When the Boston Celtics start their season on Tuesday, they won’t exactly be at the center of the New England sports landscape. After all, that very same day the Boston Red Sox will be playing the Houston Astros in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series. That’s a feature and not a bug when it comes to being a professional team in Boston. It’s not a bad thing to play in a market lucky enough to have NBA, MLB, NFL and NHL games all taking place in the same week.
Gordon Hayward, the Boston Celtics’ $128 million man, has been trying to establish himself as one of the area’s premier athletes after essentially losing nearly the entirety of his first season with the team to injury. It looks like he’s found at least one trick to endear himself with the Boston masses: playing ping pong with a Super Bowl-winning NFL star.
As it happens, New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman spent part of his four-game suspension for violating the league’s PED program working out at the Celtics training camp. While there, he took up playing ping-pong against Hayward, a former tennis player back in Indiana. Hayward texted the details to ESPN, saying that “he’s a good player. I haven’t played against someone who moved like he did when he played. He was all over the place and low to the ground.” Still, Hayward says he won the majority of their matches.
Hayward and Edelman have another connection, as Edelman is also recovering from an injury that erased his entire last season. In his case, he has been working his way back from a torn ACL. Forming a bond with Edelman, one of Tom Brady’s favorite targets, can only help as Hayward tries to work his way back into the local public consciousness after a span of being a near-forgotten man.
Gordon Hayward’s attempt to ingratiate himself with the local faithful had its limits, he still rooted for the hometown Colts. Unfortunately for him, the Patriots won 38-24, Edelman had 7 catches for a total of 57 yards in his return, and rocked a Kyrie Irving jersey in his postgame interview. As it so happens, the two recognizable local sports stars both wear the number 11.
The next day, Irving, who had just announced that he was planning to re-sign with Boston next summer, joked with reporters that he was expecting to get an Edelman 11 jersey back in return. He also had some words for the Boston team that was playing the same night as the Celtics’ preseason game against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“I can’t really comment on other places. Being here for the last year, I can see with all the sports town, we all support each other and want to see each other doing well,” he said. “I’m a supporter of the Red Sox but I can’t call myself a Red Sox fan being from Jersey.” Irving was trying to (quietly) admit to being a fan of the New York Yankees, meaning he had to have been disappointed when the Red Sox eliminated them in a dramatic Game 4 of the American League Division Series on Tuesday.
In any case, the fact that the Celtics opened up their training facility to Edelman is just another example of how close-knit the professional teams are in the Boston area, even when they aren’t necessarily fans themselves. They tweeted out their support for the Red Sox before the start of their playoff run, despite the fact that their games will end up overlapping.
It’s not like the Celtics are the only team overshadowed by the Red Sox. The New England Patriots will be battling the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday Night Football, the exact same time as Game 2 of the ALCS, something which is certain to cause a schism between local football fans and local baseball fans. The Boston Bruins, meanwhile, will have to settle being the area’s fourth most popular team, although they will always be number one amongst the area’s diehard hockey fans. The New England Revolution… Well, the New England Revolution barely count at the moment. There’s a lot of competition here for both attention and attendance and winning at least a single championship in this century has, fairly or unfairly, become a mandatory prerequisite in sustaining interest.
Mostly though, the success of other teams only helps strengthens the Boston brand. So, even if it means that their fans won’t be giving them their full attention, the Celtics would be more than happy to see the Red Sox continue their October run, for the Patriots to make a return trip to the Super Bowl and play in the postseason as the same time as the Bruins. The parades all go down Boylston St, after all.