February 6th, 2005. That date is a symbol of great importance to me as it marks the first moment that I ever witnessed an NBA Game. It’s an experience that I went into knowing very little about. It’s also the date of the earliest Super Bowl that I can remember. It’s an experience that would eventually make up a large part of my life as it was the night that I fell in love with the Celtics, the Patriots, and Boston.
The Boston Celtics were in town to face the Minnesota Timberwolves, and I was an eight-year-old boy lucky enough to be in attendance that afternoon. While my entire life revolved around sports, I’d never actually seen a game in person up to this point. I mean, I wasn’t even sure what most of the players names were. And by “most”, I mean anybody who wasn’t named Kevin Garnett or Wally Szczerbiak.
During that game I watched a man by the name of Paul Pierce score 32 points for the Boston Celtics, including knocking down free throws in the closing moments of the game with the arena screaming at him. I watched Pierce defeat the Timberwolves 103-100 and gallop around the Target Center the entire afternoon as if he was untouchable. Well, in that moment, he was untouchable. He captivated me and drew me in as a fan as I watched him confidently carry himself around the court as if he was in a different league than the rest of the players. He’d hit a shot, and talk trash to a defender. He’d make a basket and jog back on defense as if he was the only reason you were watching the game. And he was the reason us fans watched, me particularly. I was hooked.
Since that day, there hasn’t been a player or a team or a sports city that I watch more passionately. Since that day, I’d be willing to bet I’ve watched somewhere around 500 Celtics games. No, seriously. Years of deep playoff runs, years of nationally televised games, and years of self-funded NBA League Pass launched me into the depths of Boston fandom.
What started out as simply having a favorite player in Paul Pierce blossomed into learning more and more about Boston’s history of winning and their culture based around tradition. It forcefully grabbed me and pulled me through a gigantic Masshole force field. On the other side was a different world — one filled with a treasured history in every major sport, championship banners, all-time greats, and a location recognized as the American Sports Mecca. Compared to what was offered here in Minnesota at the time, it was as if I fell through the back of my wardrobe and landed in sports Narnia.
As a young boy I wasn’t jumping ship, but rather the fact that I became very intrigued by what Boston offered. Boston was unlike anything my family enjoyed. It was unlike anything my friends cheered for, or even talked about. Boston to me was a unique window that provided a different side of sports that I’d never be able to obtain.
That same day — February 6, 2005 — the earliest Super Bowl that I can remember took place: the New England Patriots vs the Philadelphia Eagles.
I remember sitting there that night as the game was starting and hearing the famous “ALLLLL ABOARD ah ha ha ha haaa!” from Ozzy Osbourne before the Patriots took the field. As they came jogging out onto their end of the field in their white socks with blue stripes and road white jerseys, they truly symbolized a complete team. A machine. Each player that came out of that smoke-filled inflatable helmet looked as if he was cloned from the teammate in front of him.
Nobody stood out in this particular moment, not even the quarterback. A complete team that mirrored the ultimate focus of their head coach — something that they’ve lived by ever since the Belichick Era launched.
It’s amazing when looking back on that day that something with that small of detail could spark an interest for me. Those two Boston performances that day pulled me in as a fan who was really just starting to love sports. It forced me to learn more and more and more about Boston. I read books, destroyed YouTube for hours, researched, did anything I could to learn more about Boston — the true Title Town.
It’s not like I watched one Celtics game and one Patriots game and knew that was it for me. No, over the years the more I learned about these teams, the city, and the deep passion that flows throughout each fan’s bloodline made it clear to me.
Watching so many of these great players over the years for the Celtics, Patriots, and Red Sox buy-in to the notion of sacrificing yourself for the team, or rather Boston, has been indescribable. “The Patriot way”, “Do Your Job”, “Bleed Green”, or any other little saying you’ve heard over the years all mean the same thing — do it for Boston.
You don’t put that jersey on if you aren’t putting the team before yourself, or asserting maximum effort in battle. You respect the greats that laid the foundation for you to walk in that championship city. If an athlete wants to free-lance he’s traded, cut, gone. There’s no room for that in Boston. Where us fans hold value is at the money table, when the stakes are highest. Winning a championship for us fans marks your place in history. If you win a championship in Boston, you’ll never buy a drink in that town again.
