Celtics give long time fan thrill of lifetime

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

My three favorite sports teams are the Arkansas Razorbacks, the Cincinnati Reds and the Boston Celtics. That has been the case since I was a kid back in the 1960s. The last time any of these teams won a championship was 1994 when the Hogs took home the national title in basketball behind Corliss Williamson and company. The Reds captured the World Series title in 1990 with a four game sweep over a heavily favored Oakland A's team, led by the Bash Brothers, Mark McGuire and Jose Canseco.

Boston Celtic Paul Pierce holds up Most Valuable Player trophy at parade, celebrating NBA title. (Town Crier photo/Trent Fletcher)

The last time the Celtics won the National Basketball Association's crown was in 1986, with a team led by Hall of Famer Larry Bird. The rest of the Celtic's lineup was star studded to say the least. It included Kevin McHale, Robert Parrish, Dennis Johnson, and Danny Ainge, and had Bill Walton coming off the bench as a sixth man. This was arguably the best team ever. There was no reason to think that the most storied franchise in NBA history would not win several more titles in the coming years, but fate played a cruel joke on Boston, a team that once won nine straight titles and eleven in 13 years during the decades of the 50s and 60s with all-time great Bill Russell leading the way.

Twenty-two years later, the Celtics were still searching for their elusive 17th title. Luckily for me, I just happened to be in Beantown with my wife, Diane, who was attending a conference when the Celtics finally broke their drought by trouncing their most hated rival, the Los Angeles Lakers, in the new Boston Garden.

While Diane was being educated in her morning session, I checked on tickets to see if there was any possibility of getting into the game. Much to my chagrin, I found the ticket prices to be a bit too rich for my blood. Courtside seats were going for as much as $50,000 a ticket while a nosebleed section seat cost $700 a pop. Needless to say, we decided to settle for the second best thing, which was to watch the game on television. But at least I can say I was in Boston when my beloved Celtics took home the most coveted prize in professional basketball, and to make things even sweeter, it came against the team I hate most, the L.A. Lakers.

I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning while Diane drifted off to dreamland, watching all the post-game interviews and the chaos that was occurring in the streets of Boston. After seeing that, I was almost glad that I was safe in the comforts of my hotel room, rather than being crushed among the multitudes of Celtic fans who were deliriously happy, having watched their favorite team win it all. While I have had the pleasure of viewing most all the championships, there were many Celtic faithful who were enjoying their first ever championship ride.

All of this occurred on a Tuesday night, so the city of Boston allowed their conquering heroes a day of rest before throwing the biggest Boston Tea Party the city had ever witnessed. The players, owners, and their families rode in Boston's famed Duck Boats in a tickertape parade that began at 11:00 Thursday morning, winding through the downtown streets of the historic city.

Diane and I stood behind the barricades on the street adjacent to our hotel, watching as the Celtics went by. It wasn't as good as being at the game, but for an old Celtic diehard like myself, it was the next best thing. Plus, it was free!

The captain, Paul Pierce, nicked-named "The Truth", held his Most Valuable Player trophy above his head as he waved to the throngs of adoring fans. One by one, each boat went by, with the rest of the team, which included Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, who teamed with Pierce. The trio, who have become known as the Boston Three Party, was the driving force that put the Celtics back on top of the basketball world.

I never thought too much about Boston's Coach Doc Rivers, since he had spent most of his playing years with the Atlanta Hawks, but after watching all the interviews over the course of my time in Boston, I have gained a great respect for the Celtic leader. He has become one of my favorites. Not many coaches could have taken three superstars with big egos and mesh them together as a cohesive unit the way Rivers did. Ironically, the architect behind the whole thing was Boston's General Manager Danny Ainge, who was part of the last Celtic championship team.

After coming down from the basketball high, we decided to experience historic Fenway Park. The game was a sell out, so we were forced to walk for over an hour outside the stadium, trying to pick up a couple of tickets. Eventually, we got two excellent seats from a scalper about 10 minutes before the game between the Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals was to begin. Despite sitting through a rain delay of almost an hour, the contest began and we got the thrill of watching an actual game in the stadium that was built in 1909, featuring the Green Monster, or Monstah, as the locals would say.

The rest of the trip was a blast, especially the wonderful seafood that we got to enjoy. We saw most of the historic sites, including Boston Common, Quincy Market, Beacon Hill, the Old North Church and many more. But perhaps our favorite spot was the bar Cheers, which was the setting for the long-running television sitcom, where we enjoyed a cup of clam chowder.

All in all, it was a great experience and a trip I won't soon forget. Boston is a great place to visit and we can't wait to go back. Maybe next time I'll get to see my beloved Celtics play in person, winning an 18th championship.

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