At 3:30AM in a hotel room in Uppsala, I'm watching the Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals through a bootleg stream; a blotchy watercolor of cascading, indistinguishable basketball shapes, the edges of the screen emblazoned with psychedelic porn and poker .gifs. The sun is already rising in southern Sweden, and I'm awkwardly trying to block it out, Insomnia-style, with a comforter.
All I want is to watch the Cs in the dark; my naive allegory in which it's possible to extinguish LeBron’s flame, even as he is clearly emerging from the molten stew of Game 5 with his "ugly face." The momentum has shifted in favor of The Heat. I feel like the Elliot to the Celtics' E.T.; our interconnected life forces are being sapped.
It's in Paul Pierce's nature to put the team on his back when they need buckets—he's been drawing fouls in slow motion for the last decade and a half. But tonight Paul Pierce's awkward grace, as Tommy Heinsohn once lovingly referred to it, is now just awkward, and out of control. I'm too tired for this and turn away from the game. Van Gundy's quips are trailing, muting. The Heat are up by nine with about seven minutes left. The last thought I have is, "What's a nine-point lead?”
Ten years ago I watched Pierce reverse a 21-point deficit against the Nets in Game 3 of the ECF, scoring 19 of his 28 total points in the last twelve minutes of the game. So I drift off thinking that maybe when I wake up, I'll have some good news. I wake up an hour or so later, and in lieu of my fantasy, there's only a streaming virtual casino where the game was. I check Twitter and immediately deduce the outcome. It's tragic, sure, but I'm reminded that I was living in the future that morning; 4000 miles away from home and still I have the privilege of swimming in all that transpired emotionality—a fitting bookend to my twenties, when so often I took the Cs for granted. New Jersey went on to win that series 4-2, and so that incredible 4th quarter run took its spot in the annals of my fandom where it resided for 10 years. At 6AM I watched that comeback with total satisfaction and the kind of pure sentimentality that I've only ever been able to feel in my life as a fan of the game.
There's nothing Boston fans won't do to connect, no gauntlet or scenario too awkward to push us away from our team, and in return we are honored with gritty, unflinching play and a remarkable playoff run. That's not so bad. In fact, it was truly fucking great. Jeff Green: I'm psyched.