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“Scal-a-brin-e…” and that damn race issue again

KWAPT January 10, 2012 Uncategorized 24 Comments

That was the chant that echoed through the TD Garden when fans wanted a taste of "the human victory cigar." Brian Scalabrine's years in Boston were fun ones.  He made it no secret that he loved playing here and that he fed off the crowd. Now, Chicago is Scal's "home", and the fans there are just as frenzied.

Last night, during a blowout win over the Pistons, Scal checked-in with about 2:40 left in the game. And just like they used to in Boston, the crowd chanted; "Scal-a-brin-e!" And of course they went berzerk anytime he touched the ball, begging him to shoot it. And when he did, and it went in, total chaos ensued. I personally had grown tired of the Scal chants towards the end of his tenure in the Hub. It became more of a mockery in my eyes. I thought Scal deserved a little more respect for the hard-work and dedication he showed while here in Boston. But that's just me.

CelticsBlog recently did an interesting and thought-provoking piece on players like Scal and the Celtics' newest fan-fave Greg Stiemsma. Henry Abbot of ESPN.com quoted the piece and included a racial implication about Boston fans by saying that we only "go nuts" for white players. So then I guess Chicago fans must-be racist too, right? I've lived in Boston for 30 years now, and some of my favorite "Scalabrine-type" players were M.L. Carr, Cedric Maxwell and Dennis Rodman (even before he became a rebounding monster). I personally feel that it doesn't matter why fans like a particular player. If that player helps bring energy into the arena, and gets the home-crowd fired-up, then who cares what color or race he is?

h/t to JE Skeets for the video

*Editor's Note:  Kendrick Perkins anyone?  How many Celtics fans can't let go of his departure.  Why do people keep clamoring for Leon Powe?  It's about effort, not skin color.

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  • http://profile.typepad.com/d101155405904779019 A Facebook User

    And how about the first fan-favorite I personally remember… Waltah. McCahhhhhhty!

  • http://profile.typepad.com/d99921948993492749 D

    It could be race or not. Scal is a scrub that is why fans in Boston and Chi cArry on that why. Boston and Chicago fans don’t react like that towards Sasha, Greg Stesisma, Omer Asik and Kyle Korver.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/beantownboy83 Beantownboy83
  • http://profile.typepad.com/kwapt KWAPT

    I….love……WALTAH!

  • http://profile.typepad.com/mdsample greenbeand

    the shot @ 1:04 looked like larry

  • http://profile.typepad.com/tcsherwood KY Celts fan

    It is a race thing, but its not a racist thing. As humans, we self identify with others similar to us. The majority of Americans are white, and therefore the majority of basketball fans are white. But the majority of basketball players are black, so when a white player succeeds, we get excited. That doesn’t mean we disparage the black players. We just get happy when a person like us gains success, especially in a forum where they traditionally don’t. It’s the same reason black people were so excited for Barack Obama, or why they go see Tyler Perry movies.
    And it’s not just race. Humans are inclined to cheer or support those they identify with over all societal groups, whether they be religion, nationality, political thinking, regional ties. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cheered for the Christian guy on Survivor or the Southern guy on American Idol, for no other reason than I’m Christian and Southern. And so we cheer for the Scalabrines and Steimsas.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/frickenwaaaltaaah frickenWaaaltaaah

