Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Ray Allen says thanks to Celtics fans

Ray Allen took out a full page ad in the Boston Globe (see the image on the right) to thank Boston Celtics fans. The morons of course do not understand. And here's my column the other week in about Ray Allen's leaving the Celtics.

The nebulous assumptions of loyalty in sports
(or the case of Ray Allen leaving Boston for Miami)
by rick olivares

Ray Allen is the new Benedict Arnold?

Why, because he is not going to wind up his career in Celtics green? There is not only selective memory at work here but also some twisting of the facts.

Did Ray Allen not serve his time and to the fullest while in Boston? Did he not honor his contract? Didn’t he come back for another fling with the team when he was a free agent earlier? How would you feel when you are dangled as trade bait and you lose your starting job? So much for being the Big Three or Four when you’ve become The Big Sub.

And now he left, fans trivialize that he wasn’t fully effective in that title win in 2008, and worse, that he is a modern-version of Benedict Arnold.

Let’s take a look at Celtics history to see what kind of loyalty there is in Boston.

During the early days of the NBA, Auerbach traded away perennial Celtics All-Star Ed Macauley for the draft right that eventually turned out to be Bill Russell.

Sure it worked out for the best for Boston because with Russ at the slot they won 11 titles.

During the first Big Three of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish, after the 1987 season, the front office sought to break up the trio fearing their time was done. But team patriarch Red Auerbach put the kibosh on any deal. Many sportswriters and analysts believe that by not trading any of them before their value declined, the team got old. And coupled with the untimely deaths of Len Bias and Reggie Lewis, the team faded until the new millennium.

Larry and Kevin retired a Celtic while Robert Parish joined the Chicago Bulls for one last go around and got a ring for his efforts. How come no one pilloried the Chief for leaving and joining a division rival?

Of the team’s awesome starting five during the mid-1980s, shooting guard Danny Ainge to be traded to the Sacramento Kings! For Joe Kleine and Ed Pinckney (who once wore his shorts backwards during a game). Kleine was seen as a replacement for Parish but that move never panned out.

Rick Fox played for the last great Celtics team before Paul-Kevin-Ray in 1991 when that old team of Larry-Kevin-Robert led Boston on one last run before they were run to the dust by a Chicago team that was coming into its own. When Fox was traded to rival Los Angeles, he wore ‘17’ on his jersey as a tribute to the Celtics team he played for that didn’t win title #17. And Fox played on three champion teams with the Lakers.

Oh, because he was a bit player on the Celtics? The man wore ‘17’ for crissakes!

On that same Celtics team was Brian Shaw who was drafted out of UC-Santa Barbara yet sat out a year to play for Il Messaggero Roma before he was threatened with a suit by Boston’s brass and forced to return. But he didn’t want to play for Boston and reveled when he eventually went to his hometown Lakers where he too like Fox won. Maybe if the vitriol was reserved for him I would understand.

Remember Antoine Walker? Wasn’t he given the keys to the city of Boston? But wasn’t he traded away as well?

In those late 90s teams that Walker played on, there was a young rookie named Chauncey Billups only he was traded away. Billups became a star in Detroit and will best be identified with that franchise.

During the 2006-07 season, Boston had a young team on the floor that looked to be a good one given a few more trades and seasoning. They had Al Jefferson, Gerald Green, Ryan Gomes, and Delonte West. After that team dealt with lots of injuries and deaths in the family (Auerbach and Johnson), they were that close to firing Doc Rivers. But the best assist the team received was not from within but from elsewhere as Minnesota General Manager Kevin McHale traded KG to Boston for their young players. At an early age, those youngsters were dealt the cold and harsh reality that in pro sports it’s first of all about the business of winning.

Let’s reverse the situation here. Should the hometowns, cities and fans of other teams brand their stars as turncoats (the best example perhaps is LeBron James when he made his Decision to go to Miami on a televised show)?

Should have Seattle fans booed the late Dennis Johnson when he suited up for the Celtics? After all, DJ was a star with the Seattle Supersonics before his late career move to Boston.

And should Kevin Garnett be booed as well in Minnesota?

Sorry, Minnesota, you’re all good folks over there but Boston is about history, man.

Speaking of history let look back at the Celtics past and see if there is loyalty in the sense of the word.

So tell me is loyalty selective or something that cuts across all demographics and generations?

Of course, not. This is life. This is sports and it’s a business that owes to the culture of winning. Concepts such as ‘loyalty’ and ‘dedication’ are thrown about as part of the corporate creed yet they owe no loyalty except to the almighty dollar.

So why should ballplayers be any different. Try selling loyalty to Kendrick Perkins, why doncha?

I guess the way Ray Allen’s pro career got started is an indication of his journeyman gunslinger status. He was drafted by Minnesota but immediately traded away to Milwaukee for the rights to Stephon Marbury. He could have stayed with the Bucks but instead, he chose to go to Seattle. It would have been nice to stay with the Sonics but the franchise was teetering. So he went to Boston. It would have been nice for him to end his career there. After all, he helped the team win a title and make another finals appearance. He was dangled as trade bait once to often and he lost his starting job. But he also served out his contract faithfully.

Take note that Allen played seven years for Milwaukee and five years each for Seattle and Boston. It’s not like he former Celtics teammate James Posey who has played with seven teams in his 13-year NBA career. Or even Robert Horry who quickly learned about team loyalty after helping the Houston Rockets to two titles when he was traded away first to Phoenix then to the Lakers before eventually signing with San Antonio.

Allen served his time in Boston. If you’re a Boston fan and are using the ‘class act’ argument against Ray, it doesn’t mean just because you feel slighted by his leaving for Miami, then it’s right to label him as the latest sports turncoat. He was shown loyalty in the first place. The question is, was he shown it as well?

Is Miami a bitter rival? Last I checked the rivalry is still with LA and geographically and historically it’s also Philadelphia. Okay, the Heat have shown Boston the door in the last two playoffs. For fans who like to label themselves as the smartest and knowledgeable, the name calling is not a class act at all.

The best way for those who root for the Celtics is to beat the Heat and reclaim the title without Allen. Besides, you still have your own Big Three in Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, and Kevin Garnett.

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