John and 'Biggie'.

Green Runs Deep #3 – John Karalis – Red’s Army

This third edition of ‘Green Runs Deep’ is an extremely exciting edition for me.

Back in March of 2011, when I created my very first Twitter account, I immediately searched “Boston Celtics”, as a means to begin my journey of not only conversing with like-minded Celtics fans, but also to learn from, and be educated by those in the know.

One of the very first names I came across, ended up being a man who displayed balance, strong yet fair opinions, immense knowledge of Celtics history, a great mind for the inner-workings of the NBA business machine, as well as trade and free agency trends.

Over the last 3 years, he has inadvertently (and without knowing) taught me to see things from all angles, and not just opine from the heart, but also, from the head. He just also happens to be a really top bloke.

Dear readers, I present to you, Mr John Karalis of RedsArmy.com

green-runs-deep-john-kGreen Runs Deep #3 – John Karalis – Reds Army

Please tell our readers about who you are, and your history:

John is the co-founder of RedsArmy.com, one of the web’s original Celtics blogs. The blog is about to celebrate its 9th anniversary, which is approximately 45 years old in internet years. When John isn’t writing about the Celtics, he’s in the park training his squirrel army for their eventual revolt against humanity where he will reign as their king.

John was born in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, about 45 miles south of Boston. He attended Emerson College in Boston, where he played basketball for four years. After a year of professional basketball in Greece, John’s body disintegrated, forcing him to return to Boston to begin what has become a nearly 20 year career in television news.

John’s non-sports likes include dogs and whiskey, the latter of which help him write introductions about himself in the third person for his friend’s blog.

Relaxing like a Champion.
Relaxing like a Champion.

How did you first become a fan of the Boston Celtics?

I got involved with sports at a very young age. When I was young, cable didn’t exist (no really), so I only got a select few sporting events on the television. Being in the Boston viewing area, my first exposure to the Celtics was the early 80’s, when I was somewhere around 10 years-old.

I remember distinctly watching the games and thinking “how does someone win this game? They never miss!” I swear I thought teams missed maybe 2 shots a game back then.
I loved watching all sports, and the Celtics were part of my love for that. My parents came to the United States from Greece, and basketball was non-existent when my parents where young, so I had to discover and learn about these guys all on my own.

When did you manage to see your first live Celtics game?

I didn’t get to see them live until I was in college. You see, while I played a lot of sports, I wasn’t very good at basketball for any of my life up until that point. I was more of a baseball player, and my home town was home to the Red Sox top minor league team, so baseball was my first love.

I didn’t have a yearning in my childhood to make my parents take the hour-long drive up to Boston and spend their money on bringing me to the Garden. Even in high school, when I finally started developing as a basketball player, my professional sports experiences were trips to Fenway Park to see the Red Sox or to nearby Foxboro Stadium (about a 20 minute drive) to watch the New England Patriots play football.

I didn’t really blossom as a player until my senior year of high school. The years I spent focusing on getting good in high school made me want to consume more basketball. So that’s when I really started to develop a more voracious appetite to watch college and professional games to analyse them and incorporate them into my own game. So it really wasn’t until then that I had “the itch” to go watch Celtics games live. Yes, I loved the team, but I also equally loved all Boston sports.

John, enjoying the Celtics win over the Brooklyn Nets.
John, enjoying the Celtics win over Brooklyn.

Who is your favorite Celtics player? Past of present? And what do they/have they meant to you as a person, and as a Celtics fan?

This question has so many answers. My favorite current Celtic is Rajon Rondo, because I think he’s one of the most exciting players in the league, and he can make you say “whoa” in a lot of different ways.

My favorite should-be current Celtic is Paul Pierce, and not just because he was a great, clutch player. I remember Pierce’s early days with the team. I remember working at a TV station and hearing the news that Paul Pierce had been stabbed multiple times and rushed to a hospital. I heard that might die. And then I watched him play every game that season and the next. I saw him do horribly immature things and grow as a person and a player… and eventually become captain.

I love Paul Pierce’s story, and it makes him a very special player to me. His story is perfect, in my opinion. His story is what life is… overcoming obstacles, growing up as a person, and earning your rewards. That’s really special to me.

