Anderson: Can we stop acting like Gordon Hayward died?

Ty Anderson
October 26, 2017 - 4:33 am

David Butler II/USA Today Sports

Let’s preface this with the obvious: What happened to Gordon Hayward was terrible.

It made you nauseous just watching it (imagine eating dinner and hearing an announcer yell “Hayward just broke his leg!” to look up just in time to see it just staring at you. Hi, yeah, that was awful.) And it sucks that the Celtics lost him -- likely for the year -- just five minutes into his debut in a system that was going to bring the best out of his game, and that Year One of their new Big Three is now really the Big Two and a Bunch of Kids.

But that was over a week ago, and life has gone on just fine for everybody (what other choice do you have in that situation?), and with the Celtics winning two straight games.

So maybe it’s time we stop acting like Hayward died on the court.

Before watching Tuesday’s demolition of the hapless Knicks, I was treated to about 15 different members of the Red Sox taking to Twitter or Instagram to let us know that they were thinking of Hayward, who underwent surgery last week, and praying for a speedy recovery. And let the record show that following almost any athlete on social media is like eating a bread sandwich. It was just another chapter in the great story of The Brotherhood of Boston Sports, sure, but it was also a week late. It was as if the Sox had to wait until everybody’s Hayward jersey arrived to their offseason home before they could finally and publicly join in on the pity party that has become Hayward’s recovery.

But in defense of the Red Sox and their thoughts and prayers, these posts went along perfectly with pregame reads that included photos of Hayward’s daughters making signs to cheer up their father, along with some hugs (for, y’know, their father), and with every aggregator from here to California picking it up as a ‘truly heartwarming’ story. (In reality it was just a bunch of pictures stolen from Robyn Hayward’s personal Instagram, proving that we will do absolutely anything if it means there's content to be shared.)

Even during the game, with the C’s holding a 20-point lead on the Knicks, led by the promising tandem of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, Celtic play-by-play announcer Mike Gorman made it a point to mention Hayward. “And we’re obviously thinking of Gordon Hayward, who I’m sure is watching at home,” Gorman said.

My God. Enough.

It was corny enough when the Celtics included Hayward in their starting lineup on Opening Night last week -- the PA announcer legitimately introduced Hayward as being ‘from a Hospital Bed’ and did it with a straight face, which was beyond absurd, even when you consider the situation -- and it was goofy as hell when the Garden crowd was chanting “Gor-don Hay-ward” during a random pair of free throws in the third quarter. And on Tuesday, in a game where the on-court progression of the players asked to step up in Hayward’s place was legitimately game-changing, the focus was instead on how difficult of a recovery awaits the 27-year-old Hayward. As if we didn’t already know that. 

We can’t seriously do this all year, can we? We honestly seem to be a week away from the Celtics donning some black ribbons on their jerseys in remembrance of Hayward’s once perfect tibia, as this is quickly becoming a please-pity-us-nightmare that’s just as nauseating as your first viewing and mental processing of his brutal injury.

Now, this is not to take away from anything Hayward is going through, or the laborious rehabilitation process that awaits him in an effort to return sometime in 2018, of course.

But if this season is truly going to become a year-long woe-is-Hayward ride, it’s going to become actually unbearable and I’m gonna tap out by Thanksgiving. It’s also going to derail your attention from what you should be focused on, and that’s the talent and ability for this team to grow into a cohesive unit without him. While good for sympathy retweets, likes, and the idea of rah-rah unity, not every event or happening from this Celtic team needs to be followed by this eulogical what-could-have-been with Hayward. It serves literally nobody. 

And the Celtics, who were never going to topple the Golden State Warriors this season, even with Hayward leading the charge in the fourth round, are going to be just fine.

So will Hayward.

Hayward isn’t alone as a local star on the wrong end of a straight-up brutal injury; Celtics legend Paul Pierce overcame getting stabbed (that story still blows my mind), Tom Brady has been even better since getting a new knee a decade ago, and Rob Gronkowski has successfully continued his metamorphosis into the NFL-On-Fox robot.

Hayward is not the first athlete to suffer a horrific-looking season-ending injury, either. Bruins superstar Marc Savard got hit so hard that he never played again, and the second-most popular member of the most popular team in town, Patriots wideout Julian Edelman, had his season end before it even began earlier this year with a torn ACL and already on the wrong side of 30 as a slot receiver. I don’t recall Taps being played and everybody who’s ever played sports in Boston getting a free Edelman or Savard jersey.

And regardless of how Hayward recovers -- he could honestly become the next Paul George or he could become Greg Oden or Brandon Roy, which is a different argument entirely, really -- he’s still making over $100 million to be in Boston. And his recovery is going to take place smack dab in the middle of the medical capital of the world. Money doesn’t solve everything, and Hayward obviously wants to be on the court with his teammates in pursuit of a title, but it sure helps knowing that this isn’t akin to a college player blowing his knee out a week before the NBA Draft and not having the tools or team necessary to ensure that he would return to his previous level of play.

If there’s anybody that can recover from this, it’s a nine-figure athlete living in Boston, especially with the kid gloves the Celtics will surely move forward with given their investment. And if there’s a team that can recover from this, it’s the team that experienced this player for less than six minutes of meaningful basketball this year, and with young players already doing their part in attempt to make up for his loss. 

So forgive me for skipping the next candlelight vigil at the Red Auerbach statue.

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