I’m not sure who said it first, but the phrase “essentially, we root for laundry” was brought to my attention by Jerry Seinfeld. I’m pretty sure I heard it on WFAN before that, but can’t source it any better than that. In modern sports leagues, rosters are always in flux. It wasn’t always that way, there was more stability in lineups before free agency existed. Fans liked it that way.
It takes some getting used to, for anyone who was around back before the big changes, but most of us have gotten there. We root for our teams and when our favorite players go forth to new challenges we root for them to do well – just not against our favorite teams. There are very few players who wear just one jersey in modern professional sports. Kobe Bryant looks like he’s going to do it. Tom Brady will probably never move on from New England until he retires. Paul Konerko is about to hang them up on the south side of Chicago. Derek Jeter just announced his retirement on Facebook and will surely retire a Yankee, not that anyone ever doubted that. Dustin Pedroia should be on the Red Sox for his entire career. The merest thought of Pedey on another team brings back nightmarish visions of Kevin Dineen skating for the Philadelphia Flyers. Just so wrong.
One guy who I thought would be on this list moved on from the Boston Celtics this offseason, Paul Pierce. As a Celtics fan, Pierce was my second favorite Celtic after Larry Bird, and that’s saying something. He’s the only other Celtic whose jersey I’ve purchased. In my mind he will always be a “True Celtic” in the Auerbachian sense.
He followed in the grand Celtic tradition of seemingly being stolen right out from under the league’s nose. The Celtics could hardly believe their good fortune in the 1998 draft when Pierce slipped to the 10th pick. Some of the guys chosen ahead of him included the immortal Michael Olowakandi (just typing that makes me want to hum a few bars of “Candy Man” – and typing <i>that</i> makes me want to hum “Candy Girl” – but I digress;) Mike Bibby, and Raef LaFrentz. That’s a fun 1-2-3 to look back on with the benefit of hindsight, since Pierce went 10th and Dirk Nowitzki went 9th.
Kevin Garnett was also a part of the big Celtics-Nets trade this offseason, and his legacy is more complicated. He helped bring Boston another championship though, so that’s what most Celtics’ fans will tend to focus their memories on, and rightfully so. He was more of a hired gun so I won’t really think too much about his future NBA endeavors.
It’s more difficult to accept the sight of Paul Pierce wearing a Brooklyn Nets jersey. It’s still better than a New Jersey jersey, but jarring nonetheless. He and Garnett have looked a shadow of their former selves. And this is where it gets tricky for Celtics fans, because the Nets gave the C’s a boat load of draft picks for our aging stars. And those picks increase in value the worse the Nets perform.
I just can’t bring myself to root against Pierce or Garnett. But those picks are looking awfully tasty the further we get into the season. The best I can do right now is root for my guys to get traded to contending teams down the stretch. That way everybody wins.
All of which is to say that modern fandom presents some pretty strange situations, and this is one that I certainly wish had never come to pass.
I tweet and you can follow me @MosesGreen33