Larry Bird and Bill Russell are my favorite Celtics of all time, because they were awesome. I obviously never watched Russell play, but I learned a lot about him and respect his status as one of the greatest of the greats. But I saw Larry play and do amazing things. He was the guy that captivated me and made me keep coming back. But after all that, the most important Celtics player to me has to be Kevin McHale.

Remember, I was a pretty horrible basketball player when I was young. But I was about 6’3” as a freshman in high school, in a state where 6’3” made you a center. I spent my summers studying McHale’s low post moves and molding my game after his. If it wasn’t for his game, I don’t know that any of this would have ever happened for me. I might have just been some big goofy guy who came up with excuses for when people asked “so why don’t you play basketball?” I know it might sound hyperbolic, but McHale’s game changed my life… or it at least altered the course I took.

Chuck, KWAPT and John at the TD Garden.
Chuck, KWAPT and John at the TD Garden.

Australia has a tight-knit Celtics ‘family’, as do so many other countries, yet obviously, the greatest Boston Celtics community is in the great city of Boston itself. Can you tell us about how these Celtics communities, whether globally, or in Boston, make you feel a part of such a large, and loving sisterhood/brotherhood?

There’s one thing that hammers this home for me, and it’s when I check the Red’s Army site stats and see all the different countries represented by our readers. I just checked right now and got 140 different countries that visited our site. Even if some of them came to us in error, there are still people in more than 100 different countries that willingly choose to visit our site.

That right there is all I need to know about the family. That’s something that is a source of pride for me, because I and my team can provide this place for all of these family members to gather and be unified by our love for a single thing. We all have our differences in life. But here, liberals and conservatives, capitalists and communists, men and women, of all races, of all religions, can put it all aside for a little while and just be Celtics fans.

Pardon the drama there, but to me that’s powerful. Sport is a powerful unifier, and I don’t take my role in this dynamic for granted. I’m in awe of it.

Can you tell us about your proudest, or most memorable moment that’s occurred whilst being such a loyal member of the Boston Celtics fan base?

This is tough, but I would have to say just seeing how happy everyone was on Red’s Army after the Celtics won the championship. I have little moments all the time where I’m proud to do what I do almost every day. Every time I hear how much people enjoy our site, I get that feeling. But when people chose to pile onto our site and celebrate Banner 17… that was amazing.

John, with the 2008 Larry O'Brien Trophy.
John, with the 2008 Larry O’Brien Trophy.

Can you tell us about your experiences having co-created and run such a prominent and respected Boston Celtics fan site? What has been your reaction over the years to its success?

It has been a wild ride. We started with such a crude site that was nowhere near what it is today. We’ve sacrificed a lot to make the site what it is, and I’m honestly amazed at its success. I’m not fishing for compliments when I say this, I’m just telling you what’s going on in my head when I see our stats or followers on Twitter… I’m consistently shocked that people want to hear what I have to say. In my head, I’m just some guy who started some site. I do this because I love it, and I’d write or podcast even if we had 1 reader.

Again, I’m really not trying to humblebrag here. I’m proud of what I and the site have accomplished and we’ve all worked hard to get it to this point. Chuck (the site’s other co-founder) and I have put Red’s Army higher on our list of life priorities than most sane people would. This site’s success is a complete product of Chuck and I’s abnormal obsession with it. I’m not kidding about it being abnormal, either. If you’re a guy telling a woman early in a relationship “I’m a blogger, so we can’t do anything on game nights,” you’re not right in the head.

John with MVP and 2 x NBA Champion (Celtics 1986) Bill Walton.
John with NBA MVP and 2 x NBA Champion (Celtics 1986) Bill Walton.

After such a fast-paced, defensively strong performance in our home opener versus the Brooklyn Nets, and a lacklustre performance against Houston, how do you see the team holding up over 82 games?

I picked them to win 33 games and I’m sticking to that. They’re shooting the ball amazingly well right now, but that’s not going to be there every game (like Houston). They will hit bumps in the road, and guys will miss time with things like Marcus Smart’s sprained ankle, or the inevitable muscle and joint tweaks. The Celtics can’t afford a lot of injuries, so it’ll be interesting to see how the season plays out in that regard. I’m impressed, though, with their offense. Well, I’m impressed with the offense of the starting unit. The second unit has struggled, but I’m sure that’ll get better as Stevens adjust substitution patterns and guys like Evan Turner and Marcus Thornton start hitting their shots.

