Friday, December 23, 2005


Boo who?

What follows is a quasi-literary attempt to explain the problem of feeling sorry for Brian Scalabrine. It is rather long, but we have a few days off and barring a trade, I don’t really know what else to write about.

By the way, Happy Fucking Holidays.

Intro – Vulgarity connotes true feeling

Poor Brian Scalabrine. He signs a $15 million, 5 year contract, contributes squat on the court, and now he’s crying to the press about the fans booing him. Fuck this guy. Fuck him fuck him fuck him.

Part I – Me, me, me

I could use some time off, seriously, like a good year where I don’t have to work and can just focus on writing. I find that real life exhausts me, and the need to earn a living through doctor-ing is enemy number one to my creative instrument.

I wish I could join a consortium of writers who would provide me with a good wage and would allow me to do nothing during the year but write. Maybe do a little volunteer work, but for the most part, just writing. Ideally, they would guarantee me 5 full years wherein I could write and earn enough money to not only live comfortably on, but I could take and invest wisely and never have to work again for the rest of my life.

Q: Would I have the right to be upset if the group of generous readers who funded the writing consortium chose to voice their displeasure when my work turned out to be sub par?

A: Duh… no.

Part II – The Metaphor become the Point

I believe that I’m at least as good a writer as Brian Scalabrine is a professional basketball player. Certainly I’m not in the rarified company of the Jordan-esque David Foster Wallace, or the up and coming Jason Richardson-type of Matt Taibbi or even the Sports Guy with his Nick Van Exel career arc. Admittedly, I am at best a Ricky Davis – a polarizing figure that many people will always think sucks and wouldn’t want on their team, but who some believe can fill a niche in the right situation.

But no matter how good or bad I am, it is a simple fact that if I were paid to write I would be expected to produce something for an audience. An audience that, almost by definition, will judge what I put in front of them. And I know from painful experience that when you put something out there for public consumption, be it writing, artwork, political opinions, or yes, a performance on the basketball court, the response can be callous and cruel. It goes with the territory.

My point is this – Brian Scalabrine is making a fuckload of money that you and me (not to mention the good people at Accountemps) have paid for with ticket purchases and the expenditure of valuable free time. Thus, a certain degree of expectation is reasonably indentured between him and the fan base. He believes that he does enough of the “little things” to fulfill his obligation to the fans, and thus, earn their admiration. The implication is that anyone who does not appreciate what Brian Scalabrine brings to the floor is a sorehead, a basketball novice or a drunken TD Banknorth "Garden" jerk.

Sadly for Brian, it would be laudable to hide behind the “I do all the little things” argument if we had a winning team or if the Celtics were any better when he was on the floor, but neither of these are the case. Worse, to the average basketball fan, Brian fails on the court in every conceivable sense – shooting, passing, rebounding, defense, and the basic aesthetic pleasure of watching an athlete in motion. The last may seem petty or dumb, but for those who devote hours of their time watching a mediocre basketball team, they at least want some athleticism and grace on the court. Watching Brian’s awkward, hyper-enthusiastic and ultimately ineffective style of play is often a headache within the greater migraine.

The truth is, if Scalabrine actually provided all of these “intangibles” and the Celtics were a 2nd round playoff team, most of us would probably be more accepting. A large percentage of Celtics fans (not me, admittedly) did just that for years with Walter McCarty. But Scalabrine has the misfortune of being the worst player on a bad team, a player whose “contributions” are vague and mostly related to us via snake-oil salesmanship from Ainge and Doc Rivers. Rightly or wrongly, it is tough to grow fond of this kind of player when you see guys like Gomes, Jefferson and Perk losing minutes to him.

Part III – On the Nature of Displeasure

If I were at a Celtics game I would probably not boo Brian Scalabrine, simply because I find it difficult to hurl invective from anything other than afar. And by “afar” I mean, not in the same zip code. If I knew Brian Scalabrine read this blog I’d probably feel a little bad about the things I’ve said about him. It is not in my nature, necessarily, to hurt people’s feelings, even when I feel they deserve it.

While it is true that a fan voicing their displeasure through booing is somewhat analogous to voting in a dictatorship, it is really the only thing you can do to make the leaders know how unhappy you are. When Antoine Walker was mercilessly booed by Celtics fans during a bad stretch in 1999, it was as much a comment on Rick Pitino’s grotesque vision of what professional basketball looks like as it was with their misgivings over Antoine’s play.

