“So, are you guys going to the game tonight?” This was the question the barista at our local Starbucks asked on Tuesday after seeing the Celtics ball-cap I was wearing when J and I walked into town for an afternoon caffeine break.
“No such luck!” I responded. Although J and I went to a total of four Celtics home games this season, we didn’t even try to score any much-coveted tickets to the post-season games. In response to our admitting that we’d be watching Tuesday night’s NBA finals game between the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers at home on TV, first one barista and then another helped compile a list of reasons why watching a championship game at home can be better being there. At home, you don’t have to fight claustrophobia-inducing throngs of fans. At home, you don’t have to stand in line to buy overpriced food and drink. At home, if someone spills beer on you, it’s your beer, not that of the person seated next to you. At home, there’s no chance the person seated next to you might be an obnoxious Lakers fan, and at home, you can go directly to bed right after the game is over.
This collaboratively-composed list of reasons why it’s good to watch basketball games from home was inspired by the mere sight of the cap I was wearing when J and I walked into our local Starbucks. If you want a sure-fire way to generate conversation with anonymous strangers in sports-crazy Boston, simply wear a cap for whatever team is currently playing, especially if said team is in the midst of a championship run. Over the past month or so that the Celtics have been inching their way toward the NBA championship they won on Tuesday night, I’ve been deluged with basketball-related commentary from strangers on the T, bag-boys and cashiers at several grocery stores, and one rabid librarian at the Newton Free Library who gave me a high-five the day after Game 1 of Celtics/Lakers series, the game when Paul Pierce suffered what looked to be a season-ending knee injury only to return, all-but-miraculously healed, less than a quarter later.
“I thought Paul Pierce was done for when they carried him off the floor,” the librarian explained. “And when he came back in the game, everyone at the Garden jumped up and started yelling, and so did I, in my living room at home!”
And so that’s exactly where J and I watched Tuesday night’s finale to the NBA finals: on the couch at home, in front of J’s wide-screen, high-definition TV. And although we, unlike fans at the Garden, had the luxury of going to bed right after the Celtics finished their complete annihilation of the Lakers (final score, 131-92), we didn’t. We had to stay up for at least part of the post-game coverage, staying glued to the screen until we saw all the necessary elements of a properly happy ending for our favorite basketball team.
Tuesday night, I couldn’t go to bed until I’d seen Kevin Garnett hug my all-time favorite Celtic, eleven-time NBA championship winner and basketball Hall-of-Famer Bill Russell. I couldn’t go to bed until I’d seen Celtics coach Doc Rivers actually–finally!–hold the shiny gold trophy he’d refused to touch until his team had officially won the right. I couldn’t go to bed until I’d seen Ray Allen, the perfect picture of mental focus as he’d nailed an astonishing number of three-point shots in Tuesday night’s game after having lost a weekend’s worth of sleep at his young son’s hospital bedside, hold that same son before cameras and thronging fans. And on Tuesday night, there was no way I was going to bed until I’d seen Paul Pierce claim the series MVP trophy he so rightfully deserves for his ongoing commitment to his team (injured knees be damned!) throughout this series, this season, and the past ten years.
An NBA championship game is only partially about basketball, championships, and bubbling bottles of champagne. An NBA championship game is also about endings: happy endings for the winning team, bittersweet endings for the losers. If you’ve ever stayed up past your bedtime with a good book because you had to see how it would end–and if you’ve ever felt a bit sad when you’d finished a good book because you know “The End” means saying goodbye to your favorite characters–then you know how J and I felt on Tuesday night. The Celtics’ victory over the Lakers was the perfect ending to storybook season, with a team we’d rooted for even when they ranked at the bottom of the league last year crawling back into playoff contention and ultimately winning it all. “Now there’s no more basketball,” J noted glumly after Tuesday night’s game. Now it’s time to say goodbye, for now, to the the cast of characters we’ve spent so many evenings cheering from the couch: Doc on the sidelines, Rondo zipping around the legs of giants, Big Baby or Powe coming off the bench to get physical on defense, Perkins looking mad and mean in the face of any opponent.
It’s entirely silly to grow attached to a group of guys you’ve watched grow together as a team for an entire season, and it’s even sillier to continue rooting for a team that hasn’t won a championship since the ’80s, before I’d moved to Boston and began cheering for the Celtics. But it’s entirely silly, too, to lose your heart to the imaginary characters in books, and it’s even sillier to hold your breath, excited and expectant, as you await the promised sequel in your favorite fictional series.
As social animals, we humans love stories about other humans, and as physical beings, at least part of us thrills at the sight of the physical mastery of a polished and poised dancer, an adroitly agile acrobat, or a well-conditioned athlete. As an admitted admirer of any well-told story, on Tuesday night I had to stay awake until a story I’ve watched for over a decade came to its fitting and well-earned end. Today in Boston, the Celtics held an amphibious rolling rally to celebrate their 17th NBA championship, but I decided not to fight the claustrophobia-inducing throngs of celebrating fans. Tuesday night’s happy ending to this present saga was good enough for me, and I’ll be back on the couch in October, ready to enjoy next season’s sequel as the Celtics try for another banner year.
Since J and I watched Tuesday’s game from home, today’s photos are recycled from the four regular season games we went to this year. Now that the Celtics are champions again, we realize it will be much harder to get tickets to home games. But that’s okay: our couch is really quite comfortable.