A few things I care about …
▪ The dust from the disappointment has mostly settled, with the NBA Draft officially moving the league past its championship season. But for Celtics players and fans who are still smarting from the Finals loss to the Warriors, it might take a little more time to move from “what could have been” to “what could be next year.” The hard part is realizing you don’t get to pick up where you left off; you have to fight all over again just to be in position for another long playoff run.
For writers, there is the unique disappointment of stories untold, when an abrupt end to a period of good feeling means being forced to throw some fun or different column ideas on the scrap heap. In the case of the Celtics, we let our imaginations run wild after an early road win in the Finals, a grip on home-court advantage with a raucous TD Garden crowd, and a deep, athletic, and talented roster. Among the believers was actor Michael Chiklis, a Lowell native and devoted fan of all Boston sports, who took to social media to profess his love of and belief in the Celtics.
After seeing some of his tweets, I reached out to the man known best for his gripping portrayal of Vic Mackey in “The Shield” and who is now playing the great Red Auerbach in the HBO series “Winning Time,” about the rise of the Lakers dynasty, curious about the roots of his devotion.
We connected, but by the time we did, the bottom was falling out of the Celtics’ dream. Still, the conversation stayed with me for his true appreciation of what the Celtics put together this season, how much fun he is having playing one of the franchise’s greatest personalities, and how loyal he has remained to his childhood rooting interests, even as he relocated to the West Coast and the home of those rival Lakers.
“I read the first and second episodes [creator Adam McKay] sent me, and that second episode had those scenes in there with John C. Reilly [playing Jerry Buss] and they were so beautifully written, I thought, ‘I just have to do this, especially with how much of a fan of Red Auerbach my father was,’ ” Chiklis said over the phone prior to Game 5 in San Francisco, for which he and his wife had tickets.
With the memory of his father Charlie in his heart and his Auerbach-inspired cigars in his lips, Chiklis was all in on a Celtics win. It didn’t happen, but nothing will dull the joy of a role that makes him feel connected to Charlie, who died a few years ago.
“To be from Boston, offered this role to play the great Red Auerbach, it was just insane,” he said. “And what’s been so fun aside from actually making the episodes and what’s coming and knowing what’s coming, it’s the calls, the phone calls, the texts, from all of my crazy Boston gang. They’re just eating it up with a spoon, love that I’m repping Boston out here.
“I have to say, this confluence of things coming together, I get this incredibly rare opportunity to play a Boston icon, someone who my father loved so much, and then at the same time have this Celtics team emerge and have this run to the championship, it’s just, I can’t tell you how often we’ve giggled about it. If you don’t enjoy this, there’s something wrong with you.”
For a kid from Lowell, being a Red Sox, Bruins, Patriots, and Celtics diehard was a birthright. Put that kid at Boston University from 1981-85 and understand how he came to understand the way his dad felt about the likes of John Havlicek and Bob Cousy.
“Bird, Parish, Ainge, Jo Jo White, those were the guys I loved,” he said.
Those were the guys the Lakers hated. And Chiklis gets to play another one.
▪ Congrats to South Carolina basketball star and national champion Aliyah Boston, the former Worcester Academy star, who received the Honda Cup as the Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year Monday night. Cool factoid: Boston’s coach Dawn Staley won the award in 1991 when she played at Virginia.
▪ While the Browns await word on quarterback Deshaun Watson’s fate, the man they dumped under the guise of wanting a more mature leader was busy running a youth football camp at home in Oklahoma. There, Baker Mayfield reiterated to reporters that even if Watson is suspended for the season, he will not be back. Can’t blame him.
▪ Seriously, what does Dan Snyder have on the NFL? Watching Roger Goodell get grilled over the Snyder-led toxic workplace while Snyder was overseas on his luxury yacht will never make sense. Nor will Goodell’s repeatedly awkward attempts to justify not issuing a written report of the investigation into Snyder. Something stinks.
▪ Xander Schauffele earned his headlines for winning the Travelers Championship, but the most amazing story at TPC River Highlands had to be 68th-place finisher Morgan Hoffman. Hoffman had been off the PGA Tour for three years after being diagnosed with a form of muscular dystrophy, a condition that sent him on a long and winding medical journey from the US to Costa Rica. His future status as a pro remains uncertain — he played three tournaments this year under a medical exemption — but he won just by being out there.
▪ Count me among those riveted to Wimbledon coverage just in case it’s the last time around for Serena Williams, who lost her first-round match Tuesday, or Rafael Nadal, who won his. They are the two best major winners in the history of the game, no matter what the final numbers say. Nadal is currently the leader on the men’s side, and Williams is second to Margaret Court.
I loved this recent quote from Nadal, as told to the Tennis Podcast back in June, for how it emphasized the joy in playing and not the numbers in passing Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic.
“It’s not about being the best of the history, or the records, it’s about ‘I like what I do,’ ” he said. “We achieved our dreams, Roger, Novak, me. The competition to be the best is not my motivation. It is to live moments, to play in front of crowds. And the passion for the sport.”