I received an e-mail one day entitled "Boston Celtics". The subject line led me to think it was junk mail, but I quickly opened it to check. It wasn't junk mail. It was from a guy named Sam Taub from the community engagement department of the Celtics telling me he would like to discuss my work with DoctorBeDancing. I was excited to hear what he would say. We arranged a time to speak, and he notified me that the Boston Celtics organization would like to honor me with their Heroes Among Us Award which recognizes local individuals for their positive contributions to the Boston community. I was honored. He outlined the series of events that would transpire at a home game at TD Garden. Wow.
We decided upon a date, and a few weeks later, it arrived. I had been notified that the award portion would not be televised, so I didn't bother telling any about the brief ceremony. I had no real expectations and wasn't sure how the night would go. I invited a few friends since I could bring 3 guests. I dressed up in an outfit that was an homage to my costume -- a bright blue shirt, bright blue pants and my 'formal' white coat that Figs had given me. The night began with a quick outline of the night. Sam looked over our tickets before he handed them to us. Apparently, they been upgraded to special $1600 courtside seats. Then we had a tour of the Celtics office which gave us some cool tales about the Celtics -- including Red Auerbach's cigar, Gino time, black sneakers and more. We went the Garden, and entered through the back alley entrance where the cheerleaders warmed up. The players ran by us on their way to court for warm-up. We followed after them. I stood courtside brimming feet away from the players. It was great. I let out a few dance moves as out-of-date top 40's billowed across the stadium. Several of the players took notice and smiled and a few cheered for me. At the outset of the game, there was an extremely brief captain's 'meeting' which was mostly a handshake between each of the team's captains. I was at the centerstage meeting as an 'honorary captain'. Here I was standing beside giants (literally and figuratively). One of the referees said, "Go on, doc. Say something." I was thrown off and began to stutter something about "honored to be here..." and was thankfully interrupted by the ref again who jested, "Just give us a dance." There we go, that's more like it. I broke out into a quick twirl and pop as I do. Everyone smiled, and the meeting adjourned.
I returned to my seat and relaxed. Our seats were right next to the Celtics team seats. The first quarter was meant to be uneventful, but perhaps the single best moment of the night occurred unexpectedly then. Matt Barnes of the Memphis Grizzlies took just a brief moment to jog over to my seat and shake my hand. I can't even remember exactly what he said as it was very brief and unexpected, but it followed along the lines of "Great moves!" So, a professional NBA player took a moment during a game to walk out of his way into 'enemy territory' to tell me he appreciated my dancemoves. This was before my award had even been announced, so he wasn't even congratulating me on my award or thanking me for my charity work -- he was literally just expressing gratitude for my dancing...
As amazing as the night was, the remainder more or less proceeded as scripted. During the second timeout during the second quarter, I was given the award and proceeded to be honored centercourt on Lucky's bowtie. I waved and spun in a circle accentuated with just a touch of popping. I sat down again and watched the remainder of the game uninterrupted occasionally letting out little spurts of dance when I felt inclined.
I had never been to an NBA basketball game and had certainly never sat courtside. From this perspective, the game took on an entirely novel personality. These were no longer distant entities running back and forth across an even more distant plastic floor. We could hear them speak jocularly between plays, we could see each athletic effort paid for in sweat splashing on the wood below. Up close, it was harder to see their fame, money or even abilities. All I could see from here was their humanity. I came to realize how no matter how distantly famous and disconnected I may believe a person to be, they were ultimately not very different than I. I could affect any person. My actions could resonate even with the people who were idolized by tens of thousands people regularly -- people who were much more 'important' than I was. When Barnes reached out his arm smiling and our hands had met, he reminded me how powerful my seemingly insignificant actions could be in a singular moment that painted my worldview. I remembered again why I had chosen dancing as my vehicle to having a voice. And I could be heard.