Recently, there’s been some back-and-forth between yourself and a known ‘personality’ who I won’t mention. You’ve taken this person to task for outlandish and unsubstantiated innuendo. A lot of us feel as though you’re doing somewhat of a public service. Thoughts?

Ha ha, I’ll accept my role as media watchdog.

I think it’s important to keep some people in the media in check when the opportunity presents itself. Part of the reason is that many members of the sports talk media horde don’t know all of the intricacies of the sport. That’s partly because they follow so many sports that it’s not possible to be experts in any one of them, but that’s where I and other bloggers can act as fact-checkers.

I don’t wan to be the “well, actually” guy all the time, but sometimes you have to interject some level of sense into the bombast. One thing I do pride myself on is the fact that I pay attention to what’s going on in games, and I do my homework on the topic. If I read something somewhere that I don’t understand, I’ll go find more on the topic and learn about it.

So when a sports-talking head wonders if Rajon Rondo is a max guy and gives some tired excuse about how only the biggest of stars should be “max guys,” I feel like I have to make sure fans know that there’s a deeper way to look at that. By digging into the stats to show Rondo accounts for about as much offense as the league’s top scorers, and knowing enough about the salary cap to know that a “max” contract now will eventually equal the percentage of space his current contract occupies, I can refute the blather.

Basically, these guys often don’t know what they’re talking about, but fans hear what these guys say and often just accept it as fact simply because they’re saying it on television. If I can interject truth and inform a couple of fans at a time, then those fans will repeat that information to their friends and hopefully, exponentially, I’ve helped make some of the fan base more knowledgable.

Set the record straight here: Who’s younger and more handsome, you or Chuck?

I’m not sure I should answer this because grandpa Chuck is very sensitive about his age and, if I’m being honest, is still probably intimidated by my radiant smile. It’s why we can’t do our shows together in the same room. Think of me as Rob Lowe from the satellite TV commercials, and Chuck is the other Rob Lowe. I mean… that’s not EXACTLY the dynamic… but if you’re looking for a pretty accurate representation of it… yeah, that’s it.

Chuck and John.
Chuck and John.

Can you share your thoughts on our Boston Celtics community down here in Australia? Do you see a lot of the Celtic Pride in our many members? Any plans to visit us one day? You’ll be welcomed with open arms by all.

The best compliment I can pay you guys is to say you guys are absolutely nuts. And remember, I said earlier that I’m abnormal about my fandom. So if you set the curve where my insanity is the norm, your dedication is insane. I’m not exactly sure how the time zone thing works, but I think Wednesday night’s 7:30 pm game somehow airs at like 2:30 am on Friday. AND YOU GUYS WAKE UP TO WATCH IT LIVE!!

I’m thoroughly impressed by the dedication by Celtics fans in Australia, and around the world. You wouldn’t catch me waking up a 4am to watch games…. well… it might depend on the game. But I definitely wouldn’t be up early for some crap games in November. So kudos to you all. I love it.

As for a visit… I’ve spent a majority of my 41 years building up what I believe to be a pretty impressive tolerance. Which, if my United States-to-Australian tolerance conversion is correct, I’ll be ready for a visit in another 20 years. In all seriousness, I’d LOVE to visit Australia someday. It does seem like a lovely country and everyone I’ve met from there has been really cool. I feel like it’d be an amazing trip, and I look forward to making it someday, and hopefully soon.

My partner and I are planning our trip to Boston. Care to show us the local Pub and have a drink or 3 with us?

THE local pub?  Oh, my friends, there is not just one.  There are many, and I will be happy to crawl to as many as I can with you guys.  Aside from the bars shutting down at 2am, Boston can be a lot of fun, and there are a few different sections of the city and types of bars to go to. 

Sullivan’s Tap is great for a gritty dive bar, The Fours is a great sports bar, The Greatest Bar is more of a club atmosphere… and those are all 2 blocks from the Garden.  We haven’t even ventured into the North End, Faneuil Hall, Kenmore Square, or beyond.  

A drink or 3?  I’ll cut to the head of the line!


Celtics Down Under immensely thanks John Karalis for taking part in ‘Green Runs Deep’.

You can nominate a Boston Celtics fan at: @AusCelticsFan or justin@CelticsDownUnder.com.

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JustinHunterNBA

Writer / Editor on the Boston Celtics for http://CelticsDownUnder.com I live tweet @Celtics games About me: http://about.me/justin_hunter

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