none of those interests and projects involve keeping her room clean.
On the flip-side, emotions run high. As a dad, I have learned that sometimes girls just need to cry. And sometimes that happens in a car ride to or from school or practice. And sometimes there’s not even anything wrong! Sometimes it’s just necessary to have a good cry.
Like any near-teen, she has all the answers. Cue the “Hire a teenager while they still know everything” jokes that are incredibly true. Also like any near-teen, she thinks her parents are simultaneously amazing and the biggest idiots on the planet.
Mostly, in quiet moments, I find myself beaming with pride. I love when she figures something out for herself. I love when she shares some fact from school that she just learned, or some concept. One of my greatest joys is watching her compete on the soccer field. It’s truly something I already fear missing the most.
I also already know we’re on the clock with the car rides. The unending car rides to and from school and to and from soccer. But my dad recently shared something with me that said “Just remember: someday there won’t be anyone left to drive to practice.” It crushed me, even if we’ve still got several years to go.
Those car rides are our time. Sometimes they are spent in silence, other times they are spent having some of the deepest and most introspective conversations I’ve ever had. Sometimes they involve Taylor Swift songs and tears, other times they involve the two of us acting crazy and driving my wife nuts. But they are the rare, stolen moments of time we have together. I treasure them more than I would have ever thought possible.
Watching her grow up is easily the single best thing I’ve ever done. Even if the individual days drag sometimes, it’s all gone by way too fast. And it’ll all be over before we know it.
The Boston Celtics are kind of the same.
The Celtics have basically hit their teenage years, in NBA terms. The core of Jaylen Brown, Al Horford, Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum and Rob Williams are in Year 5 together. Yes, I’m going to conveniently overlook Horford being gone for two years, because that’s something we can all agree to pretend never really happened.
If we break it down, it’s remarkable how much time we’ve had with some of these guys. Smart is in his ninth season now. Brown is in season seven, and Tatum in season six. Rob is already in his fifth year. Horford has been with the Celtics for five total seasons now. Where has that time gone?
We’ve watched Smart mature into someone who will drive us crazy, but also do something so Marcus Smart like, that we can only shake our heads, laugh and say, “Marcus Smart does Marcus Smart things.” We love and trust him like no other.
Horford is like when your kid went away to college for a bit. They came home a different person. Probably more mature and a little wiser. But also, with a respect for just how great home is, always was and always will be.
Brown and Tatum aren’t twins, but they might as well be. It feels impossible to separate them. So much so, that we all need to collectively agree to stop trying. Like, forever. Like Smart, we’ve watched them grow every step of the way. Brown is a bit more emotional, and you always seem to know where you stand. Tatum is quieter. Sometimes you need to dig to get things out of him.
But with both Brown and Tatum, you always know they care. There’s never any doubt that they want to succeed together and to be the best, even if the steps along the way are sometimes a little clumsy. But the care factor? That’s never in doubt.
And Rob is that teenager where you never know what to expect. He’ll amaze you one minute and leave you asking, “Why?” the next. But you’re secretly always waiting to see what is next, because it’s like riding a roller coaster you never want to exit.
This five-man core is special. What makes them special is how much time we’ve had with them. We’ve watched them grow, mature and to become something special. We’ve been there with them every day.
We love our daughter for all the reasons I listed out in the opening to this article. But we also love her because she’s ours.
We love these Celtics for a lot of the same reasons. They are ours. Just like our own families, maybe at the expense of our own families at times, we’ve poured hours into this team.
We watch the games. We read the articles. We listen to the shows and the podcasts. We defend them to the death on social media. It’s fine for us to say the Celtics are bad or that certain players are terrible. But if you aren’t bleeding green, keep your mouth shut or prepare for a fight.
And that’s not just the Boston Celtics as a whole that we love, but we love this Celtics team. I’ve never missed a game that any of this core group have played. I may have watched some on delay, but I’ve never missed a game they’ve played. That’s something a lot of Boston fans can also happily say. We’ve been there. Been there through all of it.
We’re invested. Deeply invested. We’re invested as if they are family. We care about Marcus and Al and Jaylen and Jayson and Rob, because we’ve been there with them. And we’ve been there the whole time that they’ve been Celtics.
Just like my own near-teen, there are days I want to strangle the Celtics. There are days they leave me wondering if they’ll ever be ready to tackle the world that is rapidly encroaching upon them. There are days when I ask, “Do they have what it takes to be great? To be the best?”
Just like my own near-teen, there are way more days when the Celtics make me laugh. There are way more days when the Celtics make me smile. There are way more days when the Celtics make me proud.
We all love the Celtics here. But we LOVE these Celtics. That’s why they drive us so crazy sometimes. We know just how capable of greatness they are, and we want that for them. Like any parent, sometimes it feels like we might want it more for them than they want it themselves.
But when we step back, we can admit that they want it plenty. They want it even more than we do. They just show it in different ways than we would. They go about things in different ways than we would. And that’s ok. Like a teenager, part of the NBA team journey is figuring it out for themselves. Part of the pride and the love is being there to celebrate when they do. Or, even more importantly, to still be there to pick them up and love them when they don’t.
These Celtics, the ones we watched grow and mature, are special to us. They are special to us because they are ours. And that’s going to make it all that much sweeter when they finally do break through and bring home Banner 18. It’ll be because our Celtics will have done it. They’ll have achieved their ultimate goal.
We’ll have some more frustrations along the way. And just like with teenagers, we’ll eventually look back and laugh at those moments. In the end, that’s part of the journey. Overcoming those challenges are something we’ll ultimately celebrate, even if they’ll exasperate us in the moment. But it’s all out of love and wanting the best for the ones we love.
Imperfect, frustrating, wonderful, talented and amazing as they are, these are our Celtics. And we love these Celtics because they are our Celtics.