In Defense of Leaving Early When Your Team Has Already Lost

Boston Celtics fans were absolutely right to head for the exits.
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
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The Boston Celtics are having a bit of a problem with Game 2s this postseason. It wasn't too long ago that they allowed the Miami Heat to waltz into TD Garden and push them around to even a first-round series at a game apiece. This caused all kinds of handwringing and overreaction before Joe Mazzulla's group snapped back into form immediately and absolutely napalmed any lingering signs of Heat culture to earn a date with the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

So it must feel all a bit familiar for Celtics fans to watch their team stub their toes once again instead of continuing their Game 1 success. One can understand if they're just a bit nervous about what the loss of Kristaps Porzingis means long-term after the Cavs blew their parquet doors off on Thursday night, 118-94. More than that, it's easy to sympathize with their decision to exit early en masse with the outcome decided way before the final whistle.

Just so we're all working with the same set of facts: the Celtics were trailing by 24 points with less than five minutes to play and Mazzulla had just waved the white flag in the form of emptying his bench. At that point there was probably some minuscule chance that Boston would author a comeback but not even Fields Medal-winning professor Gerald Lambeau could solve for X. So the people who paid their hard-earned money to see their favorite team stink it up and kill the vibe collected their things and headed off to the parking lots or public transportation.

Which is fine. Heck, they should do it. No matter what the NBA world that roasted them has to say. Look, optically it's not great. But think long and hard about anyone in your life that ever talks about optics? Do you like that person? Do your eyes glaze over and ears start closing when they say phrases such as "bad look"?

Sure, some Boston fans gave Miami supporters grief for doing Miami things not long ago like not arriving on time and leaving early so there's hypocrisy to mine. But anyone mocking someone who is crushed and knows it's over for admitting defeat is trading on this idea that someone else has to sit and stew in a place they don't need to be. It took me decades of fandom to realize there's no prize for staying in the stands or tuned in on television when my team had already secured defeat. You just sit there feeling bad, delaying the inevitable and getting pretty pathetic about a touchdown that cuts a lead down to 25 points or the possibility of an 11-0 run that "would make things interesting" down the stretch.

There's no shame in shuffling out to the car after a brutal night at the ol' sports casino. Some would argue it's the only way to exercise some agency. If you're in hell and for some reason hell has an exit door, who wouldn't take it?

Kyle K