Friday, July 15, 2005


How to Win Back Boston

In a city obsessed with baseball, and a relative newfound devotion to football, how can the Celtics compete for fan affection? The Celtics currently battle with the locked-out Bruins as the third and fourth most popular teams in the city. Celtic coverage in the papers is adequate, and FSN does a great job (NESN is putrid), but the real measure of fan passion, sports talk radio, rarely mentions the green. And when they do, it is usually in a derisive and sarcastic way. Perhaps it is a medium I should consider.

The lack of Celtic popularity in the region really hit home earlier this year. Game 5 of the Celtic/Pacer playoffs did a 4.7 rating on FSN, while a competing regular season Red Sox-Tigers game on NESN did an 8.4. If you recall, this was after a big 110-79 Game 4 victory by the locals, after everyone wrote them off.

Given the last few years, a 4.7 rating is not bad for the Celtics, but to get beat that bad by a regular season baseball game against a perennial loser is pathetic. Did the fans of Boston really need to see the Halama/Maroth pitching match-up that bad? Much of the diminishing interest can be attributed to the state of the NBA today, a game that is losing middle-class, white suburbia at an alarming rate. And perhaps the rating disparity says more about Red Sox passion than it does Celtic apathy, but the fact that almost double the amount of viewers preferred a crappy regular season Sox game over a Celtic playoff game is disheartening.

Over twenty years ago (I forget the exact year), I recall walking out of Fenway after a late April afternoon game. There was a white Oldsmobile parked on Van Ness Street with its passenger side door open. The radio was turned up to the sound of Johnny Most, and the game was in the fourth. Those leaving the park congregated at and around the car, eventually resulting in a very large crowd. You could barely hear the call of the game over the cheers from those listening. I can’t remember if the C’s won, but I remember the passion.

Over the past few days, I’ve argued with some kool-aid drinkers at about the overall Celtic fan support in Boston and the region. Some expressed surprise that 40% of those surveyed on the EEI website want Pierce traded. I am not.

The only way to grow the Celtic market is to build a true contender. The fans of Boston, now spoiled from the success from other sports, need a reason to invest their time and money in the Celtics. The only way to accomplish this is, get this, trade Pierce. Build and market around the exciting youngsters, which is something that ownership have already started to do. Turn it over to those who are currently competing in Vegas. Even if it means a step back, those fans currently not paying attention will notice yearly improvements of a young team. Young, fast, athletic, exciting. After four years and gradual yet consistent improvement, the Cs will be ready to truly compete, and the fans will be there to back them up.

Sadly, it will never be like it was that day outside Fenway in the height of the Bird-era, but it has to get better than this.

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