    Not this again. It’s not about the guy being both a white guy and a scrub.
    There are tons of scrubs that people don’t root for. There are plenty of WHITE scrubs that people don’t root for.
    What kind of bench player do real basketball fans go nuts for?
    It’s about a guy who really knows how to play. And even better is when that kind of guy only has one gear and it’s called hustle. A guy who gives 200% effort all the time to make the most of every second he’s on the court.
    Why would/should people go nuts for all the other crummy bench players, who don’t know what they are doing, or even screw up all over the place, and/or don’t play with any particular sense of urgency?
    Scal was not a scrub. If you think ‘bench player’ and ‘scrub’ have to mean the exact same thing, you’re wrong.
    Do we need a better term? Bench professional? Journeyman gets used a lot.
    The C’s have been ‘lucky’ to be able to find a lot of these guys over the years. Some teams will get one then go years and years before they find another.
    Gee, which one is my all time favorite…
    [for the clueless/unobservant: Walter McCarty]
    So the way I see it, there are two degrees of dumb here.
    There are a lot of NBA fans who don’t know much about basketball. Some will learn over the years, some will just always be there for the…let’s just say spectacle.
    It’s normal for those fans to take their cues from the fans who understand what is going on in a game.
    It’s such a facepalm moment though when you see professional reporters struggling with an issue like this. They reach out into the grab bag of extremely general social issues and mash up an explanation and it’s just all so much junk.
    The real additional ‘bonus’ for Boston fans about Scal…Boston had a lot of fun rooting for Scal because he is a ginger.
    Boston loves a ginger.
    There. Now it can be told. The secret is out.
    It is not at all like he was a terrible basketball player. If you think Scal is terrible, you need to stop and appreciate the difference between a basketball player and an athlete.
    Scal really knew what he was doing out there, so he did not regularly make dumb mistakes. He played very aggressively, particularly on defense (and defense is something fans who know appreciate). He found a way to have an impact on the flow of a game when he was in the game.
    Scal’s most epic run with the C’s has to be the 08-09 year. When Kevin went down, Doc used Scal as a ‘fake Kevin’ and it actually worked a lot of the time.
    Meaning instead of running a different offense and defense, or changing the offense and defense a lot because there was no KG, he plugged Scal into the offense and defense as if he were Kevin. He used the same plays on offense and had Scal ‘be Kevin.’ On defense, Scal was in charge, vocally coordinating the team, just like Kevin would have been doing.
    It was pretty sweet, and if you check 5-man-unit stats at 82games or someplace, you’ll see some good statistical support for the notion that the lineup with starters + Scal as ‘fake Kevin’ was the best defensive lineup (without Kevin) that year.
    Do we really need to make a big list, where we sort all the Celtics bench players over the years into loved ‘em, hated ‘em, and ‘oh yeah that guy played for us.’
    I will just name one white guy for each of the other categories, and of course, maybe some will disagree, as it is of course a personal preference thing:
    hated ‘em: Travis Knight
    oh yeah that guy played for us: Dwayne Schintzius, if that’s how you even spell his name.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p011571d4119a970b Lex

    speaking of dennis rodman and race, i believe the worm once said larry bird would have been “just another player” had he been black.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/thetitleisours Thetitleisours Mkay

    It is often just about being an underdog. Like you mentioned with Leon Powe, a second round pick with no knees. One expects the stars to do well, so it is not as exciting in unexpected terms. But when bench players surprise it is always exciting.
    As far as Perkins goes, it is because he loved being a Celtic and played with toughness and heart. To the fans his blood will always be green.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/kwapt KWAPT

    Thank you for all the great feedback and comments folks..

  • http://profile.typepad.com/mattwilding Matt Wilding

    I agree with this sentiment. It’s the same reason I tend to like Nate Robinson because he was short. I’m 5’9″ and have always been too short for basketball, so seeing a guy my size playing well got me psyched.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/tcsherwood KY Celts fan

    One of my favorite players ever at Kentucky was Travis Ford. He was only 5’6″ and yet could shoot the lights out. That’s why I loved him.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/vandelay28 Lakerhater

    Actually that was Isiah Thomas, who would have been just another dochebag if he was white.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p011571d4119a970b Lex

    True . . . but
    Curiously, later in Bird’s career, after he led the Boston Celtics over the Detroit Pistons in the 1987 Eastern Conference finals, former Pistons forward Dennis Rodman said the only reason Bird had won three straight NBA Most Valuable Player awards “is because he’s white. That’s the only reason.”
    When told of Rodman’s comments, former Detroit guard Isiah Thomas agreed, saying, “If Bird was black, he’d be just another good guy.”

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p011571d4119a970b Lex

    so really, it was all connected

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p011571d4119a970b Lex

    MAY 30, 1987:
    Basketball player Dennis Rodman says of Larry Bird: “I don’t see him as the greatest player in the game. I think it’s because he’s white. I think if he was black, they wouldn’t say he was the greatest player.”

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p011571d4119a970b Lex

    Bird, famously, was double-teamed by Dennis Rodman and Isiah Thomas in the spring of 1987, fewer than two months after Campanis handed his career over to Ted Koppel. “He can’t run with me, and he’s slow,” Rodman said. “Go ahead and tell Larry I said that. I don’t think Magic gets the credit he deserves because Bird is white.”
    Added Zeke: “I’d have to agree with Dennis. If he was black, he’d be just another good guy.”

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p011571d4119a970b Lex

    and finally
    Said Bird: “A player of Isiah’s stature should have known better because . . . everybody pays attention to a superstar’s quotes . . . Rodman can blow off steam and nobody will notice.” Bird said he knew Thomas was in trouble when he called twice. “I told him not to worry about it,” Bird said. “I said one thing you’d better do . . . you’d better call Mom.” Bird’s mom is a big fan of Indiana University, Thomas’ former school. Said Bird: “She always loved Isiah and thought he was the neatest little guard.”

