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Reversal of fortune for Buffalonian turned Boston Celtics fan
As any Buffalonian will readily confirm, it sure isn't easy being a fan of the Buffalo Bills in recent years. Despite the NFL franchise's historic accomplishments in the early 1990s, the Bills not only have yet to recapture former glory, they went over ten years without a single playoff appearance. The fall from grace is painful, especially for someone like me, whose childhood was permanently etched with Jim Kelly hero-worship and fan fervor.
With four consecutive Super Bowls quickly fading into the past, obscured as the golden age of a prior generation, what's a Bills fan to do? Rather than shamefully root for another team, you could always try another sport entirely. Having moved to Massachusetts some years back, that's exactly what I ended up doing as I dove in to the NBA, infected by local passion for the Boston Celtics.
To be clear, I'm no bandwagon fan. Those with only a passing interest might know that the Celtics are arguably the great basketball franchise of today's NBA, but this definitely wasn't always the case. As recently as a few years ago, the Celtics struggled through seasons which were at times painful to watch. Boston fans who grew up feeling the same way about Larry Bird as I did about Jim Kelly and Bruce Smith toughed it out, whatever the outcome, with a loyalty to the "Green Machine" that I found instantly relatable.
After all, I'd remained faithful to my hometown Bills, despite the Super Bowl wins being racked up the Patriots. Much to the chagrin of friends in the area, I was a Bills fan through thick and thin. Seeing local fans with same kind of devotion to the Celtics not only earned my respect, it peaked my interest. Ironically, I started tuning in to Boston's basketball games at the worst possible time.
No season in recent memory was as tough on Celtics fans as the 2006-2007 season, which saw Paul Pierce(notes) (a veteran star who I like to think of as the Celtics' Jim Kelly) sidelined for weeks due to injury. If any era in recent New England sports seemed to mirror the Buffalo Bills' troubles, it was that horrible year. It just so happened to coincide with the first season of Celtics basketball I ever watched, an inauspicious start to be sure.
Finishing the season close to dead last in the NBA, I watched as many games as I could. I'd like to say that I watched out of a kinship with dedicated Celtics fans forced to watch a beloved franchise sink to new depths. The reality is that I was probably possessed by the kind of morbid curiosity people have when they stop to watch the scene of accident. It was bad, but at least the Bills weren't the only ailing franchise in sports.
What a difference a year makes. The following draft could have been missed opportunity for the Celtics, compounding the lost season and virtually guaranteeing more pain for fans. That is until the Celtics went on to have the best franchise comeback in the history of the NBA. That draft would see the addition of Ray Allen(notes), and later, the acquisition of Kevin Garnett(notes). With a healthy Paul Pierce, the Celtics saw the stars align with as solid a group of talent as I'd witnessed since the Buffalo Bills of the early 1990s.
Like the Bills of 1990, who played an all-star roster, the Celtics sky rocketed to the top of the NBA, finishing with the league's best record and winning the NBA Finals. Seeing that dramatic turnaround was made all the more sweet with the context of the horrible season that came before. Of course, being a Bills fan, it didn't hurt finally seeing a franchise bring home the ultimate championship. We Bills fans know that winning franchises aren't to be taken for granted.
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