When the Sox were on the verge of playing the Yanks in both the 2003 and 2004 postseason Boston was at a stand still. Nothing got accomplished. Nostalgia filled the air. The energy could be felt for miles in every direction like radioactive fallout from a nuclear attack. This was no Chernobyl however. Something GREAT was coming and everybody could feel it. We were only days away from seeing perhaps the most bitter rivals in sports faceoff for a chance at the ultimate prize; a trip to the World Series. Everybody was looking forward to this historic matchup. Major League Baseball, its promoters, the television networks, and most importantly the fans could not wait to see what would unfold. No one wanted the Twins or Indians to spoil the fun. But does this mean that as a Red Sox fan I should have been rooting FOR the Yankees in their division series???
While the Celtics vs. Lakers rivalry is no longer as intense as it once was, it is about to be rekindled on the grandest stage. The Celtics are finally on the verge of returning to their one time greatness and the Lakers are just as good as ever. This is a dream matchup. This is how maybe the most competitive NBA season in recent memory is supposed to end and Boston is electric with anticipation. No one could have asked for more; Not the National Basketball Association, its promoters, the television networks or the fans. This is sports heaven, and no one wanted the Pistons or Spurs to take it way from us. But as a die hard Celtics fan, should I have been rooting for the Lakers to beat the Spurs, the Jazz and the Nuggets???
In the past I have avoided both asking and answering these questions at all costs. I know that as a sports fan, I should want to see the best teams play each other in the playoffs, especially if these teams are bitter rivals. And I have to admit, it is always a joy to watch. But as a Boston sports fan, could I degrade myself to the point where I was actually rooting FOR the Yankees and the Lakers? I think I would get struck down if I even tried to. Once I even attempted to watch a Yankees Twins playoff game just to see good baseball being played, but I couldn’t do it. Even staying neutral was too much for me to handle.
The only option I thought I was left with was to completely ignore any playoff game that the teams I hated played in, if the winner was to play my favorite team. This however ceased being an acceptable option when I recently received an email from my 13 year old brother in which he confessed “I have to be honest, I have been pulling for the Lakers…” While I am sure that he went on to explain that it was only so that he could see a Celtics vs. Lakers final I could not bare to read anymore. The thought of a young die hard Celtics fan, IN MY FAMILY, rooting for the Lakers to win even a single game was unnerving. I could no longer put the issue out of my mind and pretend it did not exist. If I do then how long before my brother starts wearing half and half jerseys that says “good game” on the back?
I have put a lot of thought into this (probably more then it deserves) and have come back with the following realization. Being a TRUE Boston sports fan requires two things.
•1) Root for the home team.
•2) Root against the Rival team at every turn.
That is it. We wear T-shirts that say “my two favorite teams are the Red Sox, and who ever is playing the Yankees” and we mean it! I expect every passionate Lakers fan to feel the same way about their team, and to root against the Celtics at every turn.
This is how the difference between a fan and a fanatic can be explained. While a “fan” will appreciate “a good game” and will enjoy this Celtics vs. Lakers final, it will be extra special for a select few. The die hard “fanatics” will truly appreciate this series for what it should be: good verse evil. And if you look at this series as good versus evil, then how can you justify rooting for evil to win a previous series? You Can’t!
When we as sports fanatics claim that we are die hard fans we are saying that we would rather see our team win, then watch a good game. While there is nothing wrong with watching a good game, its like the great Vince Lombardi said in his most famous of quotes. “Winning is not everything, it’s the only thing.” And based on that reason we should be pulling for our teams to have the best chance at winning even if it means sacrificing a potential “great” series. Instead some casual fans are pulling for their team to play the most entertaining game, and while there is definitely a place for that, it is not what being a true die hard fan is all about.