Turning on my team

Sometimes, fanhood can be difficult. I’ve been rather silent all year in regards to my beloved Pacers, laughing stock of the league and second worst situation in all of basketball (Thanks, Knicks!)

Yet, here we are. Less than a month from the end of the season. The postseason hunt underway. And the plucky Indiana Pacers, fresh off of a four game winning streak, are just half of a game out of the playoffs.

The playoffs!

It should probably come as no surprise that I’ve counted them out all season. It’s just not working anymore. Jermaine O’Neal is a shell of his former All Star self. Fans are treated to a barrage of inexperienced and underwhelming players every night. Even supposed bright spot Danny Granger has taken his chance to shine and flushed it down the toilet, averaging just 18.9 points and 5.9 rebounds per game, even with his team scoring more points than anyone in the Eastern Conference outside of Orlando.

But now, here they are. Eleven games below .500. And sniffing at the playoffs.

And here’s the dilemma. If they make the playoffs – if they somehow sneak in and rest themselves firmly at the eighth seed – they’ll be facing the Boston Celtics. The amazingly rejuvenated Boston Celtics, the team poised to bring home the title for the first time since Larry Bird wore green, since before Jordan was a force, since the last power trio graced the Garden’s parquet floor.

The Boston Celtics. The team I’ve taken on as my team of destiny, rooted for and crossed my fingers for and prayed to the basketball gods for. The team that caused me to cheat on my beloved Pacers.

So that’s the trouble. The Boston Celtics vs. the Indiana Pacers. One love verses another. On one hand, I should root for my team – my scrappy upstarts, my fledgling group of misfits – to go all Golden State on Boston’s ass and upset the Chosen Team.

On the other hand, there’s Kevin Garnett. Paul Pierce. Ray Allen. Three superstars that deserve rings. A foregone conclusion to make the Conference Finals, if not win it all. A team that’s infinitely more fun to watch.

If the Pacers make the playoffs, and they face the Celtics, is it okay for me to root for the wrong team?

Is it okay for me to turn my back on an almost guaranteed loser, to root, for one series only, against Reggie and Rik’s team? If only for this one time. If only to see KG get his ring. If only because the Pacers have given me so little to root for over the past three years.

Yeah. It’s okay. But still, I feel so horrible even thinking about it.

If you’re looking for me, I’ll be the one wearing Celtic Green, a number 5 jersey covering my shame, a paper bag over my head. And when the Celtics win, the bag will come off.

I’m just afraid the smile never will.


(EDIT – The Pacers just lost to the Hornets and now sit between one and two games out, dependant upon how the Hawks and Nets do tonight. Maybe I won’t have to worry about this at all.)

This was lovingly handwritten on March 25th, 2008