Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Confessions of a Sports Bigamist

I was watching the Celtics play the Miami Heat on Sunday and my wife Aly asked, “Since when do you care about the Celtics?” And I didn’t have a real answer for her, I said something along the lines that I like this particular team as a whole, the personalities of the players and how well they’re playing. But I didn’t really have a strong answer. This question came about a month or so after she made the observation that “I care about football more than I think that I do.”

And it hit me, she’s right. I do care about the Celtics* (and the Bruins for that matter) and I do care more about football (especially the Patriots) than I even admitted to myself. I was a bit shocked about this realization more than I should have been, which is odd because since high school part of my identity has been one of a sports geek. I was a fair athlete (ok, maybe bad is the word), but I could talk sports with the best of them. But during the last ten years or so, that perception had changed; I considered myself a baseball fan first and foremost and the others fell into line. In fact, my mantra was: You can only have one favorite team. And for me, that favorite team was undoubtedly the Boston Red Sox.

* When I was in high school I hated the Celtics. Just hated them. I hated their style of play, I hated their boring-ass players, I thought that Larry Bird was overrated (I know, I know; the indiscretions of youth) and I hated that they were everything that the Chicago Bulls weren’t. I loved the Bulls and Michael Jordan, they were the new NBA of high flying, basketball dunking awesomeness. In a “kill your idols” sort of way, I reveled in every Celtics loss and cursed every Celtics victory. To me, Red Auerbach was an old fool that needed to go far away from the NBA.

But something happened in the almost 20 years that I graduated from good old Amesbury High School. The Celtics stunk, I mean really bottomed out and it wasn’t fun to kick a dead dog. I began to feel a bit bad about hating them so much and began to cheer a bit for the underdog. As they got a bit better and better, it became more fun to watch a Celtics game. The 2008 NBA Postseason is among the most fun I’ve had as a sports fan and last year’s was a lot of fun (until the last game).

The point that I was making is that I still believe that you can only have one favorite team, but I’ve widened my scope to believe that you can have a handful of other teams that you care about just as much. And for me those teams are the other three Boston teams.

I should have seen this coming; a few years ago, when the Pats lost to the Giants in the Super Bowl, I tried to blow it off as “not really a big deal” because New England had won three other Super Bowls and they’d get there again. I told Aly that while it sucked the Pats lost, I would be more upset if the Red Sox did something similar. But that was a brave face and the Super Bowl XLII loss gnawed at my gut the entire off-season and when Tom Brady went down with a season-ending injury just one quarter into the next season, it really hit me as to what the Patriots lost that day in Arizona.

From there it seemed like things changed. When the Patriots lost to the Jets (THE FUCKING JETS!) in January, I was as angry as I’ve been about a professional team in some time. When the Celtics lost to the Lakers in the Finals, I was really bummed out. When the Bruins choked away a three-games-to-zero lead against the Flyers, I was apocalyptic*.

* Again, this wouldn’t have been possible even five years ago because I hated the Bruins and wanted them to lose in the most excruciating, painful ways imagined. And the reason was because of their “thrifty” (read: cheap-ass) owner Jeremy Jacobs. He always seemed to be happy that the Bruins would make a couple of dollars for him and would never dump the money back into the team. One summer he opened the purse strings and signed Zedeno Charra and Mark Savard and I began to come back to the Bruins. That’s really all I wanted, just some show that he cared about the team. I know, I’m a sap.

And you know what? I feel pretty good about the outlet of emotion that I can express about the home town teams. Am I obsessed with the other teams? No, not as much as the Red Sox; but it’s good to have options and care about teams when the Sox aren’t in season.

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