November 6, 2012

Celtics Fans...Or Fans I Love To Hate, Part 1

The Washington Wizards opened their 2012-2013 home season this past Saturday against the Boston Celtics. Not surprisingly, the Wizards lost to the heavily favored Celtics, a team which is supposed to contend for the NBA Championship. Considering our team failed to put the ball in the hoop for the first seven minutes of the game (our two points in that span were the result of a goaltending violation by the Celtics) but also led in the fourth quarter and ended up losing by only three points, the result is both encouraging and discouraging. We need John Wall and Nenê back in our lineup; it's just too difficult for a team like ours to win missing our two best players.

There's a lot to love about Wizards-Celtics games the past few years: the big game atmosphere, the sold out arena and the often-enough wins which feel great on the journey home and for the next few days after just like last year's wins over the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Los Angeles Lakers did. After big wins against good teams, it doesn't much matter what else happens the rest of the week with the Wizards; the feeling of those victories lasts a while, probably because there's been so little big picture-wise to cheer about lately.

But while there's a lot to love about recent Wizards-Celtics contests, there's also one major thing to hate: the number of Celtics fans at the games. Who lets all these people in the building? Saturday's close fourth quarter featured clearly audible "Let's go Celtics!" chants despite the C's fans being in the clear minority. I guess it's not really that fair to blame the opposing fans for being more passionate than the downtrodden home contingent but I hate it just the same. And yes, I realize the number one reason I hate Celtics fans in our building is because the Celtics are just plain better than the Wizards and have been for years and I resent a large group of people with a common purpose pointing that out to me. If there were a ton of Charlotte Bobcats fans in the building, I really wouldn't care because the Wizards most years have managed to beat the Bobcats way more than they have beaten us.

Above and beyond the sheer numbers, Celtics fans seem to have mastered the art of being more obnoxious than any other team's fans. Boston sports teams have been incredibly successful over the past 10 years which seems to have created a culture of entitlement among that city's fans. A Boston team has won a title in every one of the four major sports in the last decade and as a result, most Boston fans seem to think the sports world revolves around their city. To make matters worse for me, most fans seem to actually have ties to Boston or Massachusetts or New England (unlike some other teams' fans who shall for the moment remain nameless) so it's difficult to accuse them of jumping on the bandwagon or being fair weather fans.

But let's face it, the vast majority of them ARE fair weather fans and here I'm especially addressing the woman sitting behind us a couple of years ago who couldn't recognize the names Kevin McHale or Robert Parrish and the fans who show up in Tom Brady jerseys. Shell out a few bucks for a green t-shirt at least, would you??? I don't recall seeing or hearing too many of you during the 2005-2006 season when the Celtics failed to qualify for the playoffs or the following season when they finished dead last in the Eastern Conference. In fact, it's only really been since the 2007-2008 season, when the C's won it all, that Verizon Center has been frequented by Boston fans. Funny how that works, right?

Not so much green, right? But the "Let's Go Celtics!" chants were heard loud and clear.
Despite my ranting so far about the number of enemy fans in the building, I actually enjoy Celtics games, especially when we win games that we shouldn't. We have two pairs of Wizards season tickets this year: one in the lower level five rows behind the hockey (or this year so far, non-hockey) boards and one in the upper deck in Section 402. When the Celtics and other popular (note: good does not always equal popular and vice-versa) teams play the Wizards, we typically sell our lower level seats and sit upstairs because we can usually recoup our ticket price in full and maybe come away with a buck or two extra to use to subsidize the $8 Verizon Center beers. Of course, the upper deck is where most of the Celtics fans are, which makes it that much more fun when we win. There's nothing like seeing dejected Celtics fans stream past us either just before or just after the game ends. During the 2007-2008 season, with the Celtics sitting in first place in complete rebirth mode with the arrival of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, it was oh so sweet to see the Wizards send the Celtics back to Boston with a loss and then go up to Massachusetts the very next night and beat them again.

But the sweetest victory over Boston at Verizon Center came two years ago in January, with the Wizards in the midst of a 23-59 season and the Celtics sitting comfortably in first place. The game started miserably: the Wizards trailed by 15 after one and by 10 at the half and everyone in green around us was celebrating with each made basket. It looked like it was another walkoff victory. But in the second half, the folks around us got really quiet as the Wizards cut the lead to two in the third quarter and took the game away in the fourth, ultimately winning by two. After waving goodbye to all the Celtics fans inside the arena, I actually heard someone say outside that at least the Celtics were still better than the Wizards. But that's not why you went, right? That person came to see her team beat my team, thinking it was a sure thing and it didn't happen. I loved gloating that day. That still doesn't make me hate Celtics fans any less, though.

Saturday's game was the only home game this year against the Celtics and for once, there were not a lot of opposition fans sitting around us so there was nobody to taunt or be taunted by. The loss Saturday night drops the Wizards to 0-2 on the season, good for last place in the Southeast Division. Not a good start to the season. At least Verizon Center didn't play Aerosmith and Boston music like they did in one of the games last season.

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