Friday, March 25, 2005

No More Celtics!!!!!--I Promise

Check out Paul's latest:

  • Rating the NBA Broadcast Talent

  • By Anthony Peretore

    After writing for The NBA Source for the past five months or so, the fact that I’m a Boston Celtics fan has come up several times. On occasion, I have gotten slammed for my steady dose of optimism regarding the C’s, almost to the point where I’m ashamed to even write about them at all. I realize our readers come to the site to get insight on the NBA, but subconsciously you are all looking for conflict. For instance, if you’re say, a Memphis Grizzlies fan, and I bash Jason Williams (just an out-of-the-blue example), you’re going to defend him as you feel it necessary. We all have ties to our teams and feel it is our right, even our duty to defend them. Well, the difficult part of writing about the NBA and being a die-hard Celtics fan is that more often than not, the two can get easily tangled. I’m not a 25-year veteran journalist from the New York Times and I haven’t even come close to mastering the art of writing, but I feel I’m taking the necessary steps to get there. The point is, my passion for the Celtics will never die and neither will my desire to write. Somehow, I need to figure out how both of these loves can co-exist without them getting intertwined. I appreciate all the feedback this season that has helped put me in my place as a writer. You have all made me aware that Anthony Peretore the fan has to find his own place behind Anthony Peretore the writer. But before Ant the fan goes to hide in a cave in the Serengeti, he wanted to at least give you an explanation behind his passion as a C’s fan. He feels he owes you at least that much before he puts it all to rest.

    I realize that most of you view the Celtics in the same light as say the Bulls, Sixers, Bucks, etc.—teams that were once very good, but will probably never be a serious contender again. I must admit, if I were on the outside looking in I’d probably feel the same, especially since the C’s haven’t won a championship since ‘85-86. Now, I’m not one of those fans that will tell you he remembers that “good ol” series against the Rockets—since after all, I was four and if my memory was that good I’d be working for NASA or the CIA or something, not writing blogs for approximately zero compensation. Nor will I tell you I remember how great Bird, McHale and Parish graced the old parquet of the Boston Garden. Nor will I tell you I’ve been a season ticket holder since I was 6. Why not? Because those would all be lies and Paul would dime me out ten minutes after I published this. So, the real reason, well the credit has to go to my late stepmother—she loved Larry Bird, I loved her, so naturally I took a liking to the Celtics. As a young boy it was inevitable to make stupid decisions: putting salamanders in your pocket, eating rocks, telling girls they have cooties, deciding to follow the Celtics, etc. Looking back at this array of choices, they may all seem rather irrational and immature, but as a 23 year-old adult (sort of), I can confidently admit they all have played an important role in my life. Today, we’ll focus solely on that of being a Boston Celtics fan and leave the salamanders and rocks for another day.

    At least I'm not this bad...

    Naturally, as the years of my youth wore on, I became more and more aware of how cursed the Celtics franchise was becoming. When Larry Bird retired I didn’t know what to feel. I was ten years old, what did I know? He was a legend, I knew that much, but I was more worried about my archery score at summer camp that day than Bird hanging them up. A year later when Reggie Lewis died, it was more of the same feeling. I didn’t realize the implications these occurrences would have until I was much older. Never did I think that a legend retiring and an All-Star dying would be so crippling to a franchise, an ignorance that probably came from eating too many rocks. However, when high school rolled around (and thus my inevitable set of braces to fix my Tyrone Hill teeth), this ignorance began to transform into frustration. I was now old enough to see how Bird’s retirement and Lewis’ death were effecting the team year in and year out. Ultimately I reached a crossroads: either punk out and start rooting for Ewing and the Knicks or remain loyal and hope for the best. Well obviously I chose the latter and instead of things turning around, the Celts slowly got worse. The first round draft picks of Acie Earl (‘93), Eric Montross (‘94), and Eric Williams (‘95) made the mid-to-late ‘90s almost unbearable. Sure, a team has a buffer zone after losing arguably two of the most influential players of the ‘80s, but c’mon Acie frickin’ Earl? Eric Montross? I get sick just thinking about it.

