Why We Love Sports

May 6, 2009
Share this story:

The Sports Philosopher

The Sports Philosopher

By Brad Eastland, t.s.p.


      First of all, let me just say that I hate the Boston Celtics.

      I always have.   They practically ruined the 60s for me, beating my beloved Lakers six times in the finals.   Back then I hated their smugness, their cockiness, and especially their stupid, too-tight, ball-crushing basketball shorts.   And then last year, 40 years later, just when I thought I was rid of them forever, they beat my Lakers in the finals again.   And it’s not just that they win but also the way they do it; a lucky bounce here, a lucky shot there, a bad call that always goes their way, it’s always something.   I don’t know about you, but over the years I have become convinced that there are, there really are, lucky sports teams and unlucky sports teams.   The Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants are examples of unfailingly unlucky sports teams.   The Minnesota Vikings and Pittsburgh Steelers fall into the ridiculously lucky category.   But the No. 1 luckiest sports team in the history of the world is surely the Boston Celtics; lucky leprechauns, lucky four-leaf clovers, and all.

      Okay.   Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, I shall resume my column.

      Simply put.   The recently-concluded Celtics/Chicago Bulls series was the best, and I mean absolutely thee best, non-finals NBA basketball series ever played.   Period.

      Didja watch it?   Did you sit through and suffer through all seven gut-wrenching, bladder-constricting, nerve-shredding  games???   If you did, you saw things that have never happened before in all the years since 1891, when legendary basketball-inventor James Naismith nailed up the first peach basket.

      Like what things, you ask?   Well, first of all, no previous NBA playoff series ever had more than two overtime games.   This one had four.   FOUR!!!   That’s just crazy.   One of those was a double overtime affair, and then Game-6 topped them all, needing three sphincter-tightening overtimes before Chicago finally won by a single point to force Saturday’s game seven.   Five of the seven games were decided by three points or less.   Equally crazy.   And finally, you never saw a series where there were more clutch, crazy, impossibly difficult three-point bombs launched in utter desperation to tie the score at the end of a quarter or overtime that found nothing but the bottom of the net.   (Which of course begs the question, why didn’t they foul instead?   Two foul shots add up to less than three points, right?   It’s just not that complicated.   But I’m just too worn out to conduct a basketball clinic, and I doubt if thick-headed coaches like Boston’s Doc Rivers and Chicago’s Vinny Del Negro would pony up the cash, so forget it.)

      Anyway, the best thing about a Celtics game (other than when they lose) is that it gets me on the phone with my brother.

      Brother Jeff is a Celtics fan.   He’s a good guy, don’t hold that against him.   At least he’s not a fair-weather fan; he’s been agonizing over Celtics games going on 52 years now.   Since he was six.   And a more focused fan you will never encounter this side of a Wesley Snipes/Robert De Niro movie.   Y’see, Jeff is the kind of guy who sometimes gets lost in his own little Jeff-world.   Thinking abut the Celtics triggers his own private little trance.   You can say something to him and he won’t even hear you.   Then one day, my other brother Chris and I figured out that maybe if we just randomly spat out the names of various annoying Celtics players down through the years, it would break the spell and he’d hear us and we’d get him out of the trance and into an actual conversation for a few minutes.   Darned if it didn’t work.   We’d say “Hey Jeff!”, and he wouldn’t respond, but then we’d say, “Bill Russell, Sam Jones, Larry Bird, Cornbread Maxwell !!!”, and his head would spin like it was on a swivel and we’d all laugh and he’d agree to talk to us for a little while….right up until the point when he would retreat back into the Jeff-world.   If you ever meet Jeff, and right after you get his attention by rattling off the names of various evil Celtics of yesteryear (I do generally refer to the Celtics as “the Evil Empire”), ask him to recite for you the colleges and draft position of every Celtic on the roster, or ask him to recount for you, game-by-game, how an aging, undermanned, character-laden Celtics squad managed to work its way through the playoffs in 1969 and then upset the Lakers in the finals by winning Game-7 in the old “Fabulous Forum” arena, with the Lakers’ victory balloons still stuffed in the rafters like dead eggs in a blighted ovum.   You think he can’t do it?   Duck soup.   It’s sort of like Dustin Hoffman in “Rain Man”.  

      So that brings us back to 2009, and back to this tasty little first-round series between the Celtics and Bulls.   Jeff lives in Virginia, so naturally we couldn’t watch the games together.   But the Eastland boys have a strange custom.   We tend to watch almost entire football, baseball, and basketball games together while talking on the phone.   Really makes the ear sweaty, but one has to make sacrifices in life.   As the series progressed, and it became obvious we were witnessing an epic struggle, Jeff was edging closer and closer to coming unglued.   I loved it.   No, not because I wanted my brother to suffer, but because, remember, I hate the Celtics.   Game-6 was hysterical.   We were on the phone together for the entire fourth quarter and the first two overtimes.   The Celtics and Bulls pounded away at each other, back and forth, great play after great play, Brad Miller of Chicago drained a long 3-pointer and then a lay-up to force overtime, the Bulls’ John Salmons then makes a great shot to force a second overtime, Ray Allen of Boston buries a long 3-pointer of his own to force a third overtime (I say again, Doc & Vinny, why don’t you foul???), man, I thought Jeff was going to literally die on the other end of the line.   “I’m too old for this s _ _ _!” he exclaimed.   Then he tried to tell me he didn’t even care anymore, he just wanted it to be over.   Which of course was a big fat lie.   It didn’t matter that their star player Kevin Garnett is hurt, and that therefore the Celtics really aren’t top a contender for the title this year, for Jeff it’s all about winning games and winning serieses and advancing round-by-round.   He was just at the end of his rope.

      The game ran so long I had to ring off with Jeff before the third overtime to go see my son play the bass guitar in his school orchestra.   So I TiVo’d the third overtime, went to my kid’s recital, came home, watched the Bulls squeeze out a 1-point victory, laughed out loud at what Jeff must have endured, and then went to bed.   Series tied, 3-3.

      Saturday’s Game-7 was good, not great.   There was no way it could ever have matched Game-6 anyway.   The classy Celtics won handily if not easily, the young, feisty Bulls finding honor and glory in defeat.   Saturday was also Jeff’s birthday.   The Celtics gave him the only present he wanted or has ever wanted, a Celtics victory.   I talked to him for a little while.   He wasn’t elated, he wasn’t ecstatic.   He was drained dry.

      What was unspoken between us is what makes Sports great.   It’s why grown men read the Sports Page and toss the rest of the day’s paper away.   It’s about achievement, it’s about glory, it’s about making the game-winning shot in an NBA playoff game.   Things Jeff and I dreamed about as kids.   Still dream about.

     And it’s about one more thing.   It’s about a man staying in touch with his family.   So while it’s a cryin’ shame the Celtics were able to luck out in yet another seven-game playoff series, at least it got me on the phone seven times with my big brother.   Not bad.   And I didn’t even have to say “Cornbread Maxwell” to get his attention….   

 brad-eastland2                      The



Brad Eastland is an author, historian, film buff, and sports nut, in no particular order.   Brad’s other recent columns for LaVerneOnline can be found in Sports under ‘The Sports Philosopher’ and also in Viewpoint under ‘Brad Eastland’s View’.    Brad has also written four novels and over 20 short-stories.    Samples of Brad’s fiction work can be discovered within the links below :

4 Responses to “Why We Love Sports”

  1. Love to read your writing! Nice to hear about the family.

  2. quintissential Eastland….

  3. Brad

    The Celts didn’t just get lucky when they buried the Lakers, now did they ?

    from an East Coast transplant,


    PS Good column



Leave a Reply