The Eastern Conference Finals between the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics concluded this week, registering a 30% drop in TV viewership compared to last year’s Finals between two very small media market teams, the Toronto Raptors and the Milwaukee Bucks.
I have been a Celtics fan for over 50 years, but I am one of those who chose not to watch this year. Are the Celtics and the NBA interested in me becoming a fan again? If so, then please allow me to share how the Celtics and the other NBA players can rescue their failing league.
Perennial All Star Bill Russell retired from the Boston Celtics in 1969, having led the team to 11 NBA Championships in 13 years. As a young fan, whenever possible, I would fall asleep listening to Johnny Most broadcasting the Celtics games on my little clock radio. When I heard that Bill Russell was retiring, the news was so unexpected and devastating that I literally cried off and on through the rest of the night.
The days of Bill Russell are long gone but the Celtics have remained a winning team with a huge nationwide cadre of super loyal fans. When my son was growing up, we used to watch the Celtics play on Sunday afternoons, where stars like Boston’s Larry Bird would take on the likes of Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan.
The athleticism was great, the passions were high, and the consistent effort to be the best of the best was inspirational. The Celtics were among my heroes, and the same became true for my son.
Living in Florida at the time, it seemed unlikely that we would ever get to see the Celtics in person. However, while watching a game on ABC one Sunday afternoon, we saw an ad offering two seats from the recently torn down Boston Garden. I was so excited to think I could have a piece of the Garden that I could barely wait for my wife return home, so that I could share this truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. When she arrived, I went through a dramatic, emotion-laden sales pitch of why we needed to buy these Boston Garden seats. I brought up how the Celtics were such a big part of my life growing up, reminding her of how I cried the night Bill Russell retired. The sales presentation only intensified from there when I brought up how the Celtics had become such an integral part of life with my son, and how these two Garden seats would forever immortalize all these good times. I could tell my wife was leaning my way, and I was just about to close the sale when my 9-year-old Chris added to the conversation, “Yeah Mom, and these seats cost 800 bucks!” I swear, people all the way from Florida to Boston heard my balloon pop. No seats for you, Mark!
Chris and I finally got to see the Celtics last year in Boston, third row seats, bucket list checked. Celtics fever was at an all time high for us, as father and son shared the great joy of watching Jason Tatum grow to become a first round All Star pick in 2020.
As indicated, I don’t watch the Celtics anymore. A couple of months ago, I was hoping that the NBA would not go all in on Black Lives Matter, but that hope was shattered when I turned on the first game of the NBA Bubble, only to see the basketball court emblazoned with the text “BLACK LIVES MATTER.” When my flag and my country is disrespected, it is personal for me, because both my dad and my father-in-law fought for the USA in World War II. Dad was a Major in the US Army Corps of Engineers and you can read about his bravery in building pontoon bridges in France for the Allied troops advancing towards Germany.
My father-in-law was a navigator on an Army Air Force Combat Search and Rescue Team, flying the skies of the Mediterranean and North Africa, rescuing pilots and airmen whose planes had been shot down by the enemy. Both men willingly risked their lives in order to preserve our freedoms.
Maybe America is overwhelmingly racist, as BLM and the left claims today. However, if we go back to 2016 we find Gallup stating that race relations deteriorated during the Obama presidency. In 2008, 70% of Americans felt race relations would be improved with Obama as our president but that didn’t happen. Instead, in 2016, 46% of Americans felt that race relations had worsened during Obama’s presidency. Obama failed to challenge the false narratives the leftist media peddled about the deaths of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin, which greatly helped BLM to grow size and influence. Recently, America has seen BLM grow even more powerful with the riots and looting in the Democrat-run cities of Portland, Minneapolis, Seattle, and others—being portrayed by the media as an understandable reaction to centuries of racism. Following Obama’s example of silence, not a single speaker at the recent Democratic National Convention criticized the violence.
I think if it were to be possible to poll the entire country, we would find the vast majority of Americans believe that black lives matter. As chaotic as things seem now, I believe that healing can come to America when our focus shifts to what we have in common. According to the Declaration of Independence, America was founded on the belief that all men are created equal. As the Pledge of Allegiance states, we are one Nation under God.
As an evangelical Christian, I am promised to have a life dominated by love and joy and peace if I am fully surrendered to God. When trials come, my way, I have an ever present help in times of trouble. It’s an absolutely awesome life and how I wish I could talk personally with Jason Tatum and all the other Celtics players so I could share how this abundant life is available to each and every one of them.
I miss my Celtics and hope to be able to watch them play again, maybe even someday soon. In the meantime, I would encourage the team, as well as fellow NBA players, to fervently seek after God with all of your heart because as James writes, “the wisdom that comes from above is pure, then also peaceful, gentle, full of mercy and good fruits…”
Mark, although you don’t mention it specifically I’m guessing from your comments that you feel that athletes who “take a knee” during the National Anthem are disrespectful. This is something I’ve never understood. Are football players who take a knee around a player who may have been seriously hurt disrespecting that player? When people kneel to pray are they disrespecting God?
If players flipped-off the Color Guard or made a big show of talking and laughing while the Anthem was being played I would regard that as disrespectful. But kneeling?
If players were kneeling because they live in a country in which, despite its professed ideals, abortion is still legal would you react the same way?
Thanks, Larry, for posting some very interesting questions.
In a way, your questions are supporting the point I was trying to make, which is to focus on what we have in common instead of how we may differently view the flag, kneeling and so on…the chances of anyone peruading someone else to change their opinions on these sort of matters is so tiny…