- Matt, a guy I had only met once or twice before, was firing it up. Screaming "woooo" at random times, and conversing with me about how the Patriots and Red Sox are going to continue their new-age dynasties, with the Celtics to hopefully follow suit. All we could talk about was how great it is to be a sports fan in Boston these days - and how we love that we're so annoying, that the rest of the country probably hates us.
- Once at the game, we found our seats to be at the club level. I had sat here once before with my sister way back in the first season of the Fleetcenter's existence, when the Celtics were not exciting in the least to watch and the place was half-empty. They played the Utah Jazz that night and lost by about 10. It was cool to see Karl Malone and Stockton in their primes and all, but luckily, I have a feeling there won't be many nights in the near future where the Garden is half-empty.
- The 'new' parquet floor (which, I believe, is at least partially replaced from the original WWII-ear parquet floor) was renamed the "Red Auerbach parquet floor", with a Red signature painted onto the wood about where an NBA Finals logo would go.
- I never get tired of seeing those championship banners in the rafters. Seeing the 1959-1966 banners all belonging to the Celtics (EIGHT in a row, not even the Yankees can say that), knowing that they're the most storied franchise in history, and knowing that they may be on the verge of breaking a 21 year drought...it's an amazing thing.
- While I'm not the biggest fan of the "little Celtic dancers", which is comprised of 7-year olds wearing risque outfits and doing backflips during timeouts, the Celtic dancers (the actual grown women) weren't TOO bad...though one was actually named Jennafa, as my wife pointed out in our complimentary program. Seriously - "Jennafa". This is how I pronounced Jennifer growing up, but the cheerleader actually spelled it that way. In related news, the Squire is now looking for more part-time help due to a sudden lack in availability from most of their staff...
- The atmosphere overall was incredible. Not only was Bob Kraft & wife, Laurence Maroney, Ty Warren, Vince Wilfork, and more Patriots there, but Ainge & Co. went out of their way to make sure that the Boston atmosphere was at full pitch. From the "Pats vs. Colts" header in the new jumbotron (new since the last time I was there, at least, and it's a thing of beauty), to a World Series dedication with a presentation of the trophy by Lucchino and some of the members of the Red Sox on the parquet floor, it was a madhouse by the time the lights went out. It was just perfect, and I savored every moment. What other city is like this, seriously? I have a feeling that even in NY...well okay, you may have seen Jeter at a Knicks game in 99 during the NBA Finals, but besides NY & Boston, there aren't many cities where you're going to see actual dedications of world series trophies, a ton of football players from the local franchise at the game...all of these teams and players are winners, and again, it's hard not to savor every moment.
- More on atmosphere - Paul Pierced made a speech before the game. This, to me, was unprecedented...do we have a statistic on the last time this happened, or more importantly, how many teams LOSE when their star players make an emotional speech to the fans before a game? He thanked the fans for being patient all these years, and he reiterated his love for the city of Boston and the fans who have made playing here such a joy for him, despite some down years. He promised that this new-look team is going to do all it can to pay the fanbase back for their unending patience. What a class act. Some backstory here: Pierce got a reptuation by George "I want to be known as the best coach ever" Karl during the 2002 world basketball championship because the US team was lethargic (finishing 5th) and Pierce was the only one who cared. It was a strange time for Pierce, as he had been stabbed a couple years prior to that, and as Bill Simmons has explained in more than one column on ESPN.com, it's very likely it has taken years for Pierce to recover from the incident...from rushing himself back into game shape, to not emotionally dealing with it, to playing on a lousy team and having to bear the brunt of responsibility, to losing Antoine Walker, to getting a coach in Doc Rivers a couple years ago who no one really thought was a good fit. Finally, Pierce has something to be excited about, truly excited about, and he's not going to be shy about it. The goose-bump factor was up there, seeing Pierce in the middle of the floor addressing all of us fans in the stands.
- Did I mention the Patriots and Red Sox were pre-game attractions? Did I already ask if there's a better time to be a Boston sports fan? I think I did...
- Oh, the game itself. Yeah, good game...Ray Allen was serviceable with 17 points, and looks like he may avoid inury this year if the team stays healthy and he can be the shooting forward. Garnett put up 20, Pierce 28. This may be the unstoppable trio in the East. I can't wait for an intense Garnett to play an out-of-shape, and already looking to his post-basketball career as a private eye, Shaq.
- I listened to an interview with Danny Ainge in the car on my way to the game. I was very surprised at his honesty...he admitted the team's expectations were different last year, admitted that they weren't very good last year, and talked about how he's so happy for Pierce now that he has another genuine superstar on the team. Ainge may have made some odd quick-fix decisions in his tenure as Celtics GM, but how else do you run a basketball team in the NBA? Again, refer to Bill Simmons here - he has written a column or two about how difficult it is to make a trade for a player, how those trades are almost always lopsided, how needs are different on each team, and how Ainge has pretty much nailed his draft choices. It was worth the three-year wait while we suffered through poor trade after poor trade and looking to our young draft picks, thinking it would be five or six years before we saw a 2nd or 3rd place Eastern Conference team again. Turned out that the Celtics crappy luck in the lottery for the second time in ten years was parlayed into gaining one of the best players in the league in Garnett during the offseason. So thank YOU, Danny-boy.
- It felt like a playoff atmosphere, particularly with Gilbert Arenas guaranteeing a win before the tip-off. I was in a bar, talking up Boston sports before the game, and I saw that quote on the TV from ESPN.com...who guarantees a win in the first game of an 82-game season? Seriously? The fans were all over him...from booing him loudly before taking foul shots, something we never really see at the Garden these days until an important game late in the season, to chanting his name when he airballed or missed a field goal. Great stuff, great crowed...everyone was into it.
- A couple of fans behind us were quite entertaining. I tried to make some small talk with the guy next to me by sarcastically stating that with all the Boston sports hoopla at the game, Belichick probably should have been assistant coaching. No dice; the guy barely looked at me, so I was content to look up and laugh at the two goons behind me who kept making some pretty cool comments and seemed to know the game well. They said, at one point, "wow - I forgot Antoine Jameson was still in the NBA, let alone on the Wizards." So did I - what was once a promising young player now is just a relief valve for the Wizards after their #1 and #2 options are exhausted on offense. He's pretty good, but I mean, Brendon Haywood got the ball more last night.
Great night - and no time to write any more...will certainly be writing a Pats/Colts entry on Sunday night or Monday.
[Edit 11/9/2007 - My buddy PS was quick to point out that Pierce makes a speech before every home opener (not sure since when; certainly not his rookie season). Since I've been labeled a "bandwagoner" by a lifelong Sox fan who was disappointed at the 4-0 sweep this year because he happens to collect a paycheck from the Rockies, allow me to resopnd: My family never had season tickets to any Boston sports teams (which, to me, does not make me a bandwagoner - my father, as a business owner, didn't have the time to go to many games and thought of the Garden as a rat-infested fire trap - and he was right, it just happened to house some great teams). This was the first Celtics home opener I've been to in quite a while (my brother in law took me to one in the mid-90's). Plus, it's been frustrating as a Celtics and an NBA fan to watch Doc Rivers coach for the past couple years. What's my point? Nothing, as usual - only that I am trying to achieve "above average" status among my fellow alumni, and failing miserably.]