Game 1 of 82, Wednesday, October 29, 430 PST.
Brooklyn Nets @ Boston Celtics
I’m temporarily teaching an evening class on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. The class starts at 530 and ends at 830. On Wednesdays I tutor from 4-5, which means I go straight from tutoring to class. This is a 4-week assignment. The last two weeks have been exhausting.
The opener of the Boston Celtics season also coincided with Game 7 of the World Series. While most Celtics fans may not have faced much of a conflict, considering the Royals and the Giants are not the Red Sox, I did. Though I am a Red Sox fan first, I am a Giants fan second. Having moved to the Bay Area in 2003, and San Francisco in 2004, the stretch of improbable success visited upon the San Francisco Giants has provided a festive atmosphere for three of the my last five Octobers (less festive Octobers for my friends who devote themselves to the A’s). Growing up with the Red Sox meant that even allowing myself a National League team was a dilemma. Now, I’ve been spoiled beyond belief, having rooted for 4 of the last 5 World Series champs. But back to the Celtics and the start of the NBA season…
I was tutoring a high school junior named Luca when the Celtics and Nets tipped off. By halftime, I was teaching ESL to a diverse group of newly-arrived immigrants. As I returned to my car, fireworks went off in the distance. There went the mystery. The drama of a World Series Game Seven. I would watch it an hour later, with dinner. Already tired, the Celtics would have to wait until Game 7 ended. During a break in the class, I checked the basketball scores. The Celtics were on fire in the first half.
It feels like an appropriate situation. The Celtics I spent years watching with an obsessive focus and dedication were now being reduced from live to DVR and then from the immediate DVR-focus when arriving home late to second-game status. And this was the season opener, a time of hope for even the least hopeful teams.
After watching Madison Bumgarner dismantle the Royals a third time in seven games, seeing the Giants celebrating on the field and the awkward MVP ceremony interaction between the Chevrolet representative and Madison Bumgarner, it was time to watch the Celtics.
Tommy Heinsohn’s voice echoes in the ears of so many Celtics fans. A Celtics game without Tommy is not a Celtics game. Now I have to check to see when Tommy started announcing games. 1966. The year after he retired from playing. He coached the Celtics from 1969-1978, winning coach of the year in 1973 and two championships (1974, 1976). He went back to announcing and joined with play-by-play man Mike Gorman in 1981. For as long as I’ve been aware of Celtics games, Mike and Tommy have been illustrating the action on the court. Illustrating is an appropriate word there, as Tommy loves painting.
My eyeballs were beginning to fall out of my head when the game started. Working late and then watching World Series games afterward. I knew I wasn’t going to last for the whole game. I ended up watching the first half. And my, what a glorious half it was. Rajon Rondo suited up, despite the uncertainty of a healing broken hand. The Celtics scored early and often, with Rondo dishing nine first-half assists. Three-pointers rained down upon the Garden like they had back in the days of Bird. Everyone shared the ball and the results were spectacular. The Nets were without their anchor, center Brook Lopez. The Nets, like the Celtics, will be happy just to make the playoffs this year. The fans were exuberant. As I began to fall asleep, visions of a surprisingly decent season danced in my head. I got off the couch and headed to bed.
I’d watch the rest of the game on Friday morning. Eight players scored in double figures. Everything was perfect…if only for a night. Eighty-one games left.