SCENE: SIERRA and COREY watch basketball, just after SIERRA has woken up from a nap.
SIERRA: “What are the names of these teams, daddy?”
COREY: “These are the Knicks and the Mavericks.”
SIERRA: “Which team has the giant basketball, daddy?”
COREY: “That’s the Knicks. The Knicks have a giant basketball logo.”
SIERRA: “Oh, I LOVE the Knicks, daddy.”
COREY: “Daddy doesn’t like the Knicks. The Knicks sometimes beat daddy’s favorite team.”
SIERRA: “Don’t you like the white clothes teams?”
COREY: “Well, you see, I sometimes like the white clothes teams. The teams that wear white are the teams that are playing at home. Like, when the Sioux Falls Skyforce play at home, they wear white jerseys. Today, the Knicks played in New York, so they wore white. So I like the white teams sometimes, when the Celtics play at home. And sometimes I like the green team, when the Celtics are playing somewhere else.”
SIERRA: “Look at my giraffe.”
“Chemistry is something that you don’t just throw in a frying pan and mix it up with another something and throw something on top of that and then fry it up and put in a tortilla and put it in microwave, heat it up, give it to you and expect it to taste good.
If y’all don’t know what I’m talking about then you can’t cook and this doesn’t concern you.”
I know. Exactly. EXACTLY.
I can’t WAIT until TNT hires KG after he retires. YOU’RE ON NOTICE, SHAQ.
See, you can’t truly love a team until you’ve suffered with it. The 2008 title team always felt like a fantasy team that had been thrown together in some sort of euphoric basketball dream that wasn’t quite real. Losing Garnett in 2009 (and eventually, the Orlando series) definitely hurt; blowing the 2010 title was 100 times worse. The agony of those last two games pushed our relationship with the team to an entirely different level. I still remember seeing Perkins rolling around in pain during Game 6 — it happened about 20 feet away from me — then the veterans watching him get helped off, his right leg dangling in the air, the life sinking from their bodies like Apollo watching Rocky wave him back to the corner. With a healthy 2011 Garnett in that Game 7, maybe we could have survived. Banged-up 2010 Garnett couldn’t get it done. The trophy was sitting there, and we couldn’t take it. A crestfallen Perkins spent the summer blaming himself, busted his butt to come back … and the Celtics dumped him a month after he returned. Claiming they couldn’t afford him only made it worse: The kid signed a discount extension four years ago and outperformed it. They owed him.
Bill Simmons can be an annoying homer sometimes, but that’s exactly what makes things like this – his rundown of emotions regarding seeing a favorite player traded away – so damned good.
I feel exactly the same way. Kendrick Perkins was never the best player on the Celtics. He wasn’t even one of the five best, at times. But he was easily one of the most important in terms of attitude, ability and specialty. He was one of my favorite players on the team, and I looked forward to the years when, after Garnett and Allen and Pierce walk away, Rondo and Perkins took the team as their own and continued playing genuine Celtics-style basketball.
Now, he’s gone. And, like Simmons says, I’ll eventually talk my way into this new era. Doesn’t make it any easier, though.
It was Game Five of the NBA Finals. The series was tied at two games a piece, and the Lakers were making a run. Then, this play.
It was the single greatest play I’ve seen during these playoffs, and I was convinced that, with momentum, the Celtics had just cinched up a championship.
Two days later, it all came crashing down.
At some point during the Celtics’ demoralizing Game Six defeat this past Tuesday – around the time I had stopped watching in order to wash the dishes, run to the store for a frozen pizza, and drink a beer in smoldering frustration, my confidence crashing and doubt setting in after only two quarters of play – Kerrie asked me a simple question.
“Why do you watch sports?”
My answer: “I don’t know.”
The real answer, of course, is that we’re entertained by sports. We watch people do things we’re not able to do, performing on the highest level possible. And if we subscribe to the notion of home-town success, we probably claim allegiance to certain sports teams by proximity alone; when they win, the city wins.
