Tuesday, January 4, 2011

My love of the Celtics extends back 26 years and 10000 miles away

For those of you that don't know I currently live in Boston.  This is Celtics country of course and the history here is amazing.  Need some reminding?  Take a look at these banners.

What you may not know is that I haven't always lived in Boston.  I was born in Sydney Australia and grew up in Brisbane Australia.  In the 1980s I was in high school in Brisbane which is about as far away from the NBA as you can get.  Basketball was not popular then and most boys played rugby league (including myself).  The kids that played basketball were considered weak and weirdos and if you didn't play rugby you were considered an outcast.   When I was in grade eight we had to do basketball for PE which involved various skill tests which counted towards grades for the semester.  I took it seriously and I ended up with one of the highest scores for the skill test (I was quite a good shooter when I was 13!).  My PE teacher was trying to start a basketball team and wanted to know if I would join.  He also wanted me to try out for a regional club (keep in mind not much competition in Brisbane at that time).  I said no way, I couldn't stop playing rugby or cricket for basketball I would have been ridiculed forever! 

But I still had an interest in basketball and every Saturday one game from the NBA was shown on Saturday mornings.  In the early 1980s the Celtics were a very successful team and therefore they were shown as the game of the week often.  This is when my 'secret' love of the Celtics began.  Then for my 13th birthday (Dec 21, 1984) when the Celtics were on their way to another NBA my father asked what I wanted for my birthday.
'I want a Larry Bird shirt'
'Who the hell is Larry Bird?', my father replied.
After I explained who Larry Bird was to my father he started the search for where we could buy one.  Eventually he found a sports store in the city.  One day we caught the train to the city center of Brisbane and the Wintergarden Mall and bought that shirt.  I wore it every Saturday when I watched the Celtics.  I wore it through the series that they lost in 84-85 to the Lakers and then when they won in 85-86 against the Rockets.  Of course in those days there was no Internet and I was so far away in Australia that the games weren't heavily publicized in the newspapers (unlike today).  After I finished high school and went to university my interest in the Celtics waned as I didn't have the opportunity to watch the Celtics as they weren't as competitive and I was focusing on other things like chasing girls and smoking pot.  But as most basketball fans know the Celtics were not a good team after Bird left in 1992 until recently.  These were very low years for a historically successful team.  I followed them when I could through the paper and the very rare times that they were on TV and I always had that Bird shirt which was held in safe keeping at my mother's house.

In 1998 I moved to Boston to take up a research job at Boston University.  I didn't pick this city I was offered a job there and I had applied to many through the USA.  Now I could see every Celtics game live!  I also got to go and see then live at the Garden!  In 1998 they drafted Paul Pierce but they were still a bad team by this city's standards.  During this time they were a bit of a joke and to get tickets was very easy.  People basically gave them away.  They had some success between 2001-02 to 2004-05 where they made the Eastern Conference finals but never really seriously threatened.  The years 2005-06 and 2006-07 were very grim but these were the first 2 seasons of Doc Rivers' coaching career here.  Then in 2007 they signed Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, two certain hall of famers, to join Paul Pierce who had suffered here for many years.  This really set the city on fire and they won that year for the first time since 1986. Next year they lost in the Eastern Conference.

The year 2010 was a real special year for me, I got married.  I was married in June and the Celtics were in the Eastern Conference finals again.  We were married on Cape Cod and the week before our wedding we stayed in a house there with our friends on family.  The Thursday night that we were there was the 7th game of the NBA finals - Celtics v Lakers.  I cold think of no better time to bring my treasured Larry Bird shirt back to the area where it belonged, during the week of my wedding with all my friends here and during a historic Celtics - Lakers game 7 of the NBA finals.  I arranged for my mother to bring the shirt with her from Australia, she was reluctant because the shirt reminded her of my father who passed away 12 year ago.  But I wore the shirt that night (it still fits me believe it or not).  The Celtics lost that night and we were very disappointed.  But wearing that shirt made me feel like that little kid who grew up in Brisbane Australia.  Now that little kid lives in the city of his favourite basketball team and got to see them win their first championship in 2008 since he was a kid in 1986.  Coincidence?

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