Sunday, January 25, 2009

Celtics, Man-hugs and a Tommy Point

By K.J. Cardinal

Boston 124, Dallas 100. That's what the scoreboard read at the end of the game, which might indicate a boring NBA blowout, but for us it was much, much more.

I have experienced many memorable moments in the FleetCenter/TD BankNorth Garden, but only one (watching the Celts win the title) ranks higher than today. Keep in mind that up until last season I had never missed a playoff game in the building and that I was at such games as The Comeback, Pierce vs. Lebron, Game 1 of the 2008 NBA Finals, many buzzer-beating game-winners and countless Walker Wiggles.

Anyway, this afternoon's game was expected to be a big occasion for us because it was Anna's first C's game and it also marked the return of Jose Juan Barea to Boston.

For those of you who don't know, JJB was the star point guard for Northeastern from 2002-06. I watched every game of his for the first two years of his college career, which included a trip to his home country of Puerto Rico for the San Juan Shootout...I actually had team dinner at his parents' house. So needless to say, I was psyched to get a chance to see him live, in-person and in an NBA uniform.

We got into the Garden a little later than we planned, so we were unable to see Jose during the early shoot around. But, when the team came out for their warm-ups right before the start of the game, I couldn't resist going down to see if I could get JJB's attention.

So, I sweet-talked my way past an usher and was standing right behind the courtside seats opposite of the Dallas bench. Jose was in the lay-up line and I called out his name in hopes of getting his attention.

One quick "Jose!" and he looked right over...did a double take and then came over. We embraced with a man-hug and chatted for a few seconds before he resumed his pregame ritual of stretching and whatnot.

I must confess that at that moment, I was giddy as a school girl. It was so thrilling to see someone that I know (and more importantly, that KNOWS ME) in an NBA uniform and to get a man-hug was the icing on the cake. I really felt like it was some sort of amazing culmination of all the blood, sweat and tears that I put into the NU men's basketball team during my three years of working and traveling with that team...a very rewarding and exciting moment...something I will NEVER forget.

I was on absolute cloud nine.

So, I returned to my seat right before the start of the game. I really wanted to see Anna's reaction to the C's starting line-up since they turn down the lights and have loud music with pyrotechnics. She was really into you can see...and so was Ang :)

Our seats, which were great (thanks Moody!), were in the second row on the corner behind the Celtics bench...right by the tunnel where the C's walks out. They now have press row seating in that area.

I was sitting on the aisle and one row behind me, sitting in the two end seats in the section next to us, was none other than Tommy Heinsohn and Mike Gorman...the game was on ABC, so they weren't calling it for CSN.

I didn't make a big deal and didn't want to bother them or anything, so we all just played it cool. A few minutes into the game, I could sense that Tommy was paying attention to Anna, who was sitting on my lap. I actually heard him say to Gorman, "Look at this little girl in the green headband."

I thought this was hilarious, but again played it cool. At some point late in the first quarter, my buddy Jamie (who was sitting directly behind me) said, "Heinsohn is smiling and waving at Anna."

Again, this was cool, but we didn't make a big deal. Then, about halfway through the second quarter, Moody called me. Moody was sitting about six seats down from me in the same row. He said, "Tommy's all over Anna. You've gotta get a photo of her with him."

I agreed.

At the half, I went over to him with Anna and asked him, "Tommy, any chance I could get a photo of you with my daughter?"

Tommy replied, "Of course. I never turn down a photo with a pretty lady."

I was holding Anna, Angie had the camera and I didn't know exactly how the photo-op would unfold. But, I didn't have to figure it out because Tommy just snatched Anna from me and held her right up against him.

Anna was looking to the side at me. I was pointing at the camera and then Tommy pointed at the camera too. As you can see, Ang got an award-winning shot and Anna LITERALLY got a Tommy Point. Heinsohn was so you can see.

I feel like I've had my fair-share of brushes with sports-related celebrities, but no one has ever seemed more genuine than Tommy Heinsohn. He wasn't trying to act big time or annoyed by another fan coming up to him. Instead, he was so into Anna and just very sincere. If you had no clue who Tommy was and just saw this photo, you'd think that it's a grandfather with his granddaughter at a Celtics game. Just a very REAL moment.

It was so refreshing to see someone of Heinsohn's stature - an eight-time NBA champ, a six-time NBA All-Star, Rookie of the Year, Coach of the Year and Hall of Famer - act like a normal person. I thanked him for his time and for being so cool and got a hand-shake. It was great.

At the end of the game, we waited for some of the traffic to clear out. Being a stat-geek, I was leaning over on the press row table across the aisle from my seat to check out Jose's numbers for the game (15 minutes, 8 points, 3 assists).

While I was doing this, a stat-runner came over to me and gave me an official boxscore. I didn't even ask for it, he just handed it to me. I've been a stat-runner on many occasions for many different sports at the college and pro levels and NEVER have I given a random fan a boxscore. It's almost a no-no.

Anyway, I'm sure that this boxscore means more to me than it ever will to Anna, given my history of stat-keeping and overall dorkiness. But, we have an official boxscore from Anna's first Celtics game. How sweet is that?!

When you couple the boxscore with my man-hug from JJB and Anna's photo with Tommy, it was such an amazing day.

My dad got me into so many amazing scenarios at Celtics games as a kid (holding me up to get Red's autograph, taking me down to the floor before games to get autographs, acting silly to get on the jumbotron, etc.) and today it just seemed like I had come full circle as I was the one that was giving my child the experience of a lifetime.

I know Anna's too young to grasp what sports means, but if she doesn't end up bleeding green like me and my dad, then I'd be shocked.


  1. what a great day! Anna's got some good juju going for her.

  2. OH MY GOODNESS!!! That is awesome, literally awesome. And nice play on words Mr. "TOMMY POINT." Gay, but I like it!



  3. This is so great KJ. Anyone that really knows you, knows how excited you must have been as this was all going on. What wonderful pictures and descriptions of your experience.
    If you think it is great coming "full circle" you should see how it feels being the parents that started this love. The fact that you always remember all the fun things we did for you as a kid and that you thankfully acknowedge it all today means more than words can say... Love Mom