LONGSHOTS: Sometimes a bat is just a bat
by Dave Long
I had this dream the other day. I was on the couch in Sigmund Freud’s office in Vienna. There was a mirror over the couch, but the face smiling back wasn’t mine, but a dead ringer for Woody Allen and my voice sounded like Archie Bunker. I was wearing a Patriots throwback jersey, a Yankee hat, high black cons from the Bob Cousy era and the name on the back of the jersey was P. Tarrier with the number 1993.
It’s one of those dreams that was hazy, but it was clear the eminent doctor was evaluating me with a lot of, “Vhat do you tink dat means?” questions. And then he added, “You are obviously conflicted, and 1993 seems to be da point vhere all da trouble is, because you keep going above and below it like the yo-yo you are. I mean like a yo-yo. So vhat does 1993 mean to you?”
Of course it’s a year, known in this space as the Tarrier Line, the point where the intellectually un-curious begin to lose interest in any conversation. I think the dream was triggered by a conversation I had with Sean Sendal, the new producer on my radio show, last Saturday. It was about the Celtics’ road woes and all the hand-wringing over the Cs giving up home court advantage with a loss to the Pistons in Boston two days earlier.
Hand-wringing makes me crazy, so I dipped below the Tarrier line for an example to show a much more dire circumstance faced by the ancestors of the current Celtics. It was from 1984 when the Lakers immediately stole home court with a 115-109 win in Game One. They then had Game Two in the bag for 47 minutes and 42 seconds until Gerald Henderson made a play every bit as good and important as more hallowed efforts by Larry Bird and John Havlicek by stealing a James Worthy pass and scored to send it to OT, where the Celtics won. L.A. blew them out in Game Three and was doing it again until Kevin McHale’s famous take-down of Kurt Rambis turned the tides and helped them steal another game they had no business winning. Memorable wins at the Garden in Games Five and Seven followed, giving them title number 15, when they really should have been swept in four.
When I finished, he was giving me a blank look that told me, while it seems like yesterday to me, he wasn’t born when the series took place. But, unlike many before him when I get going like that, he actually seemed interested in a story from below the Tarrier Line. I took that as a victory — apparently all the way to the dream later that night.
“Vell, we have to get to da bottom of this, so we’ll do a vord association game. You tell me the first thing dat enters your mind when I say a name. That should tell us if you just live in da past, or if it’s something else — OK?” Fine with me, I said.
“Kevin Garnett.” “Dave Cowens”, I replied. “No, Bill Russell. No, Cowens. No, Russell. No, it’s definitely Cowens. “That’s an odd start,” Siggy said. “Vhy do you go back and forth like dat?” “Well, he plays hard like the great Cowens, who was the first big guy I ever saw run the floor. KG’s a better passer, though not quite the rebounder. But he’s more athletic. Like Russell, who was agile and quick, plus the force of his personality changed things, as number six’s did as well.”
“OK, then — Dave Cowens,” came Sig’s next volley. I said “What the heck is doing on the other bench anyway?!!!” “Vhat does that mean?” he came back. Cowens is an assistant on the DETROIT bench in this series — seeing him there doesn’t look natural, does it?
“Doc Rivers.” “Terry Francona. No, KC Jones. No, Tito. No, KC.” “What do those fellows have in common?” he asked. Well, say what you want about the rotating rotation and some of the strategy, but I’d absolutely want to play for Doc. Just like I’d want to play for Tito. As for KC, since I was there for the glowing things Kevin McHale said about him the day he went into the Hall of Fame, the three are similar.
“Ahhhh — den, Kevin McHale.” “A ring,” I said. “Vhat???” Well, if the Celtics win it all to get one, they should give him one ’cause the Garnett trade is what got him there. Just like the swindle that brought him and Robert Parish to the team in 1980 was the trigger for the three titles won in the Bird era. Big trades have always played a role for the Celtics. Russell’s draft rights came in a trade too.
“Danny Ainge.” “Chauncey Billups. No, Joe Johnson. Chauncey. No, Joe, naw, it’s Chauncey.” “How’d you come up wit dat one?” he asked. Because Danny had the patience the guys who drafted Joe and Chauncey didn’t. Maybe he learned it takes a while from his own experience as a player, as he didn’t become the significant player as quickly as most thought he would. And, unlike Chris Wallace, who let Johnson go for a rental player, he also knew who to keep and who to let go — like Rajon Rondo, who Danny refused to give up in the Garnett deal and he’s now their third-best player.
“Rajon Rondo.” “Tiny Archibald.” “Because he’s the point guard?” Siggy shot back, showing his growing appreciation for hoops. No, I said. Because when the Celtics won in 1981 they backed off Tiny and dared him to shoot like Rondo now. Why they’d do that to a guy who once won the scoring and assist title in the same year eluded me, but they did. But he shot it with no hesitation. And that’s what Rajon should be doing when it’s done now. Hit or miss. No hesitation.
“Alright,” an exasperated Siggy says, “how about Cavs forward Anderson Varejao?” “Archie Bunker.” “VHAT?????!!!x$%!!! Vhy?” Because with that hairdo, the first thing Archie would say, after calling him a pinko, is “Get a haircut.”
“OK, that’s enough. Here’s my diagnosis. You have an infatuation with history bordering on the obsessive. But you don’t live in the past. You seem to just have fun with it and use it to show that not much these days is all that new. And that when the hand-wringing starts, there are plenty of examples to show that things are not quite as dour as they may seem. And those are actually helpful lessons to know.” Then I stood up and shouted, “THAT’S WHAT I’VE BEEN TRYING TO TELL EVERYONE!” And then I woke up.
Weird dream, ain’t it? Wonder what we can all learn from it?
Dave Long can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He hosts the Absolute Sports Experience at Billy’s Sports Bar in Manchester each Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon that is broadcast live on WGAM – The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.