With Opening Day just a few hours away, I decided to post an introspective look into my being a Celtics fan in another country. Hope it satiates the hunger for a bit while waiting for the 2012-2013 season.
There is something special about being a Celtics fan. Maybe it’s
the rich history, or the championship banners, the legendary Celtic pride,
Ubuntu or all of them. I really cannot explain.
Let me rephrase that: there is something special about the
consequences of caring for a group of professional athletes who have embraced
true team basketball and inimitable pride in their craft.
I am proud to call myself a Celtics fan, even in a country where
basketball is only played by expatriates and the number one sport is soccer.
Here in the United Arab Emirates, the sport of David Beckham is king. Still, life
isn’t so bad, as the numerous basketball tournaments here sponsored by generous
Filipino communities make sure that the game of hoops is well and alive in the
I have played and watched the game from a young age, coming from a
country where, despite our inappropriate statures, the game is revered and
played on any and every surface imaginable to man. (Rafe Bartholomew of
Grantland wrote an excellent book about
Philippine hoops, and a pretty nice piece on Heat coach
and half-Filipino Erik Spoelstra). Young boys are taught the game at an early
age, enter into sports clinics, play pickup basketball almost every day (even
at school lunch breaks) and follow the NBA and local leagues religiously. Where
our love for basketball started, I do not know: I just know that being Filipino
meant that you knew how to play and enter a pickup game at anytime, anywhere,
Being overseas means a deeper, stronger bond with your countrymen
in a land where basketball is the secondary sport but is still the primary
sport in our hearts. And of course, the best basketball on the planet is being
played in the NBA, and the best team basketball is played in Beantown.
And so we stay tuned, no matter where we are, time zones be damned.
There are some sacrifices entailed in being a Celtics fan in
another country. For me, the time difference leaps out as the most challenging.
Most Boston home games are shown a little past 3 a.m., which meant getting up
early (not a problem for me, as I am an early riser and a morning person),
sleeping as early as 8 p.m. on a workday just to tune your body clock to catch
the tip-off (I swear, I saw the Celtics-Knicks preseason comeback win in spurts
– half asleep most of the time. They were down by 20 so I kinda dozed off, only
to be awakened by excited squeals of delight as the C’s came back to take the
game) and explaining to your better half why you need some alone time sometimes.
(I have a plan to make my girl love the Celtics as much as I do. Hope it works.)
I hope she will understand why I celebrate Kevin Garnett’s intense
focus and appreciates his chest pounding, crowd pleasing pregame tipoff
routine. The way Rajon Rondo shovels impossible looking passes and penetrates
to the cup like nobody’s business. They way Paul Pierce is always a threat to
nail a dagger to the heart of the opposing club, in the face of the
opposition’s best defender, even after a subpar shooting night.
I hope she feels the same jubilation I do on every made shot; the
same fist-pumping excitement on every and-one; and the same feeling of ice
running through my veins after every loss, especially close losses. That’s
what’s so great about this game: every play is a chance to commemorate
something. All the little nuances flow beautifully like supremely fitted pieces
with these Celtics: no hero ball, no overused isolations. Mortal men
sacrificing their minds and bodies for the greater good. Neatly set picks,
tight defensive rotations, extra passes out of beautiful ball movement. And
most of all, the fire and passion of playing the game the way it was meant to
I remember my dear mother once telling me that caring for teams
don’t make your life better: they won’t give you a share of their earnings once
they, you know, earn them. You’re not going to any postgame parties in Boston.
You ain’t going to be anything else than a fan.
I don’t know if that’s correct though. I may never party with Rondo
and KG, but seeing them play the game with the passion of a true baller
inspires the heart. It soothes the spirit, and makes you feel like you,
yourself, are a part of the journey through eighty-two grueling regular season
games and the brutal battle that is the playoffs. You have taken this journey.
With this team.
I’m in love. And I bleed Celtics green. Through and through.
Excellent article! Thanks for posting it. You capture the essence of fandom perfectly! Hats off to fans who sacrifice sleep to watch the Celtics. We in the US have it pretty easy as fans since the games are prime time here. I'll think of you when I start to complain about a late start here (8 pm) :)
There is something special about "Celtics basketball." The Celtics haven't always played Celtics basketball. But they showed signs in the Brooklyn rout that they were going to return to times of yore, or what I like to call "Celtics basketball 1970s style."
Nicely done Rain. We Celtics fans are kind of an anti-ESPN, and when we wax poetic it is often the teamwork/camaraderie aspect that has served as the basis of a lifelong love affair. Your mom certainly had a monetary point but the values we take away from the source of our fandom do, in fact, serve as a foundation of a solid lifestyle and personal philosophy. I always maintained that an hour of playing full-court basketball gave me a better indicator of a person's quality than a dozen interviews, parties, or afternoon of conversations.
It is heartening to see this Celtics Way circling the globe. In this era of cultural exports like the poison of intolerance, the triviality of reality TV, and the vicarious emptiness of pick-a-place Idol, the relative purity of admiration for cooperation is a breath of fresh air. Thanks for sharing, both your story and the Ubuntu of the Green.