Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Boston Celtics

The longest consecutive tenure of any professional sports team originating in it's still home city of the four major professional sports is the Chicago Cubs who have called Chicago home since 1876. In hockey, the Montreal Canadians actually existed before the NHL, starting play in 1909 as member of the National Hockey Association. The NFL has the Green Bay Packer who first started playing in Green Bay in 1921. The Bears started playing that same season, but in Decatur, Illinois and then moved to Chicago the next season.

Basketball has the Boston Celtics who originally started playing in Boston in 1946 as a member of the Basketball Association of America. In 1947 the NBA became a league and incorporated the BAA. Since that time, the Celtics have won 16 NBA Championships. The Yankees have won 26 world series, but over a much longer period while the Canadians have won 24 Stanley Cups also over a longer period.

Other cities have landmarks. San Francisco has the Golden Gate Bridge, St. Louis has the Arch, New York has Central Park, and Boston has the Celtics. Their uniforms have not changed. They are the same Irish Green with "C E L T I C S" emblazoned across the front. The identical uniforms I remember watching as a kid. Yes, the Red Sox have been in Boston longer, but the Red Sox are losers, the Celtics are winners. No city wants to be thought of as losers. For Boston, it means the Celtics are Boston.

Their names are legendary: Red Auerbach, Bob Cousy, Larry Bird, John Havlicek, Bill Russell. They transcend their game the way that former Yankees transcend baseball - only the Yankees didn't start in New York, they started playing in Baltimore in 1902 originally. This fact distinguishes the Celtics from even the Yankees and makes the Boston Celtics the all time greatest professional sports franchise.

I first saw the Boston Celtics in 1981. The Jazz played them at the Salt Palace. The game was a sellout, not because of the Jazz who only won 25 games that season, but because of Larry Bird. At the time it was surreal to see Larry Bird playing basketball. He was only in his second season, but his legend had already formed the way only the greatest players of their sport can (Tiger Woods, Magic Johnson, Wayne Gretzky) before their careers come to fruition. My media guide says the Jazz lost by only 11 points, but I don't remember it being that close.

The Celtic faithful have such strong allegiance that they are dotted throughout Energy Solutions Arena. Older fans wearing Larry Bird jerseys who maybe make only a handful of games all season cheer when Boston is able to pull within a point in the second half.

However, the modern Celtics don't have Larry Bird playing, they don't have Red Auerbach coaching. In fact at one point during this season they lost 17 straight games. How could this happen to the Boston Celtics? This game does not have the feel of even a regular season game as the Jazz play mainly backup players. Jerry Sloan must believe that this game will be won no matter what they do as Carlos Boozer plays only 23 minutes while Derrick Fischer leads the team in scoring with 21 points. Sloan plays a vast array of players and lineups. The Celtics only recognizable name if former Kansas star Paul Pierce. These are the Boston Celtics? They are the worst team in the NBA. They even have a strong Utah link as former BYU All American Danny Ainge has assembled this cast, he is the President or Director of Basketball operations - Red Auerbach gave him the job saying, he was "lucky."

Boston's record drops to 13-42. The Jazz improve to 37-18. Red must be rolling over in his grave and Boston must not be Boston.