Like Alice's Cheshire cat, they sit leering over Boston's shoulder, reminding the Celtics by their very presence that, though life may be wonderful, it's still isn't perfect.
Those words from Bob Ryan in the Globe perfectly describe the Celtics situation with their chief rival in the East, a team that had ended their season the previous spring, and sit poised to stand in their way once more.
Wait, that quote is from March, 1973 and the foe Ryan references is the New York Knicks?
When Bob Ryan semi-retired from the Boston Globe in August, he mentioned that his reduced time with the paper would allow him more time on television. At the time, most assumed he meant ESPN, where he has been a regular on shows like The Sports Reporters, Pardon The Interruption and Around The Horn over the years. That assumption has held true, as Ryan has continued his presence there, and also appeared locally on CSNNE.
While Ryan's impassioned sports takes are welcome anywhere, a development this week with the start of the NBA season was most welcome and appropriate. NBA TV announced that Ryan has joined the network as a contributor, and as part of his role will contribute several authored essays that will air on NBA TV throughout the season.
His first essay aired this week, and it is a preview of the NBA season, with things to look for, and new faces in new places. It's classic Bob Ryan. Fast paced, informative and passionate.
Ryan covered his first NBA game in 1969, and spent much of the 1970's as the Celtics beat writer. He went on to become the nation's top NBA writer through much of the 1980's. He's written several books about the NBA, among them 48 Minutes (with Terry Pluto) and Drive (with Larry Bird.) He knows the history of the league as well as anyone alive and working.
His quote above about the Celtics-Knicks rivalry from 40 seasons ago attest to his longevity as an NBA observer. Ask Ryan about what happened in the playoffs that season after the Celtics won 68 games, and you'll get a detailed recounting of an injury to John Havlicek that doomed the Celtics almost as much as a disgraceful game four exhibition of fourth quarter refereeing by Jack Madden and Jack O'Donnell - a duo that became hated villains in Celtics lore for the next 25 years. It erased a 16-point Celtics lead with nine minutes to play, and the Knicks beat the Celtics in seven games that spring. (Happily, they defeated the Knicks the following spring en route to their 12th NBA championship and first in the post-Bill Russell era).
The fact that Ryan may be the only media member who covered those games still working, and that he can recall it all instantly makes him a resource that needs to be tapped into regularly. Thankfully, it appears that he will be utilized on what might be the ultimate platform for his experience and knowledge.
Having Ryan join the official television network of the NBA is so perfect it seems like one of those things that makes too much sense to actually happen. While his actual role beyond the essays has not been revealed, one would hope that Ryan could be used regularly by the network in live appearances, especially where the Celtics are involved. All fans should be allowed to benefit from his experience.
Bruce Allen is a Media Columnist for SB Nation Boston. Twitter: @BruceAllen.