When the fans boo Brian Scalabrine, I really believe it is because they are fed up with the double-talk they get out of the Wyc/Ainge/Doc triumvirate that wants us to trust them that we are competing for, uhh, something, while also “developing the youth.” The presence of Brian Scalabrine on the basketball court indicates that neither is the case. Instead, we come to believe that we have been subjected to yet another penny-wise, pound foolish management decision that has been the hallmark of the Ainge era.

We call this era, the era of the mixed message.

Part IV – Dear Mixed Message, “fuck you,” love, CelticsDoom

Message 1 – “We are rebuilding while remaining competitive” - translation: instead of totally sucking, we always just kinda-suck. We dick around for 82 games a year, get our asses handed to us in the playoffs, and annually re-populate our roster with late 1st round picks and 2nd round “steals.”

Message 2 – “We are committed to developing our young players alongside the veterans” – translation: don’t worry, you’ll see Ricky dunk and Pierce get his 26, and maybe every now and then some young guy who’s only known outside the Boston area by a few roto-obsessives will drop 20 in a loss. Fine, but in the course of “developing” these players, we sign a guy with limited skills to a five-year deal who only adds to an existing logjam at the very positions where we have young players we want to develop (3 and the 4). Every minute Scalabrine spends on the floor is a minute that we cannot give to Jefferson, Perk, Gomes, Gerald Green, Tony Allen (if he ever gets healthy) or Justin Reed. We already have major minutes being soaked up by established players who have proven they cannot consistently win together (PP, RD, RL, MB), but in Doc’s highly political/personal locker room, only certain young players get time. (Watch how much Scalabrine plays now that he’s been booed. I bet Doc will put him out there 15 minutes a game on the road, just to prove some unknowable point)

Message 3 – “We will settle for nothing less than Banner 17” – translation: Ownership will lie to itself as callously as it does to its fanbase. It will assemble a group of corporate investors who know nothing about basketball and hire the one Celtic “legend” they can find who speaks their language to run the basketball operations. They will establish a calculus of success based on the following – 1) the presence of marketable players, 2) a win/loss record tolerable to the fanbase (ie – playoff appearances, after all, we have the Celtics mystique to maintain), and 3) a league average salary structure that will not contrast too poorly with their mediocre record. These three factors will be used together to form the illusion of constant “progress.” This plan contains within it the excuses for failure (“youth and inexperience”), a low enough yearly standard that it can be obtained or at worst just barely missed, and plenty of “promise down the road” that broadcasters can use to convince their audience that what they’ve just seen is not as hopeless as it appears. And when people don’t fill the seats, ownership can always appeal to the lowest common denominator with the promise of tits and ass from a future cheerleading squad and drown out the spectacle on the court with a sensory oblivion of product promotion throughout the game.

Part V – Conclusion – aka “Dr. Chestnutt vs. Dr. Niedangle”

Most NBA franchises have no hope of winning an NBA title within the next 20 years, and many of them do not particularly care. These are the teams that simply try to keep enough fans in the stands to be profitable while putting a team on the court that meets the lowest positive expectation these fans hold. To name a few - the Raptors, the Magic, the Wizards, the Warriors, the Sonics, the Nets (for now), and yes, the Celtics. They all have varying degrees of success, but they all have one thing in common – they are built to entertain, and not to win championships.

Since 1996, the Celtics have not had the stomach to engage in a true rebuilding process, one which would require a commitment to purge their roster and build through lottery picks. Granted, this process holds no guarantee of getting a title, but it’s the surest road, and it is a process that fans can endure if they see it pay realistic dividends. On the other hand, the surest way to erode your fanbase is to subject them to years of .500 ball with semi-stars and crappy “hustle players” and diminish your own credibility as an organization by claiming that this is all leading somewhere.

It is foolish to blame the Celtics' mediocrity on Brian Scalabrine, and that is not the point of this story or of the fans who boo him. The point is that he is a poster-boy for the frustrations Celtics fans have living in the limbo of NBA mediocrity with only the slightest promise for the future. It is the frustration of a fan base that feels it is not only taken for granted and lied to, but that this is being done by owners who have a vested self-interest in making us think that better times are ahead, without actually doing anything to make the times ahead of us any better. It is the frustration of being told that we have a bench full of “steals” and “potential all-stars” but then turning on the television and seeing the New Jersey Nets former 12th man playing in front of them. It is the frustration many of us feel when we read about “the Brain Doctor” and “the power 3” and “great practices” and “the vision” and know that it’s all a bunch of shit being generated at the point of failure, designed to make us believe that we have a mighty fine ship here and only an impatient cynic would dare claim that it’s sinking. Well guess what?


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