Simultaneous following of the current Mets and Celtics' seasons has made me look to the notion of loyalty. The first month of the Mets has been mostly creaks, groans, and a lot of fast-turning-tv-off. The first week of Celtics in the playoffs has been an odd exercise in familiarity for me, raised on Celts' playoff-basketball, but absent from my radar from Reggie Lewis's death till somewheres around their 25 point comeback against the Nets in the Eastern Conference. But in both the Celts-Bulls series that ended last night and the Mets-Phills' the past two days, there are plays and players that make me ask why someone roots for a team.
—The beat on the Mets is their offense will not fight back from a late deficit, and even broader: they choke. The Phillies are showing a knack for clawing back, to the point their fans are expecting it even at 2 outs in the 9th. I root for the Mets and I kind of resent the Phillies.
—Rajon Rondo and Derrick Rose, the point guards for the Celts and Bulls, both seemed to achieve superstar status in this series. If you put them both in plainclothes and I didn't know their faces, I'd pick Rose to be on the Celtics and probably have no problems assigning Rondo the role of 'badguy'. That's not the case. I quietly acknowledge Rose's skill and demeanor, but cheer and root for Rondo and his headband.
—It's already clear to me that the Mets are going to be nauseating to follow for the next five months. If I had to pick an NL East team to root for from their descriptions, I'd be a Marlins fan. This is not the case. I kind of resent the Marlins.
—The current Celtics team in no way resembles the famed one I was lucky to grow up rooting for with my dad. The arena is different and it's filled with a markedly more theme-park-hey-look-where-we-are-I'm-on-TV-'cause-someone-at-my-company-gave-me-these-obnoxiously-priced-tickets crowd than what I remember cheering with in the 80's. There's crap music playing over the PA seemingly through the entire game, and I don't know why Stephon Marbury or the tattoo on his head, are there at all. But inside 2 minutes or when a couple of quick passess find Ray Allen or Eddie House open in the corner, I feel like there was no break between Bird-era and Pierce-era.
So what I'm left with is this: following a team has nothing to do with one's preferences. The team's character comes and goes and as a fan I'm forced to endure all the horrible decisions that are made and money spent, and then drink-up the nearly-random highs, when they're available. I think it's all an exercise in faithfulness and a constructed sense of permanence. The Celtics were there when I was young, and are there for times when I feel like following basketball (I just don't understand it very well). I only became a real baseball fan when I moved to New York and hopped on the well-appointed but fundamentally-rickety Mets trolley, but after only 8 years I feel like I've got a family member who gets me swinging-mad with every visit, but the visits always begin and end with hugs...
unless the Mets squander a lead today.