For all of the pomp and circumstance on display outside the Garden these days (including the massive gold statue of the championship trophy that I blame for the heat wave that descended over the city last week, given its ability to use physics to reflect light and heat onto the entire Boston metropolitan area), the cautiously optimistic manner in which Celtics fans have prepared for what they hope is a 17th NBA title has been incredibly refreshing.

Is there excitement in the air? Those outside Boston lines can’t quite grasp it. It’s different than the buildup for a Sox or Patriots run these days. This is a sense of hope tinged with disbelief, as if saying too much about it might snatch it all away at the last minute.

The Boston I’ve experienced over these recent weeks is one of people pulling out any green they have in their closets. It’s the sight of KG, Allen and Pierce jerseys – shirts that weren’t on display even when the Celtics were on their way to the best regular season record in the NBA. There are fewer Bird shirts than I’d have expected, but they’re there, along with the faded t-shirts from the 80s and 90s that were either packed away or in short supply during the drought that followed. It’s a green cardigan, button-down, or silk blouse. All emerald, all the time.

You always see the Red Sox gear and the Patriots merchandise in Boston. The reds and blues have been sewn into the city’s culture, its essence. And while some could say that the sudden explosion of green marks a city of fairweather fans, I say it’s actually the exact opposite.

It’s the sign of a people who have wanted to cheer but for years have lacked something to cheer for. A beaten down fandom that suffered through the 24-win season last year, the scary road play during the first part of the playoffs. People who want to support the local basketball team, but wonder if this is going to be the latest in a series of disappointments. Who can’t bear the thought of Kobe and Company stealing what feels like something meant for this city on the East Coast. Who are tentatively – even with a 3-2 lead in the NBA Finals! – wondering about whether tonight is the night they can celebrate one of the greatest transformations in a professional franchise.

Many of us remember 1986, the way winning felt before losing came back into the picture. Many people don’t, which makes the idea of actually coming out on top foreign and unfamiliar (on this particular stage). And for both groups, being this close isn’t good enough. They need this win so that they can exhale and discover what it feels like to be a championship basketball city.

We’re chanting “Beat LA” any chance we get. But talking about it beyond that means you might jinx it.

What I love about Boston right now is that following the Celtics’ journey to whatever fate awaits is that it feels just like how I’ve long felt (and still, to an extent, do feel) about following the Red Sox.

We’re not taking anything for granted, we’re keeping our fingers crossed, and the city has gone green.

Advertisements