Friday, May 23, 2008

CELTICS - 97

Detroit - 103 :-(

Woe! Travail! Gnashing of teeth! You can't see it, but I'm rending my garments as I type (which is not easy to do.)

Frustrating game. Ray Allen got his shooting touch back on a night where the Celtics didn't play the type of tight defense they've lived on all season. Allen scored 25, but the team gave Detroit far too many open shots. Detroit, being an excellent team, took advantage of the openings and won. No complaints. The Pistons deserved it.

Now the Celtics go on the road, and a sadder combination of words will not be found in the repertoire of any Celtics fan. They have yet to win a playoff game on the road this year. Now, they must win at least one. If not, it's been a nice year and see you in November.

Oh, well. Here's something to keep you warm while we await game three on Saturday.

(If she doesn't do it for you, ladies, my apologies. You'll just have to make do with your autographed photo of Terry Duerod.)

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I want to try to convey to you why the Celtics mean so much to me.

I was born in the month before the Celtics won their first NBA title. That was 1957. They lost in the finals the year after that, but then ran off 8 consecutive championships, the best run of any professional sports team in history. In the year of my 2nd birthday, they won their 2nd championship; in the year of my 3rd birthday, they won their 3rd championship; and so on.

The streak stopped when I was 10, and it was a shock. It was the first time in my living memory that the Celtics weren’t the NBA champions. I had assumed that they would always win. However, the next two years after that, they got back on track and won championships again. By the time I was 12, they had won 11 world titles.

Now, winning championships is excellent, but that’s not enough to earn someone’s love. You earn respect by winning championships. You earn love by your actions outside of the arena. What happened in my neighborhood had a lot to do with it, too.

Actions outside of the arena? The Celtics were an amazing example of human brotherhood during an era of contentious race relations in America. They were the first NBA team to draft a black player. They were the first NBA team to put 5 black players on the floor at once. They were the first NBA team to have a black man as their head coach. You know why they were the first in these areas? It’s because Red Auerbach, much as Martin Luther King, didn’t give a damn about the color of a man’s skin. All he cared about was the content of his character, what the man could do to help his team win. And all of his players followed his lead. The anecdotes are legend among Celtics fans. Stuff like this…

In the early 60's, Sam Jones’s father was in the locker room. He saw his son in the shower with John Havlicek, and started crying. When his son came out of the shower and saw his dad in tears, he asked him why he was crying. His dad said that he never thought he’d live to see the day when his black son could take a shower with a white man, with both of them laughing and no self-consciousness. He was crying because he was happy.

When Dick O’Connell, then General Manager of the 1967 Red Sox, talked about what sort of camaraderie he wanted to build on his team, he said, “Just down the street, there’s a Jew, who works for an Irishman, and he has six black players and six white players willing to die for him every night. That’s the way it should be.”

Forty years after the fact, during the filming of an episode of a show for ESPN Classic, concerning his teammate Bill Russell, Bob Cousy broke down in tears talking about what sort of pain Russell must have felt being a proud and highly intelligent black man in an era when black people were very much getting the short end of it. That’s the kind of teammates the Celtics were – and remained after retirement.

The Celtics have a standing policy concerning retired players, no matter how long they played for the team, or when. If an ex-Celtic wants to attend a home game, he gets in and he gets a seat. No guarantee that it’s going to be courtside, but he WILL get a seat. Family is always welcomed home.

“Celtic Pride" wasn't some bullshit marketing slogan. The players bought it, and lived it.

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Meanwhile, in my neighborhood of Dorchester, I was the only kid who liked basketball. That's an amazing thing to hear these days, since Dorchester is one of the big basketball hot spots in the city of Boston. During my youth in Lower Mills, though, I was it. I'd dribble my ball down to Walsh Park on a Saturday morning and shoot baskets for a couple of hours, with nobody else on the court - or likely to be all day.

Everybody loved the Red Sox and the Bruins. The Patriots were liked. But I was the only guy who professed love for the Celtics.

I'm a contrarian. The easiest way to get me to do something is to try to get me to do the opposite. So, since nobody else cared about basketball, and all of my friends gave me shit for being a Celtics fan, I naturally pulled the team even closer to my heart.

