The Celtics have always been my favorite sports team. I have followed them through their highs and lows since I was old enough to bounce a basketball. Being born in 1985, I was too young to truly appreciate the glory days of the 80's. I would hear stories from my Grandpa about Bird, McHale, and Parish. He would tell me about the days he watched Russell and Cousy at the Garden. They were mythic characters to me, but I felt like I knew them all the same. I remember watching the 1986 championship video over and over and marveling at the chemistry that Celtics team had.
Being a Celtics fan in the 90's wasn't easy. The tragic passing of Len Bias in 1986 was followed by the death of Reggie Lewis on the court in 1993. We saw players like Dino Radja, Sherman Douglas, Rick Fox, Xavier McDaniel, and Dee Brown pass through the Garden with little success. I remember the days when making the playoffs was considered a huge accomplishment. I couldn't help but wonder if Celtics Pride would ever come back.
In the late 90's Antoine walker and Paul Pierce were drafted and a renewed confidence and swagger swept through the Celtics fan base. Antoine was one of the more controversial Celtics of all time. You either hated him or loved him. Sadly enough Pierce was the only one who really achieved his true potential. I'll never forget the biggest comeback in playoff history against the Nets, when Pierce helped bring the Celtics back from the 26 points in the second half. The Celtics lost the series but I had hope.
The Celtics were respectable those days but never contenders. With the success of the Red Sox and Patriots they were generally an after thought in sports crazy Boston. When I came to Umass I was struck at how little people seemed to care about the Celtics. I wondered if Celtics Pride was dead for good.
July 31, 2007 changed all that. Boston was also still recovering from not getting the first or second pick in the draft, thus being left out of the Durant/Oden sweepstakes. That all changed with the announcement that Kevin Garnett was coming to Boston. The excitement was charged back into Celtics nation. I literally danced around in my office with joy.
That season was vindication for me. After all the years of disappointment, my Celtics were finally legitimate contenders. I had about three near heart attacks during the playoffs, but with about 4 minutes to go in that final game against the hated Lakers, a feeling swept over me that I've never felt before. I had been a part of a 24 year journey, but that feeling was worth every second. In some ways I felt I was part of that championship.
The Celtics title in 2008 made me happier than the three Patriots and two Red Sox titles combined. I had bled Celtics green since I could walk. I had heard stories about the Celtics legacy, and had heard they would never be champions again. I have never been so proud of a team or fan base in my life.
Bleeding Celtics Green means loving the Celtics through the good and bad. It means staying up to watch the final minutes of a blowout loss in Dallas in December. It means you aren't just a fan from November-June, but a fan 365 days a year. Finally, it means never jumping off the bandwagon, and always believing there are better times to come. Remember, it's easy to be a fan in the good times, but the true fans will always be there.