The aroma of fresh coffee filled the room, the Celtics were playing on national television against the Lakers. The weather was poor in Southeast Alaska and not ideal for anything more than indoor activities, and great coffee. Isn’t that exactly like Boston in the winter?
Alaska-The Last Frontier and Celtics
On an island in the Pacific Ocean, a man sips his robust coffee from a black cup with half a decal that used to read Celtics World Champions 2008. Weather patterns vary from recently renamed Utqiagvik (Barrow) in Northern Alaska to the Southeast Panhandle in Sitka. The distance is similar to comparing frigid weather at the Canadian border near North Dakota to balmy and humid weather in southern Georgia. In the interior of Alaska, temperature extremes range from -60 degrees below zero in winter to 80 degrees above in summer, a 140 degree difference. Regardless of weather, if the Celtics are playing the fans always find a way to scrape in the news and updates from the game.
Tourists who visit Alaska for the first time experience sensory overload from the size and immense beauty that Alaska offers. Polar bears, walrus, whales, and more than half of the nation’s federally recognized tribes. (232 of 566-click to see map of BIA regions). And, Celtics fans. Newcomers moving to Alaska will often bring their home team with them. Patriots, Bruin and Celtics all have fans scattered throughout the 49th state. It is not uncommon for the same Celtics fan to hate the Patriots, or for a San Francisco 49er fan to cheer for the bad guys in LA. Lakers, not Clippers.
Generally speaking, Alaska is huge with a population of only 600,000 or so. In fact, Boston is a long distance from Alaska and there are many contrasts of lifestyles and many people wonder how a Boston Celtics fan lives here all year. However, many Celtics fans from Alaska tuned into the games and on social media while on a short visit to a friend’s house. They watched on television at a relative’s house while eating a local harvest of fresh king salmon and halibut. It was epic.
Two friends and Laker fans, one from South Africa and one from Hawaii were debating on a thread I posted earlier about the series. Facebook post prediction: Boston will beat LA in a 4 game sweep. It was now game 7. Boston was in search of banner 18 to hang from the rafters of TD Garden to join the 17 others. History was on the side of every Celtics fan going into the last game. 2010 Game 7 NBA Finals seen around the world, and the Celtics fan tuned in from Alaska to cheer them on! Alaska. Number one fan.
You can take the fan out of Boston, but not Boston out of the fan
Celtics or Lakers fans would soon celebrate their 33rd championship between the two franchise teams. Like it was yesterday and Paul Pierce’ scratchy voice and eyes squinted were ready to party with Gino, except they wanted to dance at the Forum in L. A
1:30 left to play in the fourth quarter of game 7. Sweating bullets, nervous. Lots at stake in a bet with a sibling. A Kobe jersey if the Celtics could not win, and a Pierce jersey if they could steal the series in L. A. The Lakers held on to a narrow lead 76-70 after a blown call by the ref.
Travel! Come on ref! The replay will clearly show Gasol’s foot touched the floor before he released the shot! On replay we can still hear the announcer, (Jeff) VanGundy’s voice, You can’t come back down and land before you shoot! He had described the shot that broke the Celtics back, a shot launched and contested in between three Celtics defenders. The basket should not have counted.
Sheed (Rasheed Wallace) knocks down his 3 with 1:23 to go, closing the Laker lead to 76-73, answered the following possession by Metta Artest Ron World Peace, placing LA back up by 6 with 1:00 to go. The coffee stain is still on the Bird jersey, and on the wall many years after Ray Allen nailed a response with :54 seconds left. Heart pounding. Hair on the neck was stiff. 76-79, Lakers possession. Crowd screaming. Every bar from Dutch Hahbah, Alaska to Bar Hahbah, Maine filled with joy and excitement of game 7 competition.
:25 grueling seconds remained on the clock. Gasol jumps over Rondo’s back and no foul called, tips the ball back into the hands of Bryant. With ball in hand, Kobe drives the lane and tags Sheed with his sixth foul. Teo more points at the charity stripe surges the Lakers ahead 81-76. Celtics ball after timeout, Ray fires and misses. Rondo puts it in and drains the 3! 81-79. :13 seconds remain, and Kobe hooks Rondo’s arm (no foul called) and ball goes back to LA. Sasha Vuicic would sink 2 of 2 at the line to push the lead back to 4 points, 83-79.
The Celtics would not regain the lead. In the waning moments that followed, the fan crumpled like a wet noodle in the middle of the floor and didn’t move. Tears. Torn. The fan did not talk to his sibling for five months, until he finally repaid his debt of a Kobe Bryant jersey for the victor. They are friends again, but that game changed their relationship forever. Still brothers. Still friends. Just changed.
Alaska Fan Travels To Boston For Celtics Game
Celtics fans pack the T in advance of a matchup with the Pelicans. ©Tommy Gee, 2014
Up close and personal
It was unbelievably cold. The city was experiencing the first Nor’easter which brought more than 14 of snow overnight. Businesses closed, classes canceled and life in Boston slowed as the storm set in. Ironically, this type of snow storm is not typically experienced while living in Alaska. As the saying goes, there is no such thing as bad weather in Alaska, only bad rain gear or boots.
There was one day to wait before the Pelicans played the Celtics at TD Garden. Excited about seeing Rondo, even though I knew the team was only a shell of the championship team assembled years prior. I wanted everything, and anything Boston. I had wished to have been there during the Celtics championship run in 2008, and any time through 2010 when The Big Ticket, The Truth and Rondo lead the team. Time to go to Dunkies. Give me a lahge regulah.
Ya gotta be from heah to unnastand
Bah-stin,Chow-dah Gotta yell loud-ah. The Boston accent wasn’t even close. It was wicked good fun to try the King’s good English. Like fresh main lobstah. I stahted to speak all things Bah-stin. I couldn’t find my tan kahkeys, I was certain I had washed them with all shirts and other my work clothes the day before. Ordered a whopah from Burger King and finished it off with some strong Dunkin Donuts coffee. Bought a few bahgins after cruising Dot Drive.
It doesn’t matter where home is, if the Celtics are the preferred team, you bleed green. Watching a game court-side was surreal. Walked in to the Gahdin the usher took my seat. Logue 22, row 1 seat 1.
From seat 1, row 1
Late that night in a hotel near Woody Island T station the fan turned on the news to catch up on sports. When the clips from the Celtics game replayed on t. v., the remote dropped to the floor along with my jaw. There, at the left hand side of the screen and directly behind the bench was the Alaskan Celtics fan in yellow! Made it to Boston, watched a game and made the news seen on NESN and SportsCenter. The fan will never forget. Celtics are not just a team, the heart of Boston beats all across America. From Cambridge, Massachusetts to Dillingham, Alaska. Celtics fans are another state of mind.
Screen shot of NESN television broadcast.