Losing, and the act of being a loser is often one of the most shameful and disappointing feelings one can feel, both as a player and a fan of that losing team. As competitors, whether it be baseball, basketball, or in the form of racing that I do myself, losing is one of the worst feelings one can endure. As the great Ricky Bobby once said, “if you ain’t first your last”. We hate to lose, even as fans we develop a relationship with our teams, and losing hurts us just as much as it hurts the team, sometimes more.
Last night, to many felt as though we lost a member of our family. Yes the Celtics put forth a valiant effort, but the overwhelming sense was that we may have seen the last game in the storied career of Kevin Garnett, and possibly Paul Pierce. The emotional embrace at the sideline between Doc Rivers and Kevin Garnett will stand in my memory for some time, it may have been the last time I see one of the greatest players in the history of the game on the court. But as I took a run this afternoon to clear my head, it really hit me as to just how proud of this team I really was for what they accomplished.
Think about it, the Celtics were down 0-3 to a young, athletic Knicks team, something no team has ever come back from, but they kept trying. The Celtics were down as much as 22 points in the fourth quarter, again something that was unthinkable to overcome, but they kept trying. Each obstacle in itself is an Everest size hurdle to clear, but the Celtics came so close to overcoming not just one, but both; and that is something we should be so damn proud of.
Why should we be proud you ask? While it is indeed true that the Celtics did lose in the first round of the playoffs and that is nothing to be proud of in itself, it is HOW they lost that we should hold our heads up high. Consider how teams in the past have conducted themselves in similar situations.
Hop in the hot tub time machine to 2011 when the Lakers were on the losing end of a whooping from the Mavericks. Andrew Bynum…stay classy. That Lakers team not only acted like a bunch of fools, but gave up even as early as halftime, something the Celtics refused to do, down 22 points late. How about after the game?
Most of the Celtics stayed on the court to congratulate the Knicks on a hard fought series (despite the fact that the Knicks acted like a bunch of whiney thugs throughout the entire series). Flash back to….well…every elimination game that Lebron has been a part of. Whenever Lebron wins, he is the one making sure every player gives him love, but in defeat he is the first one storming off the court.
But what stood out most of all to me was how the Celtics handled themselves throughout the entire game and series. Compared to the Knicks who were flapping their hands after every call, begging for calls, flapping their gums to the press, even wearing black to the “funeral” , and just acting like a team of thugs that had never won anything before (because they haven’t), the Celtics just put their head down and worked through the adversity. Yes there were bad calls, but did you see the Celtics flopping to get a call? Did you see them pleading with officials? Stomping their feet? No, not at all.
Boston, I can’t speak for the entire fanbase, but I can say that I’ve never been more proud of a team that accomplished so little in terms of making it deep in the playoffs, never been more proud of a losing squad, and never been more proud of ANY Celtics team in the New Big Three era. In 2008 they were supposed to win it all, in 2009 injuries killed them, 2010 injuries in the finals did them in, 2011 Rondos elbow, 2012 just not good enough to beat Miami….but this year? They were supposed to be done two years ago, they weren’t supposed to have a chance against teams like this at this point in their careers. But they proved to us all, likely for the last time of this era, that the heart of a champion will alway stand tall through adversity and fight to the finish, and as a loser today Boston, I am so damn proud to be a Celtic and a loser.