Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Green Seventeen

By K.J. Cardinal

When I woke up yesterday morning, I couldn't stomach the idea of the Celtics winning the NBA title in Boston without being there. So, I did what I had to do (once I got the OK from Wife of the Year Angie), and purchased a rather pricey balcony seat for Game 6 of the NBA Finals (pictured right).

What a decision that turned out to be. In hindsight I probably would have paid double, if not triple, the price of the ticket if I knew what was going to transpire. It was a night for the ages. Truly a dream come true for me. Not many people can say that they witnessed their favorite team win a championship in person. The fact that it was at home, versus their rival and a blow-out was just the icing on the cake.

I'm not going to dissect the game, because when you win by 39 points, 131-92, the score really speaks for itself. But, I will say that I am so elated for Paul Pierce.

I feel like Pierce is the only one on the team that can truly relate to die-hard Celtics fans like myself, my dad, Glenn, Ben and Moody. He's the only guy on the team that truly bleeds green.

He remembers playing for Pitino. He lived through first round picks like Jerome Moiso, Kedrick Brown, Joseph Forte, Troy Bell and Dahntay Jones. He KNEW Red. He was part of The Comback (circa 2002).

Up until last night, Paul Pierce was known as the best player on a bad team. Now, his legacy has changed for ever. He is now the best player on the WORLD CHAMPION Boston Celtics. He is a future Hall of Famer. And, his #34 will one day grace the hallowed rafters alongside numbers like 6 and 33. He deserves it.

The struggles that Pierce has endured here in Boston makes this sweeter for him and just as sweet for us die-hard fans. I really feel vindicated on a few levels as well.

I feel like watching all those late night west coast games was worth it. Now, when I say "late night west coast games", I'm not talking about games 3, 4 & 5 of the 2008 NBA Finals. I'm talking about those west coast trips during horrible seasons like 1996-97 (15 wins), 1998-99 (19 wins...strike) and 2006-07 (24 wins).

I feel like the thousands and thousands of dollars that I've spent on the Celtics over the past 10 years was worth it. It was an investment in the future. I really don't think I would be reveling in the glory of this title as much if I hadn't put so much time, energy and money into this team when they weren't good.

With this win, I feel like I somehow get vindication on all those endless arguments with anti-Celtic fans and Antoine haters. Say what you want about the Celts, but I stuck by these boys through thick and thin and it feels great.

While sitting in traffic on the way home last night, as revelers were terrorizing the city of Boston, I couldn't help but start to think about the random things over the last 15 years that only die-hard Celtics fans can remember and more importantly things that I experienced with my family on all those long, late nights going to Boston and back to watch some of the worst basketball ever played in the NBA. Things like...

- The Cracker Jack Guy
- Full of Bull on Route 1
- The lady in the green suit at EVERY game
- The fish market
- Marrrrtttyyyy! Conlin
- Rare Bird
- The blind lady that sat behind us
- Mike the beer guy that my Dad became VERY friendly with
- Tiffany's halftime shootout
- Halloween night 1997 (Pitino peaks in debut: Celts beat Bulls)...chanting "Seventeen!" on the way out of the building.
- Bringing a sign to the games that read "ANTOINE: I'LL NEVER BOO"
- Taking a shot on the parquet with Glenn during the 1998 draft party
- Larry Bird in Section 316
- The 2002 playoff run
- A birthday salute on the Jumbotron
- Handing out mugshots of Jason Kidd on Causeway Street
- The Wiggle
- Katie's love affair with David Wesley
- Wearing wifebeaters with the #5 and "Kidd" on the back
- Loving "Gino" before everyone jumped on the bandwagon
- Jokes about Greg Minor's 48 illegitimate children
- Getting on the Jumbotron nearly every game
- Bringing a sign to the 2002 playoffs that read "8 + 34 - Pitino = 17"

I'm sure there a million more memories that I'm forgetting, so feel free to post them in the comments.

Remembering all of those things really makes me happy that my buddy Glenn was willing to shell out the dough to go to the game with me last night. God knows that I have been to more horrible Celtics games with him than anyone without the last name Cardinal. Glenn and I went to probably 15-20 games a year together. Unfortunately for us, these games just happened to come during the worst stretch in franchise history...The Carr-Pitino eras.

Also a nice personal touch for me, was that my Uncle Bill and cousin Missy were fortunate enough to win a lottery to get tickets for last night's game. The two of them hadn't been to a Celtics game in a long time, but they were both fired up to be there and had a blast. We met up before the game and also just happened to run into each other as we were walking out of the building. Seeing the pure joy on Missy's face was so great.

The icing on the cake for me was getting home at 2:45 a.m. and going to check on Anna in her crib to see her fast asleep with her Celtics' headband on. I really couldn't think of a better way to cap one of the most memorable days of my life. Sorry Anna, but my addiction is now yours.


  1. OK, so it's true that back in the day, I had a bit of a crush on Mr. Ainge (all right, let's face it, I still do), and everyone thought I was crazy. It was so cool to see him get his redemption last night, too, and I hope the first person he called to thank was Kevin McHale!
    KJ, it was AWESOME to share this with you, even if we were a few sections apart. OUR Boston Celtics ROCK!

    Love ya-

  2. KJ, I think your experience in the last 24 hours have shown what true sports fandom means. To stick through the lean years without complaint (I was one who chastised you for your unusually fervent man-love for employee #8) and then be rewarded for your passion makes me happy for you and happy to be a sports fan.

    Now go buy your wonderful and understanding wife some pretty flowers ;-)

  3. KJ,
    Having grown up a red sox fan and hearing/living through disappointment and expected demise come playoff time/down the stretch it made me so happy to watch the celebration at the "garden" last night. I stayed up to watch the game and I was so happy for KG, pierce, and allen. its a good lesson in coming together for one common cause even if it means giving up the number 1 tag. Kobe will never win until he has a player/players that are of allstar caliber. You dont win championships with 1 man in the NBA.
    I knew you would go to that game!

  4. KJ,

    Dad, Tiffany, Katie and I are all so glad that you got to experience the Celtics win the NBA Championship in person! We are the ones that really know your love affair with the Celtics your WHOLE life. I don't know how many times Dad and I said during the game that we were so glad that you were there. It made it even more exciting, if possible, knowing you were getting to see a dream come true for you. I also was very glad to hear that you did not roll any cars over after the win!! I think that I will have to give Anna credit for that one:).
    You truly do have "the Wife of the Year" but it really goes to show how much she understands you because she knew this would mean the world to you and therefore she gave you her blessings. It doesn't get much better than that!
    Can't wait for next week at Perkins Pond, Love you all,Love Mom