How Do You Say "Thanks" to Paul Pierce?

It was nice to see that the Boston Celtics had their marketing department buy space in today’s Globe, and published a full-page thanking Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett for their years of playing basketball. It was a kind move on their part to increase the weekday advertising revenue for a struggling newspaper. However, reusing marketing catchphrases (“Banner #17,” “Celtic Pride,” etc.) along with appreciating "hard work" indicates a hollow, blank understanding of the way that fans view players or teams, and a miscalculation in terms of how psychologically devastating the trade of their two most beloved players actually is.

When you need a couple weeks to get used to the idea of a player being traded, is it a matter of a brain being stuck in an era of "franchise players," or an uncomfortable reflection of my own mortality? I dunno, dawg. I've heard a million times: "This is for the best." It continues to ring wrong, and it comes down to money.

Long-term, this feels like a cost-cutting measure through attrition – and people who pay for tickets next season or for the next several seasons are nothing more than encouraging disaster tourism by allowing a small number of wealthy lions to continue to wildly prosper. By stocking up on draft picks for the next five years, it seems clear that management would rather gamble on cheap contracts than spend their personal profits paying the luxury tax. I don't feel comfortable supporting that. In a large city where an NBA team's owners' resources are in financial services, money is had everywhere and lavishly like in no other industry (besides basketball, according to ownership).

Although I appreciate the gesture mentioning "hard work," what fans are thankful for is much different and more complicated than what a multi-million dollar company is ultimately appreciative of. The people of this city, known throughout this country as being curmudgeonly racist, are also miserable most of the time because of terrible weather, poverty, social injustice, crappy aging parents, gender inequality, public transportation, blue laws, a lack of well-paying meaningful careers, national politics, large student populations, cold ocean water, and terrible pizza.

While that and the racism thing might be true for Red Sox fans, not every Celtics fan is culturally white and bound to that stereotype (though still, fuck those who still are). Over the last several years, the Celtics of Pierce and Garnett have given all of this city's basketball fans a positivity that it was lacking for a long time before, at which time the positivity was a cause célèbre of mostly white Anglo-Saxons (because Larry Bird, as you well know, is a white guy). These Celtics were heroic, were just as good as those men of legend, and now they're gone.

The people of this area can be thankful we made our own legends to alleviate some of our woes, and we can be bullshit that the management of the Celtics have taken that away before they were allowed to fade out and be replaced in natural peace. We don't need to argue for the pick-laden future, like little venture capitalists stuffing money into our elastic rodent mouths, because there is no incentive in that besides silliness and pointless hand-wringing.

We are thankful up here in this miserable city, drenched in sweat, soaked in the litter of a deep summer.

And we are thankful down here on the ragged, rocky shores, where we step timorously to avoid the hermit crab scuttling.

And we are thankful up where our legs are scratched to pieces, as sunlight breaks through the thin limbs of birch trees.

What the Celtics organization have instead given us in this "thanks" is fairly self-fellating. Management scuttled players who brought basketball fandom back to Boston away to save money, to “rebuild," under a collective bargaining agreement that has destroyed much player agency and lowered ceilings for well-meaning players in order to stay close to a severely limiting cap. "Rebuilding" is a word without meaning at this point, considering the many definitions that it has, but it's hard to rebuild if the ownership isn't willing to give you a ladder. Think about it: ten years later, Sacramento is still rebuilding from cheap ownership. Phoenix is starving. This isn't a rebuild. Considering the financial auspices of the CBA, it could be a deliberate, semi-permanent sink into oblivion. What kind of thanks is that?

On the clean sidewalks and the recreation center playgrounds, where children hustle, try to learn the pick-and-roll, and play on hoops where the rims are tied on too tight by an old man who knows a long winter is coming and if the hoop isn’t on straight and tight, it won’t make it past the wind and the wet, and the rust will squeeze its way inside of the screws holding it straight. A ball is passed the ball to the corner, and wearing those worn #34 and #20 and #5 jerseys, they're thankful too in a way that salary cap savings can never express. The bright orange hide clanges from the edge of the rim, caught on the weak side, and then they run again.

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