Never have I been a true fan of professional basketball. Yeah, as a tweenager, there was some excitement in Rochester when the Toronto Raptors came into existence- but they quickly flew away, once we realized how horrendous they really were. (Although that never stopped the proliferation of purple Vince Carter jerseys around the city.) But otherwise, the NBA did not register on my radar – I’m really short, I grew up in Hockey Land USA (Detroit can be Hockey Town, but Western New York is Hockey Land), and out of all the professional sports out there, my father thought basketball was the most corrupt. (Ever the conspiracy theorist, my father believed that all sports were corrupt – but he watched most of them anyway, because they were fun.) This all added up to my never exhausting my Sports Girl energy on following the Boston Celtics when I moved up here four years ago.
Last night, however, I became the most despised of all sports fans – the bandwagon jumper – and went to a local bar to watch Game 6 of the NBA Finals. Since I moved here, I’ve spent every potential championship game for a Boston sports team working an event on campus designed to keep the students from rioting. For the first time, a Boston team could win a championship and there were only a handful of students around, and thus no need to throw an arena-sized viewing party.
I invited a bunch of co-workers out to join me, and we gathered in the packed bar a few minutes before tip-off. Championship games make even the most college kid dependent of bars packed like the first weekend of classes, and I was lucky to score one bar stool, which we kept rotating throughout the evening. We made quick friends with those around us, one of whom was a devout Celtics fan – a single mom who had raised her teenage daughter to be a Celtics fan, and only a Celtics fan, since she was a toddler. Even through the rough times, the mother said, they attended a dozen or so games a year because the team used to be great, and they would eventually be good again. The exact opposite of a bandwagon jumper, if you will.
The first quarter was touch and go – the sloppiness of the play on both sides was nauseating, and I anticipated being in for a long evening. But just like that, it became a blow out. It was fun to watch the one sidedness of it, because unlike a ton of important games, by the end of the 3rd it was a given that the Celtics would win. With layup after three pointer, the score grew, the Lakers looked more disheartened, and the bar cheered louder and louder. It entered a constant state of cheer and applause with 2 minutes left in the fourth that did not end until David Stern was shown handing over the trophy.
The single mom next to me cried. The foursome next to me clinked their beer mugs. The last of my colleagues left at that point started hugging everyone behind us. People held up their cameras high above their heads and took random shots of the bar – whether they actually got any semblance of a good picture, who knows.
I never felt badly for the fans in LA – hey, it’s LA, they seem devoid of emotion and use sports fandom as a means to see and be seen – but I did flash back to my friend Elissa’s house back in January of 1994, when I was on the other side of a blow-out, and had nothing to celebrate for. All dressed up in our Bills gear and nowhere to go. What 11 year old me would have given for the cheering, hollering and debauchery that I was taking part of as a 26 year old.
So I drank it all in, and realized that there is absolutely nothing better than watching your city’s team onto victory. For one night, everyone knew everyone else, everyone was having a great time, and everyone was happy. There were cars beeping down the street, and pedestrians cheering and waving their Celtics shirts. The T was crowded – masses of green shirted people on the Green Line – but no one cared. It was one of the coolest experiences one could ever have as a sports fan.
And now, I’ve gone through this elation four times. Since moving here in May of 2004, I have watched Boston win four professional sports championships. It’s fun every time – although the first time was absolutely amazing, as I wrote about in one of my most favorite posts ever in 2004 – and I hope it never ends (although I expect differently – it’s the sports pessimist in me.) I am ready to pronounce myself the best luck charm that ever was – when the Sports Girl who never knew winning growing up and the city that values its sports before everything else in life got together, we clicked and our respective luck changed for the better. And I couldn’t be happier.