Left field

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The late-night fate of Europe’s NBA fans

June 2, 2012
By Phil O’Connor
Being a fan of any team is usually a thankless task.
But following the fortunes of an NBA team from Europe – especially at this time of the year – is bordering on masochism.
I fell for the charms of the world’s best basketball league back in the eighties, when Magic Johnson and his “Showtime” Lakers and Larry Bird’s Boston Celtics were the two top teams it had.
The duels between Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Robert “the Chief” Parrish, the scoring and rebounding of James Worthy and Kevin McHale, the deep threat of Danny Ainge – not to mention Bird and Johnson – hooked me for life on the game.
The advent of Michael Jordan, Karl Malone and Clyde Drexler only added to it, and the Dream Team at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 completed the NBA’s takeover of world basketball consciousness.
It might seem odd that a teenager from a non-basketball nation like Ireland would fall for its charms, but given Boston’s large Irish community and the fact that there was a good likelihood I’d wind up emigrating there, it wasn’t so strange after all.
I was also the tallest kid in the class all through school, which meant that if I was going to be good at any sport, I’d have a head start in basketball.
Long before the internet, games and scores were followed under the covers in our Dublin home, thanks to the late-night broadcasts on the US Armed Forces Radio station. I’d often fall asleep waiting on the sports report or whatever game was on to finish.
Back then, Bird was my hero, and not just for his shooting ability; his passing was breathtaking, and anyone who has ever played any ball-sport will recognise his outstanding ability and vision.
I might never have become a resident of “Southie”, and I may have flirted with the greatness
of His Airness when Jordan was at his peak, but the Celtics have always been my team.
Nowadays it’s easier to keep up with their progress than ever before, but the advent of games streamed live on the internet has been both a pleasure and a chore.
As summer begins in Europe, it means a lot of very late nights as the Celtics do battle with the Miami Heat for supremacy in the Eastern Conference.
As a sports reporter, I don’t have a normal working life; a lot of what we cover takes place at night or at weekends, so our working days start later than most.
Unfortunately, my children have yet to show an understanding of why I have to stay up until dawn watching Rajon Rondo play out of his skin, scoring 44 points and still losing game 2 in the conference final. They still get me up at 7 am, even if I’ve only just gone to bed.
Days are spent in a state of mental exhaustion, and by the time I’ve recovered from one all-nighter, it’s tip-off time again.
Next week I head for the European soccer championship in Kiev, Ukraine, which will only complicate my basketball fix.
Hopefully I’ll have a few more sleepless nights this summer as the Celtics beat the Heat and go all the way to another championship.

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