The draw, though, becomes more than just entertainment – especially when you develop a fanatical connection to a team. I say “fanatical” because that’s what being a fan means. I say “fantatical” also, not because it’s negative, but because it’s totally enveloping – it turns the process of watching sports into a process of being part of the team.
Sports fans are no different than those who refuse to miss a favorite television show, who buy an author’s books the second they come out, or who spend over $50 on a concert ticket. They find solace in someone else’s success, and take personally their failures.
We root because we care. We care because we’re human.
This time around, it’s different for me. The Celtics are playing on borrowed time. They weren’t supposed to make it past the Cavaliers. Or the Magic. And they certainly weren’t supposed to be a game away from winning it all. They were left for dead, too old to compete, too banged up to make a splash, a shadow of their 2008 season.
But they did it. They beat the Cavs in six. They beat the Magic in six. And now, despite a monster setback in Tuesday’s game, they still sit just one game away from being champions.
For those of us who followed them from the beginning of the playoffs, each round has been an improbable lesson in faith and hard work, and though we all know that this last round is as improbable as any, we’ll still feel the sting if the C’s go down.
No matter what, tonight is the last day of the NBA season. No matter what, one team is going to walk out of the Staples Center a champion.
No matter what, this is it. Game Seven, NBA Finals, featuring the two biggest franchises – and the biggest rivalry – in the history of the league.
And, no matter what, I’ll be filled with emotion: the exact emotion, though, may not be understood until after the game is finished, be it frustration and disbelief or joy and pride.
The “LeBacle” may soon prove to have been one of the darkest moments in Cleveland’s miserable sports history.
But please, spare us the assertion that after one bad night we know James has always had a permanent flaw. It’s just absurd, and amazingly some of it’s coming from the faithful in Cleveland. Twitter, Internet comments, my e-mail inbox, Facebook, all are loaded to the gills with talk that he’s doomed to mediocrity, psychologically deficient or was intentionally tanking.
As if those 69 playoff contests and 548 regular-season games were the aberration, and this one horrible night was the truth. As if the guy who scored 25 straight against the Pistons in a similar situation needs a lecture, from Twitter, on embracing the challenge.
Somebody should make a big list of all those people who think they now know James is a doomed player, and we’ll revisit in a decade.
He’s talking about basketball writers. But there’s a tone to this that reaches across all subjects, one that draws a sharp line showing the difference between writing WITH passion and writing FROM passion.
The first is all about embracing what you do and attacking it with gusto: cherishing each word, taking your shoes off and splashing around in the subject matter, laughing and waving your arms, delirious with happiness because – damn it – you love this.
The second is allowing the moment to cloud your judgment, letting hyperbole set in, overreacting and ACTING THE FOOL, as the more street-worthy performers might say.
The first leads to emotional prose. The second leads to 24-hour news channel hype.
We’re all guilty of the second.
Admitting we’re guilty helps us focus on the first, by identifying our own overreaction and acting accordingly. With grace. With all sides measured. Without filtering common sense in search of a sensational stance.
Most of us who call themselves part of Celtics Nation have been holding our breath as we await what’s been universally determined to be an easy series win for the Cavaliers.
The fact is, Celtics fans haven’t had a lot to be happy about this season. Doc Rivers continues to undercoach, Rasheed Wallace decided to only play half of the season, and our three Hall of Fame locks are beginning to look old. I mean really old. Keeper of the Crypt old.
So I continue to hold my breath. I don’t want to jinx this, you guys, and I truly believe that, if I say something with any kind of braggadocio, I’m going to screw things up; that LeBron will make a point to score 50 a game and, after dunking over the head of Kendrick Perkins, point to the camera and say “YOU THINK YOUR CELTICS ARE SOMETHING SPECIAL, COREY VILHAUER IN SIOUX FALLS SOUTH DAKOTA?”
I do. But I won’t say it too loud. Except to remind everyone that, when ‘Sheed’s put out to pasture, when the “Big Three” are sizing their bronze plaques, when Doc Rivers is announcing games on TNT and we’re all left wondering where our championship aspirations drifted off to, we’ll still have Rajon Rondo.
I can’t stop watching it. Over. And over. And over again.