Hate is a strong word. Really, it is kind of a bad word. And sometimes I use it a bit too casually since real hate exists in the world. That being said, and now completely ignored, in the past, I had no problem saying I hated the Boston Celtics.
Yet, it was not necessarily true. I meant it in a way, but I never really believed it. I mean before game four of the 2008 playoffs I drank beer in the CNN center with three Boston fans. We had a jolly, good time. Probably because they were sure they were going to win that game, but still, there was no hate, only good banter. At worst, my feelings against the Celtics were wussy, behind their back dislike and more likely, it was just competitive disgust.
What ever you want to call it, no one who roots for the Hawks has kind feelings for Boston. It has become a bit of a rule. You are naturally not going to like some players, and it just so happens the Celtics have four starters that are in most Hawks fans not so top 15. (Way to go Ray Allen!) The whole thing is not mean spirited. It is actually quite fun. I don't wish harm on Celtic players, just poor performance. This disdain arises out of a mix of envy, annoyance, and competitiveness.
Yes, Hawks fans are envious of Boston sure. Really, right now only one team has the right to not be envious of them. But Atlanta is not whole heartedly inspired by jealously. We just enjoy having Boston as our nemesis because, quite simply, we enjoy not liking them. It is easy, you don't have to look hard to find reasons, and our team seems to rally around our dislike. So we enjoy the Celtics most as enemy. There is nothing wrong with that. The league would be boring if it was Pacers vs. Hawks for 82 games.
The four contests against the Celtics this year may not be rivalry games. Boston is annoyed by us and they are ultra competitive so that combination might be enough to up their play, but they don't take joy in it. They don't see the Hawks as any kind of equal. And it doesn't even matter. These games matter more whether anyone likes it or not. I didn't hear Paul Pierce saying another player choked after any other regular season game like he did with Joe Johnson. The ante is upped for these game, and for Hawks fans, where for so long the ante was not upped on anything, it is pretty exciting to circle four games as must see TV.