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The Hunter’s American Sports Tour – Part Three

Boston Celtics v San Antonio Spurs

To see two of the most storied teams in the history of organised sports would be a dream come true. To see them duke it out on a recently refurbished but historically rich venue would be even better. And to see a closely fought battle with all kinds of action and controversy would be the icing on the cake.

For my second ever NBA game, I was fortunate enough to get that cake – icing and all – as I saw an (admittedly closer than expected) epic battle between the Boston Celtics and their southern opponents, the San Antonio Spurs. This game had it all: dunks, threes, heck even a lawsuit (I’ll get to that). So strap in as I walk you through my first Celtics experience in Beantown.

The Venue

TD Garden has to be one of the best intimate arenas in America. Not a single one of the 19,580 seats has a bad view, and the atmosphere of the Boston crowd creates one of the most authentic and exciting sports experiences for any fan watching any sport. The recently refurbished entrance has created the perfect hub for fans before the game with food, shops, and a Guy Fieri Tequila Bar (that is not a joke) lining the promenade. As you walk into the garden, it’s difficult to reconcile just how much has happened in this one location: Magic and Bird, Kevin Garnett and the 2008 Champions, all the way back to that first title (of 17) back in 1957, TD Garden is worth visiting for the history alone.

The Game

TD Garden Boston. Photographed by Ben Holmes. Image supplied to Hunter and Bligh

TD Garden Boston. Photographed by Ben Holmes. Image supplied to Hunter and Bligh

But, of course, I wasn’t here just for the history. And as the buzzer sounded and the game got underway, I was overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of the Boston crowd. The atmosphere in Minnesota the week before was great and all – but this crowd was transcendent.

Bostonians aren’t anything if not passionate, and this was on full display as the first quarter got underway and the Spurs kicked away to an early unexpected 22-3 lead. As boos echoed through the arena, I could tell this city expected only the best from their players and wouldn’t hesitate to let them know that. They’d need to start performing and fast.

Unfortunately, Brad Stevens, the bench, and the fans could only helplessly watch on as the Spurs continued to hound the Celtics, leaping to a 20-point lead at half time. All seemed lost. How could a team that was second in the East be performing so poorly? I was sorely disappointed.

But after half time came the run. Thiess made a 3-point jumper, Brown threw down a few dunks (like only he knows how), Hayward made some pullup midranges and Kemba was walking all over the defence at point. Suddenly, the Celtics were within seven! The game was back on.

But, in a way only basketball can, we were suddenly torn down from the highest high to the lowest of low. A questionable (at best) call by the sideline judge against Kemba was met with a raucous cacophony of boos from the crowd. This must have riled up the umpire – as he then did the unthinkable, double T’ing Walker for his first ever career ejection.

And then all hell broke loose.

The passionate Boston fans weren’t scared to let their feelings known, nor was Stevens who also got a tech. The noise in the arena was deafening. Obscenities, profanities, rude gestures, it felt as though I was in the Ultras section of a Bulgarian football match. And then…silence, as everyone turned to see a single can of Seltzer fly in an arc over the crowd, over the Spurs bench, to burst on the court just metres in front. The crowd wasn’t against the refs, they were against the idiot who could have seriously injured anyone in that crowd or on the bench. As the young man was escorted away, the noise built up once more – just directed at this new target. A ban for life and charges ensued for the fool of the night.

After all the technical free throws were shot, the game was effectively out of reach. The Celtics never looked like coming back and ended up losing 129-114. As we filed out of the arena, all talk was around how a single bad call can change the whole game. And, while disappointed to not see a Celtics win, I couldn’t help but smile at what felt like my first true NBA experience. The passion of Boston’s fans are unlike anything I’d seen, and they might just have won me over.

The Aftermath

After the game, the bar of choice was The Harp – a bustling venue right across the road from TD Garden. As we drank away the memory of that loss, all talk was still around that terrible (terrible) call, and whether ‘Seltzer-Guy’ would get his comeuppance. The beauty of sports is that it brings people together – whether that be through the good or the bad – and the enthusiasm I saw and the conversations I had that night made me glad to be in such a unique and passionate city.

Feature image via Shutterstock.