    In 1996, management briefly came to their senses and drafted F Antoine Walker from Kentucky. Walker came in and immediately filled the void of team leader and simultaneously became the first player I was actually proud of as a fan since of course, Bird and Lewis. As most of you may know, 1997 may go down as one of the worst years in Celtics history and subsequently, my life. Boston finished the ‘96-97 season with the worst record in the NBA, but due to the most ridiculous tradition in all of sports—the annual draft lottery, Boston was royally screwed in the pooper (for lack of a better phrase). David Stern basically said: “Sorry Celts, no first pick, no Tim Duncan, you can have picks three and six instead.” Okay, well it wasn’t the end of the world. We still had two very high picks to try and turn this thing around. Unfortunately, Boston picked arguably the worst season in the history of the NBA to tank. Honestly, besides Duncan and Tracy McGrady, the best players left for the C’s were Bobby Jackson, Kelvin Cato, Tim Thomas and Stephen Jackson, no joke look it up. But as you all know, Rick Pitino and co. went with Chauncey Billups and Ron Mercer, two players that would factor in zilch for the future. To make matters worse, later that season Billups (the 2004 Finals MVP) was traded for Kenny Anderson. It was like some sort of sick joke was being played on the entire Boston Celtics fan base. The worst part about it was that if you were a loyal follower, there was no way out, absolutely none. You wanted, no NEEDED, to see this thing work out or you might not be able to live with yourself.

    Serge Zwikker: The only way the 1997 Draft could have been any worse...

    An Eastern Conference Championship appearance in 2002 calmed the waters a bit, as there was finally some plausible reason to rejoice. I was in attendance for Game 3 of that series vs. New Jersey, one I will be able to tell my grandchildren about. As fans we never stop believing in our teams. We could be down forty and say, well if we can hit a few threes, then force a few turnovers and cut this thing in half by the end of the third, we’ll be right back in this. Well, that’s what happened that afternoon, in my head and in those of an entire arena filled with Celtic fans. Sure, we were pissed being down 20 at the half, but never for one second did we accept defeat. When I saw Walker verbally abuse Paul Pierce on the sidelines between the third and fourth quarters, I felt something. That 21 point deficit shrunk to 19 then 15, then 11, then 9, then 7, 6, 4, 3, 2, 1 and then it happened. A Kenny Anderson free throw tied it up and we never looked back. Pierce was jumping on the media tables, fans were hugging, and the Fleet Center was rocking. Waiting my entire life for some glimmer of hope, I finally got it that Saturday afternoon. We had a 2-1 edge in the series and were just two measly wins away from a showdown with the Lakers in the Finals.

    Unfortunately, that Finals trip never materialized and the team slowly began its steady decline back to mediocrity. For the past two seasons, we’ve arguably gotten worse, that is until this year. Not only is Boston 11-2 since re-acquiring Antoine Walker, but they are in first place in the Atlantic and own the third best record in the Eastern Conference. Plus, unlike 2002, this team is geared entirely for the future, making us a legit force that should continually improve in the next few seasons. Not too exciting? Well if you’ve been aboard this train of horror for the past 15 years or so, then you know how thrilling it is to be a contender once again. I’ve been pulled in from the start and perhaps the agonies I’ve faced each and every season create this uncontrollable optimism. If I watch them and they look sharp, I’m going to translate that into having a shot against the Pistons in the playoffs. I don’t want to come off as an idiot, but I can’t help it—no Celtic fan can. But I’ve come to grips that I must tone it down, especially now in writing for The NBA Source. So this is it, my last Celtics article ever, I’m finally putting it to rest to focus on the NBA as a whole without placing them on a pedestal. I apologize for not making this realization sooner, but one day when I’m a 25-year veteran journalist at The New York Times, I’ll have Paul and all of you to thank.

    Al Jefferson: Finally a reason to look forward to the future


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