(A painful aside, but... There was a fair amount of race-hatred involved in my friends' non-affection for the C's. I was called a "nigger-lover" more than once. Of course, it goes without saying that these were the same assholes who jumped on the Celtics bandwagon during the glory days of Larry Bird in the 80's. The world is, unfortunately, filled with such sad little people.)

So, summing up, the Celtics were a class organization and they were something I saw, as a child, as mine and mine alone because of the ignorance in my neighborhood.

Following Bird's retirement, and with the general dishevelment of the team lately, my passion has only grown. Once again, the team became something I loved and not too many others gave a rat's ass about. Of course, this year the frontrunners have jumped on the bandwagon again. That's OK. They're standing. I've had a seat for over 40 years.

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Total points for the contest - 185.

Average of 92.5 per game.

At this rate, the lowest winning total will be 462. The high would be 1295. Just about everybody is still alive, in other words.

Long holiday weekend, so see you on Tuesday. Two games in the interim. If the Celtics don't win one of them, I'll be the fellow in sackcloth, ashes, and a Celtics cap.

10 comments:

Chris Stone said...

great post.

I almost watched the game last night... but for me it involves going to a bar as I have no TV and I just wasn't into it last night. Sorry to hear they lost!

Janet said...

That was a great history lesson. I'm sorry they lost. Being from a state with no professional sports teams (up until recently), we were Braves fans. We spent years watching them lose and still wearing the hats. Then everyone jumped on that bandwagon too when they started winning. I admire your stance - as a southerner I was raised by people who used the n-word with aplomb (and my second stepfather still does). I had a black "boyfriend" in 4th grade. He was very sweet and he gave me a ring from a bubblegum machine. My first stepfather found out about it and next thing we know we're in private school. No people of color allowed. (I didn't know that until later - we were just told that they didn't want us riding on buses.) Sorry, that doesn't really qualify as a comment. It's more of a post. Hope the next games go well! I don't have TV either, so can't watch them. Which is actually better, because it seems that as soon as I start actually watching ball games, my team starts losing in spectacular fashion. My alma mater can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory better than anyone.

eileen said...

Loved the stories about you growing up as a Celtics fan.

Fingers crossed for a road win this weekend! I think they'lll put out at least one win in Detroit, with Ray acting like his old self again.

Anonymous said...

As it turns out I'm the foggy one....LOL I am willing to bet I'm not alone in this family of ours.
It looks like you finished the story and I forgot to finish it myself.........Hmmmmmmmmmmmm
Oh well.
I'll keep reading
Love
Deb

Sandra Ree said...

Amazing what a thoughtful, fact filled, passionate post will do for you... I think I'm actually gonna get interested in keeping tabs on this team called the Celtics. What a good read. :)

lime said...

wow, i had no idea they were such a barrier breaking organization. thanks for that history lesson, they just went way up in my estimation! awesome post!

Buck said...

I knew some of the Celtics history in your post, Jim, but certainly not all of it. Thanks for the lesson, and I use the term in the best possible way.

A storied club, indeed.

Chucka Stone Designs said...

As a child in the 80's in Boston it would have been difficult to avoid hearing about the sport at all so there is a certain Boston Celtics pride in my heart but sorry to say, no real love for the game itself.

I was in Junior High when the C's had the McHale/Bird/Ainge years and a few of the players came to our school to talk to us. All I really remember from that day is that I was in 7th grade and only about 4'-10". Needless to say those guys were literally larger than life to me and I thought Danny was kind of cute.

Basketball was not a popular sport in my hometown either, the high school farm sport was hockey so that got most of the praise, but b-ball did influence me indirectly to never do drugs after Len Bias died.

It is great to read about your memories of the team, how they have stuck with you (and you with the team) all these years.

on1xb said...

hahah jimmy i love your blogs... i have it sticky'd on my firefox tabs lmao... didn't get a chance to watch the games (i live so far out i don't have TV) lol... keep it up!

CrazyCath said...

Just popping in to say hi. I have to confess that I just can't cope with a sport post right now - especially one where I don't understand the sport! Is that the one where they blow the whistle every 5 seconds and stop the clock because some one needs to check with his mommy or some one pinched the ball or (God forbid) got another 5 yards up the field? lol

I will NEVER understand it!