1984 was the last time it happened: Game 7 for all the marbles.
Back then I was deeply invested; now, not so much. To put it mildly, my passion for the N.B.A. has receded much like my hairline, and 26 years is a lot of receding. My inherited childhood love for the Celtics (and especially Larry Bird) is covered here. I own the deluxe Celtics DVD set and can –and do– still watch those seminal moments from my adolescent years with great enjoyment (and to this day Magic’s brilliant, unbearable “junior sky hook” in Game 4 still is metaphorical battery acid in my eyes).
If you remember the ’80s you can probably pick up what I’m putting down here (from the linked reminiscence, above):
Keep in mind, in the ’80s you were either a Lakers fan or you were a Celtics fan. There were other teams in the NBA, obviously, but for a long stretch of that great decade, it seemed like each season was an extended formality: we collectively bided our time until everyone else got out of the way and let the two teams go hammer and tong for the title.
Some things never change? Well, not really. No matter how much the media tries to hype it up, the Celtics/Lakers rivalry will never be what it was in the ’80s. It couldn’t be. The only thing comparable today is the Red Sox/Yankees, and even that has mellowed in the wake of Boston’s two world series titles this past decade.
So like I said, I’m not back on the bandwagon; I could mostly care less about the N.B.A. (although I feel it would be churlish of King James to leave Cleveland and hope for those long-suffering fans’ sakes, he does not make the mistake of his life and head for the 24/7 scrutiny that awaits him in the Big Apple. And, for the record, I think Kobe is a punk. As much as I loathed Kurt Rambis, you kind of reckon you could go have a beer with the dude; can anyone imagine Kobe having a beer with anyone? He seems like the kind of guy who can’t even have a drink with himself.)
So, in summary: do I care much about the N.B.A. these days? No. Have I been watching the finals? Yes. Do I want the Celtics to beat the Lakers? Duh.
And so: is it fortuitous synchronicity or fate that I will find myself in Boston, tonight? It has nothing to do with the Celtics. Back in the deep dark of this unending winter my boy Teddy Ballgame (Boston resident and Red Sox fanatic) admonished me to make plans to get up to Fenway in June, on June 18. Why that date? It was the night Manny Ramirez, the clown prince and prodigal son, returned to Fenway. “I’ve already got tickets,” Ted said. “Enough said,” said I. “I also have tickets for Thursday night’s game, why not just make it a double feature?”
And so it is a man returning from L.A. that will put me in Boston while the team I used to worship battles for the title, in L.A. Who cares about the whys and wherefores: I’ll be there and there is nowhere I’d rather be tonight or tomorrow night.
A quick take on Manny being Manny. The best way I can articulate what fans were fortunate enough to experience during the recent Red Sox renaissance (that he and Pedro were largely responsible for) is: Manny being Manny.
No Manny, no World Series. In ’04 or ’07. There is so much to say about this (mostly) ebullient goofball who happened to be one of the best hitters in baseball history –and I’ll look forward to saying them at some point. For now, I’ll just reiterate that despite the occasional malingering and inscrutable self-defeating silliness, he was truly a joy to watch and I genuinely relished every single at-bat. Just watching the man in the box was something to savor; not many players you can say that about. And then, there was the type of drama he was capable of producing on the field. The type of drama that mattered.
My old man asked me if I thought Manny would get cheered or jeered in his first plate appearance Friday night. I told him I predict he’ll get a long, loud standing ovation. For all the fans (uber-hardcore or pink-hatted fair-weather) who –for whatever reason– think that the way he left town or the well-documented nonsense he initiated outweighs the considerable blessings he brought to Beantown, then sit on your hands and stew in your own bile. I know I will be on my feet and saluting the dude who brought as much delight to me as any other athlete did since I was a teenage diehard who bled Celtic green.