Around the time I went to that Celtics game was when I really started to watch professional sports. The Minnesota Vikings were still mourning the Randy Moss era, battling mediocrity, and surpassing all fans expectations with the infamous Minnetonka Boat Show.
The Vikings were becoming not only a joke to the NFC North, but throughout the entire National Football League. Which, to be honest, has really been a theme of Minnesota sports my entire lifetime. Sure, there have been great individual seasons for a team, but most of the 2000’s — my lifetime — have been awful.
My Grandfather would likely be sick to his stomach if he knew I didn’t bleed purple the way he did every Sunday until the day he passed. It just is what it is though, I never really felt a connection to Minnesota sports even though that’s how I was raised (besides the Twins who I have a legitimate soft spot for, thanks to my Aunt).
Don’t get me wrong, it’s better here when Minnesota sports are successful because it’s entertaining and provides something to talk about, but I don’t feel the same way as the rest of you. I didn’t celebrate a Vikings division championship last year. I wasn’t on my knees howling when the Wolves locked up the first overall pick for KAT. I didn’t have my stomach punctured by a knife when Blair Walsh missed his field goal, or Brett Favre threw the interception, either.
Maybe it has all been bad timing — or good timing on my part — because all I know Minnesota sports to be is one disastrous situation surrounded by exceedingly pessimistic fans. If anything, Minnesota fans likely drove me away from Minnesota with their constant expression of disappointment.
I’m not a Boston sports fan because they’ve been so successful since the turn of the millennium, but rather the fact that I fell in love with the culture around it. I’m a part of a group of people who are so committed, so brainwashed crazy that we fully believe we are a member of our teams. Some people call us obnoxious, others call us douchebags. And I LOVE that. I love being the only guy standing and screaming at the Super Bowl party because everybody is so beyond sick of Boston’s greatness. I love knowing that you are going to pick against us every single time no matter the circumstances simply based on your hatred. I love being a Celtics fan and getting to talk about those 17 championship banners that hang above my team’s home court.
People hate what they can’t have, and what Boston has consistently had since 2001 is overwhelming success. Winning should remove a chip you have on your shoulder, but yet, winning only adds to it while we listen to each excuse and complaint from every dysfunctional organization and fan base across the nation.
That chip on my shoulder is what fuels Boston. Constantly being in F-U mode with an it’s us-against-the-world mentality is what connects me to the fan base. It’s what drives these athletes to reach for titles, not division championships.
I don’t really feel nerves when Minnesota is playing, I just don’t. I live in a different sports world than you. I felt those butterflies when the Celtics were playing the Lakers in the Finals. I haven’t used Judas’s real name since 2012-13 when he left to go play for the Miami Heat. I get pissed off when somebody rips Bill Belichick, or pretend that his brilliance doesn’t exist. My favorite sports memory is when I watched
Pierce go toe-to-toe with LeBron James in Game 7 of the 2008 ECF Tom Brady lead the Patriots back from a 28-3 deficit in the Super Bowl to secure Boston’s all-time greatest victory. Getting to watch Brady finish his F-U Tour by capturing his FIFTH championship ring the most improbable way in the history of sports. In all honestly, this was a top five moment of my entire life. The only thing will ever come close to that feeling again is if Roger Goodell has to place that ring on Brady’s middle finger for him! Roger that!
When I became a Boston fan, I didn’t think I would experience this much joy and success. I never thought an attitude taken on by an entire city would illustrate my personality as I grew into my future self. I sure as hell didn’t think the championship count would be up to 10 already. For those who don’t understand this feeling inside of me, someday you will. That feeling is why every morning I wake up and thank God for making me a Boston sports fan.
So go ahead, call me a traitor, or a bandwagon fan, or whatever else you want for me loving these teams while I’m 1,116 miles. I know the truth. I am proud to say that I’m from Boston, without ever actually standing in the city.