I Pledge Allegiance To
The flag of the United States of America. God. My family. My friends. Greatness.
Greatness, you ask? Oh I can see the funny look on your face, the one that says, “What the hell is she talking about?” Give it a second and let me explain.
This post stems from an on-going….I don’t want to say “discussion” because it’s not exactly one. It’s more of a dialogue but one that I am in constant defense of and for the most part, it has to do with my allegiance to my sports teams – the Canes, the Spurs, the Sox, and the Patriots. Although, with the latter (Sox and Patriots), I don’t really ever have to defend those choices to anyone. All I have to say is “Yeah, I’m from Boston originally,” and that about covers it. The thing is, though, for me being a Patriots fan is not so much about being from New England as it is about my reasons why. I’ll explain that later.
I define greatness as any individual with a God-given talent who recognizes such talent, capitalizes on it, and does his (or her) hardest not to let it go to his (or her) head but rather sets the example for all the rest. I also define it as any team that as a collective unit represents true talent, works hard to capitalize on it as a team, and sets the example for other teams to follow. Of course, with a successful team, it is made up of individuals who define greatness and in that sense the two definitions could be intertwined easily.
So what individuals am I a “fan” of, that I feel some sort of allegiance to because of their God-given talent? Carrie Underwood, Martina McBride, Barbara Streisand, Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep, Cal Ripken, Ray Bourque, Doug Flutie, Bill Belichick. All of these are examples of people who without question have a gift, have been successful because of it, and most importantly, have (or continue to) set the example for others. That’s greatness.
When it comes to my sports teams, yes, I’m originally from New England and you’d think I’d be allegiant to all things Beantown – the Celtics, Bruins, Red Sox, and Patriots – but I’m not. That’s partially due to having moved around the country, I’ll admit that. But, it’s also because I root for teams that define greatness.
The Celtics back in the day (and for me, that’s the 80’s. Think Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Bill Walsh, Danny Ainge. Celts vs. Lakers. Good times!) were a phenomenal team largely made up of equally phenomenal players, coached by the likes of Bill Fitch and KC Jones respectively. It was an organization who prided itself on its history that also happened to have President Red Auerbach at its helm. From the time Red won 9 championships as the team’s former Head Coach (not to mention his 7 additional NBA Champion titles as GM and Team President) to building the team to what it became in the 80’s, the Celtics defined greatness and I followed them allegiantly.
But, in the 90’s the Celts began a downward spiral, I moved south and west, and I lost any interest in pro ball… until I moved to San Antonio in 2001. My interest peaked once again after attending the first of two San Antonio Spurs games. Immediately, I was hooked again.
Now, I turn to Greg “Pop” Popovich, Head Coach of the San Antonio Spurs and the team he has built over the span of thirteen years. Recruiting such players as Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginoboli, who work alongside vets Bruce Bowen and Kurt Thomas, the team has been nearly unstoppable having won 4 NBA playoffs, three of which came in the span of five seasons. While it doesn’t quite compare to the Celts during “the Auerbach years”, it’s still impressive and to me, defines greatness.
Iwill forever wish the Celtics well, more so when I see evidence that the ENTIRE team (from the front office to the court) exemplifies what they once did. For now, I’m all about “Go Spurs Go!”
With the Canes, it’s a bit of a similar story.
I was a Bruins fan back in the days of Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, Mike Eruzione not to mention the early 90’s play of team members Cam Neely, Craig Janney, Andy Moag, Ray Bourque (a great player that I also followed to Colorado and watched him finally win a Stanley Cup Trophy). I even had the good fortune to babysit for Bourque’s family at one time. I don’t really remember the incredible team that was during the 70’s but I do remember following their every move in the late 80’s/early 90’s. However, during that time, as good as the combination of players was, they were never really a GREAT team. I remained allegiant while I lived in Boston but once again, though, after leaving the city for a life in the Sunshine State, I lost all interest in hockey until many years later when I moved to where I live now, Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill, otherwise affectionally known as the Triangle.
The first thing I asked when moving to the Triangle was – “What pro sports teams do you root for?” The answer: only one, the Carolina Hurricanes. The other two pro teams are located in Charlotte (the Panthers and the Bobcats). I’m not much for college anything, but I do enjoy catching some of college ball’s “Final Four” each year. So, when I found out there was a pro hockey team in the area, I decided to check them out and instantly, I became a fan.
While I realized at the time that the team was once the Hartford Whalers (for Bruins fans, the “enemy”), I gave them the benefit of the doubt. Coach Peter Laviolette was in his second season coaching guys like Rod Brind’Amour, Eric Staal, Erik Cole, Ray Whitney, Chad LaRose, Cam Ward, and Glen Wesley (ironically, a former Bruins player). All I saw was a chance at greatness that was further validated the next season with the Stanley Cup Finals in which his team became the Stanley Cup Champion. I was hooked!
The front office still has some work to do but they’re getting there. The team, however, has had a resurgence since re-acquiring Cole two months ago. Now, if by chance they don’t make it to the next round…in other words…if the Bruins beat them, I will root for the Bruins and not just because I’m from Boston but simply because this season they have proved they are a great team.
As for the Sox and the Patriots, with the Sox, I am a fan because I grew up watching them on TV, not to mention attending many games at historic Fenway Park. I have watched their ups and their downs. I have seen greatness in their World Series Championships over the last several years and I can’t help it- I am a true Red Sox fan.
I wasn’t always a Patriots fan though. Truth be told, I wasn’t big into Pro Football until Dan Marino came along either and it’s because of his talent that I became a fan of the Miami Dolphins. Living in New England at the time, yeah, I was shunned.
I didn’t see anything in the Patriots until Bob Kraft and Bill Bellichick came on the scene. Kraft has been building since he bought the franchise. He’s hired a couple of good coaches – Bill Parcells, Pete Carroll. But, it wasn’t until he gave the opportunity to Head Coach, Bill Belichick, that I began to see a change for the better.
Belichick is one of the most strategic coaches yet one of the quietest (if that’s the word) guys. His presence alone dictates greatness, it requires greatness, it exemplifies greatness. He has a natural gift in his coaching abilities, in his ability to find and recruit the best players, and equally as important, his ability to make them all work as a team. What he has done for the Patriots is amazing and defines greatness.
So there you have it and by golly after all this, I hope it makes sense. I don’t follow my teams because they win, I follow them because of the greatness that is within them that collectively builds that winning team.
My Spurs are out of the playoffs. This was a tough year for them with so many injuries and all. My Canes are pushing hard and have a viable shot at the Cup yet again this season. My Sox continue to do very well. Looks like it’s going to be another great season. And my Patriots, I gotta give them credit for what they did last year after losing Brady. Matt Cassell was stellar and the team stayed right up there as long as they could. Kudos! I can’t wait to see what happens with Brady back on the line in 09.
And of course, this is all my very own humble opinion. But…that’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it!