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p010536d9f8aa970b jgtwentysix

    And this ignores the fact that the fans booed Scal when the C’s were in the dumps and he was asked to do too much on the court and we all thought he made too much money. We only started to love him after he became “the human victory cigar”. When he had to play 20 minutes a night, people hated him.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/sondler Jerry Sondler

    I hate Thomas as much as anyone.
    Keep in mind, those anti-Bird comments were made minutes after Boston eliminated the Pistons, and just 4 days after Bird stole Thomas` inbound pass to win Game 5.
    The moron {Thomas} was still fuming when he made those remarks, and lacked the wisdom to “cool his emotions” before speaking.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/sondler Jerry Sondler

    Do not waste your time feeling bad for Scal…he “stole” $15M from the Celtics!

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p011571d4119a970b Lex

    This will probably surprise, but I learned to respect the pistons,especially after they stopped the Ls from threepeating.
    In any event,my main point was that the racist comments were actually initiated by DR, not Zeke

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p0115704263ce970b Papa Irish

    This is the exact point i wanted to make

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p0115704263ce970b Papa Irish

    As jgtwentysix referred to, Scal was actually often a scapegoat for many Celtics fans during the extreme lowpoints before the big 3 era. His 15 million dollar contract symbolized everything that was wrong with the organization and management. It was a LONG ARDUOUS ROAD for Scalabrine to become a cult figure in Boston, and while race may have played an integral part of that journey, it would be insanely asinine to claim that it alone made him the beloved figure that he ended becoming.
    First, race has always made Scalabrine a little bit different from the average (black) NBA player, but his red hair, pale complexion, and plump physique make him different from most all white players as well. At first, these differences made it more difficult in Boston. These differences also mean that he is instantly noticeable, can’t miss even, which put Scal under the microscope at all times. The nature of being under the microscope and out there for everyone to see, translates in everyone forming an opinion on you, and believe me EVERYONE had an opinion on Scal.
    Fans initially fell into two primary categories in regards to scal:
    1st the camp of WHY THE HELL DID DANNY PAY THIS GUY 15 MILLION!!!! HE SUCKS GET HIM OUT OF HERE, HE’S FAT, LAZY, AND ISN’T ATHLETIC ENOUGH TO COMPETE ON THE LOCAL BOWLING TEAM LET ALONE IN THE NBA WITH THE BEST ATHLETES IN THE WORLD.
    OR
    The scal lovers, who loved his hustle, basketball iq, and the fact that he was delightfully awkward on a basketball court.
    Longevity might be the most crucial factor to Scal becoming a beloved Bostonian. He was here 5 YEARS!!! think about that for a second, that is a looooong time for a player to be on a team, but for a perennial 13th to 15th man on the roster? that is a lifetime, an eternity even, rare for guys in his role to stick with a team for that long. The holdovers from the pre big three era to win a championship were Pierce, Rondo, Perk, TA, Powe, and Scal.
    and then there is his personality, Scal is hilarious, that is a fact, he endears himself to the fans in every interview because he is genuinely funny. Case study number 1 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8UUBC8NoQgA – the guy made KOBE BRYANT wait for him to finish his press conference, a guy who barely suited up during the playoffs. and then proceeds to rip the media for hating on the celtics and completely dismantle a reporter who tries to make fun of him, by poking fun at himself.
    If you want to say Boston is racist, as KWAPT said, crowds in Chicago, Washington, and New Jersey among others have all had the same reaction to him, not quite to the same degree maybe.
    Another thing look at how much his teammates and coaches love scal, Kevin Garnett said he’s one of his favorite teammates ever, doc wants him back as a coach. Its by no means just the fans that love scal.
    There is something different about Scalabrine, a special quality about him that garners that reaction, and as Jiri Welsch, Luke Jackson, Scott Pollard, Luke Harangody, and Raef Lafrentz among countless others can tell you, its not simply because of his past complexion.
    ps. While Steimsma has garnered quite the reaction among fans, it is quite possible that it is because he blocked 5 shots his first game, and showed the ability to play basketball rather than the color of his skin, just a slight chance.
    pps. The loudest cheer for a bench player this year undoubtedly came from Avery Bradley’s 3 pointer and steal, NOT anything Greg Steimsma has done