By Shirley Coshatt
Have you noticed the ever-increasing use of the term Celtic Pride by both Celtics fans and the media lately? The term itself in fact has a long and notable track record. Let’s examine its use across various mediums over the years and where The Pride stands today.
The Written and Spoken Word
Celtic Pride was the name of a periodical I subscribed to back in the halcyon days of the 1980′s. It was a magazine-style monthly publication that included some nifty stories from behind the scenes. But, along with the glory years, that publication went by the wayside. Several current blogs named Celtics Pride have since replaced that bygone publication in both name and spirit. Celtics Pride is also the name of a radio post-game show on ESPN Radio. On this show, they break down Boston Celtics home games, analyze all the latest moves and events and interview special guests. Listeners can call in and voice their opinions and ask questions as well. Lastly, Celtics Pride is also a book by Bob Ryan that details the team’s rebuilding process in the 70′s to get back to a championship-caliber level of play.
Celtic Pride is also the name of a movie starring Dan Akroyd and Daniel Stern as two rabid fans of the Boston Celtics. Mike O’Hara (Stern) and Jimmy Flaherty (Aykroyd) are die-hards in the truest sense of the word. They’re the type of season ticket holders who go to every game wearing green and they eat, drink, and breathe the Celtics. In the movie, the Celtics have reached the NBA finals, and the series is knotted at 3-3. Looking for an advantage for their beloved Celtics, Mike and Jimmy decide to meet the star opposing player, Utah Jazz bad boy Lewis Scott (played by Damon Wayans), at a bar, get him drunk, then kidnap him while he’s out cold. In the end, the die-hard Celtic fans have to cheer for the Jazz in order to avoid being charged with kidnapping. I may be the only person on the face of the earth who actually enjoyed this movie. I even own the DVD.
The Birth and Evolution of The Pride
The following statement from John Havlicek’s biography has always stuck in my mind.
“He also had the inner drive that characterized “Celtics pride.” After his first year Havlicek went home and worked hard to improve both his outside shooting and his dribbling. The next season he led the team in scoring.”
The inner drive that characterized Celtics pride. That particular phrase seems to indicate that Celtics Pride is something tangible that exists inside the players to make them want to be better, an internal driver that makes them work harder simply because they are Celtics. It infers that there is a respect for the past that motivates players wearing a Celtics uniform towards a return to that former excellence. That sense of pride seemed to disappear during the dark ages known as the ’90s, then recovered briefly during the playoff run during 2002.
Consider this excerpt from an issue of The Sporting News that details that recovered during the 2002 run:
On April 21, the simple act of a leisurely stroll by five white-haired gentlemen, along with a few bars of Bruce Springsteen background music, suddenly awoke Celtic Pride.
Moments before the Celtics faced the 76ers in the first game of the teams’ Eastern Conference opening-round playoff series, Tom Heinsohn, K.C. Jones, Bob Cousy, Bill Russell and even Red Auerbach supplied the home fans with an impromptu spine-tingler.
The quintet of Boston icons decided among themselves to walk side by side, in front of the Philly bench, across the parquet floor and to their seats in Section 12. For good measure, the Celtics blasted The Boss’ “Glory Days” over the FleetCenter’s usually unnoticed loud speakers.
The legends were back, and so were the Celtics. “That gave me chills,” says Boston general manager Chris Wallace. “You’re around this stuff all the time, but that really probably brought it home maybe more than any event I’ve been through in the five years I’ve been with this team. When those guys walked across the court, that showed that we’re not another sports franchise.”
That return of the legendary pride was in retrospect all too brief. Some depressingly down years (call them the Ricky Davis Years, if you will) followed but then The Pride returned in full effect on the day that Kevin Garnett came to town. With his arrival, the Celtics collectively regained their pride and swagger back. It’s because he is more than a superstar. He is one of those rare players who truly knows what it means to compete, and that attitude is always contagious. He is fierce, and he hates to lose. He has the ability to make all those around him better. He is a multi-talented threat that is equal parts scoring, rebounding, and passing. Those are the qualities that made Larry Bird a legend in Boston. Can those shared qualities allow Garnett to replicate Bird’s title successes? Bill Russell seems to think so, recently stating that he believes that Garnett will bring another 2-3 championships to Boston. In spite of being a superstar, Garnett is often reportedly the first to arrive for practice and the last to leave. When he is on the bench, he never takes time off and can be seen standing and shouting instructions and encouragement to his teammates. Kevin Garnett has the inner drive that characterizes Celtics Pride. However, he’s not the only one.
Three weeks before training camp even began last fall, all of the players, including the team’s three stars, were in Boston and working out. It was that famed Pride at work. The Pride that kept Kendrick Perkins in Boston all summer working out long hours and pushing himself hour after hour and wanting to be pushed even more. The Pride that kept Leon Powe focused through a lengthy stretch of early DNP’s so that he was ready and able to step up and contribute when his team needed him. The Pride that brings Rajon Rondo to the gym early in the morning or gets him out on the court three hours before a game (as the ESPN announcers noted last Friday) to work on his shot. The Pride that brings Ray Allen to the gym at sunrise to join Rondo and help him improve his shooting form. It is what makes Allen sacrifice his game for the good of the team and not worry about stats or attention. In spite of being one of the best shooters in the league, he still spends long hours before and after practice working on his skills. It is The Pride that caused Paul Pierce to lose weight down to his college playing weight this season and what makes him gladly accept two other stars on the team without a hint of ego. It is what keeps all three stars in the gym for long hours working with the younger players and building chemistry faster than anyone ever could have expected.
The end of the regular season is less than five short weeks away. After that, these Celtics have a tough road to travel, paved in gold by their legendary predecessors whose many accomplishments hang from the rafters of the Garden. It remains to be seen if they can live up to those high standards. One thing, however, is known already. If they fall short, if won’t be for lack of The Pride.