It seems those of us who watch Boston sporting events from our prime seats, mere feet from the action, accustomed to our nightly view, take the cherished moments for granted, overlooking the true privilege of our position.
Meanwhile, there are fans who scrape up their monies, pool resources, take advantage of online bargains, and even borrow money from family members just for the opportunity to catch a game from the “nosebleed” section.
For Andrew Angus, it was Section 305 at TD Garden and seeing the top of Kevin Garnett’s shiny, sweat-laden, bald head chug down the court after a pick-and-roll layup. That was his Celtics experience. The former Salem State soccer player tried to attend as many games as he could but his most important priorities were at the Dorchester YMCA, where he is the sports coordinator.
The 30-year-old Angus was in Atlanta when he received a call from his 19-year-old mentee, David Lovett, a former Dorchester High basketball player who was encouraged by Angus to avoid negative influences by replacing his hoop dreams with book dreams. Lovett, now a freshman at Bunker Hill Community College, was asked to speak at the YMCA of Greater Boston’s Dream Big Party in October. He talked about not only Angus’s guidance but how he has served as a mentor himself to kids whose sole goal is to become the next LeBron James or Rajon Rondo. There is no Plan B.
Lovett didn’t have Plan B either, until he met Angus. That experience led to his moving speech at the gala. At a charity auction moments after the speech, a couple bid successfully on a $1,000 Celtics ticket package to the April 16 season finale against the Washington Wizards that included premium seats, dinner at the Courtside Club, and parking passes. The couple, Jack and Eileen Connors, presented the package to Lovett.
And his first choice was to invite Angus.
Angus said he saw himself in Lovett, an affable kid who perhaps put too much emphasis on basketball during high school. When the scholarship offers didn’t pour in, when he wasn’t one of ESPN’s top 100 recruits, he had no other options. A college education was a fleeting consideration; the most viable option was hanging with friends and trying to figure out his future on the fly.
“There’s a certain type of uniqueness about him,” Angus said of Lovett. “He’s always polite. More importantly, he’s from the community. I saw a lot of kids who used to look up to him because of the way he carries himself. There were little chime-ins where I can say ‘do this’ or ‘do that’ and keep him focused on a certain task.
“You meet teens that are wonderful. You meet some that are very hard to deal with but you know they’ve got to cross that hump and you’ve got to be patient with them.”
The two played hoops at the YMCA and Angus took an interest in Lovett’s path. He asked him whether college was an option. It wasn’t. He asked if Lovett had thought about life after basketball. He hadn’t. He asked Lovett if he had any idea of how to prepare for adulthood. He didn’t.
Lovett’s a soft-spoken kid with a bright smile. He loves basketball but wasn’t really sure what else he loved.
“Not even sure,” Lovett said when asked about his future before he met Angus. “College was not much of an option but I looked at it. My main focus was what I was going to do after basketball season.
“[Angus] gave me a lot of information. He is a guy who kept asking questions and as time progressed I realized he was the guy who always had answers. He was feeding me all this knowledge.”
Bunker Hill was Lovett’s choice and he has warmed to the college environment. He said he is more confident in his ability to flourish academically, not just athletically. Most of Lovett’s growth occurred in his long-term goals. He is no longer limited by his neighborhood or environment. There is more to life than what he has seen.
While many of us are blessed enough to watch the game from so close up we can see the beads of sweat on Garnett’s head, others view life from Section 305, uncertain if there will be an opportunity to upgrade, uncertain if life will offer them a different option than what they have already experienced.
“At this age, I’m old enough to know the differences between right and wrong. As I have matured, I realize that this is real, this is it,” said Lovett, who said he received two A’s among his most recent grades. “You’re done with high school and all you want to do is just sit around, that’s not the best idea. I’m happy where I’m at.”
Angus’s mentoring has rubbed off on Lovett, who works with younger YMCA patrons at the center’s Brunch and Basketball Program sponsored by Omega Psi Phi fraternity. While Lovett is running ball with some of those eighth- and ninth-graders, they approach him with some of the same life questions he asked Angus.
“I don’t want children to know what I did in high school, sometimes being a fool in class,” Lovett said, “It’s a [positive] image I know I have to keep. I have to stay positive. I have to be the mature one, the older one.”
April 16 was a special night for the duo. Neither had ever watched a Celtics game from such a premium proximity. Said Angus: “You dream of watching a game that close. You said whoever is down there got money. We always think you have to be some type of important person to be down courtside or a rap star.”
On that night, there was plenty of space for an impactful mentor and his mentee.