I had a feeling it would happen. That this would be the year. My Dad’s been prepping me for a while, about the men who could break my heart. Even good guys, the very best guys, can walk away. Poof. Gone.
It started with Ray Allen, who was so perfect as a Boston Celtic that if I could go back to my 3rd grade bedroom and change the life-size Kevin McHale poster (the only poster allowed in our home, ever—it was made so that kids could measure their height against the 6’ 10” star), I would. Ray was my favorite (next to Paul Pierce, naturally). He was grace incarnate. The coolest dude on the court in demeanor, and when his hand got hot, holy smokes, watch the eff out. Ray Allen, on fire, can sink baskets from the parking lot. He won a championship with the Heat last week. I can’t talk about it…
Next came Doc Rivers, the epitome of a players’ coach: earnest, direct, always, always in control. We stood next to each other at Virgin records once, when it was at the end of Newbury Street, before it went out of business. We were listening to CDs at those listening stations that seemed high tech for a while. Now, we have to say, kids, we used to have these things called CDs for music, which we bought at an actual store before iTunes. Like a time capsule of my life: there were CDs and a fresh faced Doc Rivers stepping into the Celtics head coaching role. I bumped into him another time near my church, when I was going through a difficult time and went to church. He smiled broadly and was gracious when I said good luck with the upcoming season starting in a few days. He wore a baseball cap. He’s now with the Clippers.
And now, Paul Pierce, nicknamed The Truth, who’s worn the same jersey his entire career, beginning in 1998, is bound for Brooklyn. He was a bright spot when teams were bad and a dazzling legend before our eyes when teams were good, as the majority have been. Kevin Garnett is going with him to the Nets. Kevin entertained the hell out of us and often carried the team like a half-crazed warrior with his otherworldly energy and untouched athleticism, but he doesn’t sting like Paul. Nothing stings like the truth. KG’s a little older and a little more injury prone, and he wasn’t a Celtics lifer like Paul was. I’m using the past tense already…ugh.
I had the sinking feeling of impending loss last week when a friend who coaches in the NBA quipped that if I saw Paul Piece in Boston to offer him 15 million to come to their team. I then promptly threatened that friend’s life.
If you’re not a sports fan or a Boston fan, I get it. (And thank you for indulging me by reading anyway). Ultimately, I’m not talking about basketball as much as the ways in which people and cities bond. It’s the very brightest side of sports (especially when its dark underbelly includes news of alleged murderer and former tight end for the New England Patriots Aaron Hernandez). Simply put, sports give us reasons to cheer. We color our lives with our teams. Here, it’s Celtic green, Red Sox blue and red, ditto the Patriots, and Bruins black and gold. It’s part of who we are. It brings us joy. It gets us up on our feet, screaming cathartically like lunatics, and we all need that sometimes.
Today, the sky is colorless in Boston. It’s raining, and Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are bound for Brooklyn. I can’t really bear to think it. But I had to talk about it. The Truth shall set you free, they say. But first, there’s a healing process, and this one is going to take a while.
Good bye and good luck, Doc, Kevin, and Paul. You were topnotch Celtics, through and though, and we will miss you.