The DigBoston Column That Wasn’t

My first column for DigBoston should have been about watching the Celtics’ season opener at a bar on Christmas Day. Unfortunately… all the bars were closed. I still watched the game, though, and went ahead with the column.

DigBoston nixed it, but I’ve published it on Goose’s Gabs so all my loyal readers can get a preview of what I’ll be doing weekly for DigBoston in 2012. Enjoy!

Since virtually every bar in Boston was closed Christmas Day, I watched Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks beat the Celtics from my living room. (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

As DigBoston’s intrepid new sports writer, I see “52 Games” as an opportunity to find the hot spots for sports-viewing in and around Boston. Whether I’m in Fenway’s bleachers or Allston’s Silhouette Lounge, I want to meet the true fans out there and view the games the way they do.

With the Boston Celtics’ season starting Christmas Day against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden, I figured I’d trek out to Canal St., plop myself down in one of the many bars near the TD Garden, and ring in the long-awaited NBA season in merry old fashion.

Holy crap, was I misguided.

We of the Hebraic persuasion spend about half our Christmas Day in a movie theater, and the other half in a Chinese food restaurant. Since those places are always open, I assumed that other places would be open as well. Basketball games always generate a big bar crowd. While most bars would be closed Christmas Day, surely at least a few owners would pay the time-and-a-half necessary to keep their places open, right? Right?

Wrong. On Christmas Day, Boston was frozen shut.

I struck out on Canal St. I struck out walking from Copley to Hynes Convention. I struck out in Kenmore Square and near Fenway. So, for lack of a better option, I watched the game at home. Which I guess is where everyone else watched.

Like so many other NBA games, Celtics-Knicks came down to the final few minutes. The Knicks led by 11 after one quarter, but the Celtics doubled them up in the third and took an eight-point lead into the fourth. But the offense floundered without Paul Pierce (bruised heel), the Celtics’ most consistent and versatile scoring threat.

Rajon Rondo did his best to replace Pierce, playing a Herculean 41 points, scoring 31 and notching 13 assists. Unfortunately, he had to earn most of his baskets via the layup.

Between the 6-foot-11 Amare Stoudemire and the 7-foot-1 Tyson Chandler, layups were hard to come by.

Stoudemire and Chandler combine for eight of the Knicks’ 11 blocks, including four against Rondo.

Newcomer Brandon Bass gives the C’s a lovely double-double off the bench, scoring 20, grabbing 11 rebounds and displaying more athleticism and strength than trade-counterpart Glen “Big Baby” Davis ever did. Rondo and Bass even combine on a nifty behind-the-back play:

Unfortunately, Boston has no answer for Carmelo Anthony‘s range and ability. Anthony scores 17 of his game-high 37 points in the fourth, including the final four points.

Final score: Knicks 106, Celtics 104

The Celtics had committed two fourth-quarter technical fouls, leading to two free throws that (of course) Anthony sank. Technicals and inconsistent offense both suggest the team may be too unsteady right now to win games. As a further sign, check out this shoving match between Kevin Garnett and the Knicks’ Bill Walker:

Watching the game was enjoyable enough. Some decent plays, a big comeback from both teams, two final-seconds shots that could have tied the game. But I had really wanted to take the pulse of the Celtics fanbase: How do Bostonians feel about the lockout? Are they confident the Celtics can win Banner #18? Are the Celtics too old?

I couldn’t learn anything because Celtics fans all watched this game shuttered in their own homes.

Sports are at their best when they build communities. Putting a city’s name on a uniform helps a little, but it’s the gathering of people in public places that really makes everyone feel like they’re part of something bigger.

By putting such an emphasis on Christmas Day basketball, the NBA indirectly undermines sports’ potential to build communities.

That’s especially apparent in Boston, where religion is so tightly interwoven into the city’s history that most people spend their holidays in church or with families. Bostonians won’t go out to watch games on Christmas, so the bars stay shut. That denies local businesses income.

The Fours on Canal St. would normally be busy on Game Night, jam-packed for Celtics-Knicks, and stuffed to the brim for the season opener.

But with the game happening Christmas Day, The Fours closed down. Think how much money Boston bars lost because their patrons won’t come out on Christmas.

TV ratings soared for the five Christmas Day games, but who makes money off that? Answer: The networks and the NBA.

Given the choice, I always want to give my money to local businesses. Christmas Day basketball gives the money to people who need it least.

How very un-Christmasy.

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