Out of the four major professional teams in New England, it is safe to say the Celtics have experienced the greatest downturn in recent seasons. Despite struggling in 2014, the Red Sox are coming off a World Series win in last year and are well positioned to bounce back next season. The Bruins have been perennial Stanley Cup contenders since 2011, and the Patriots seem to have won their division every year since the start of the century (officially itís been five straight).
So when the Channel Media and Market Research Inc. surveyed over 13,000 fans on New England sports teams in August, it came as no surprise that the Celtics were ranked the least favorite sport team, earning just six percent of the overall vote. Thatís a four percent drop off from the teamís mark in 2012. The Patriots (42 percent) topped the rankings, followed by the Red Sox (30 percent) and Bruins (21 percent).
While those numbers have been widely reported in the past week, Boston.com was able to obtain the complete results of the Channel Media and Market Research survey that featured over 75 questions on all four local pro teams.
I decided to sort through the results and pose a couple questions: Just how disenchanted are New England sports fans with the Celtics rebuilding effort? And is there any hope within that group for the future? The answers were promising for a Celtics franchise that continues to remain in the early stages of their rebuild.
One telling question asked survey participants if each local pro team was ďchanging for betterĒ during the past year. Thirty eight percent of respondents said they believed the Celtics in fact were doing this, despite what was a relatively uneventful year that lacked ďfireworksĒ on the trade or free agency front. Thirty six percent said the Celtics had remained the same, while 26 percent said the team was changing for the worse.
The New England Patriots topped the category at 45 percent, so, at the very least, many New England fans are approving of what Danny Ainge is trying to do in patiently piecing together another contending core.
Nearly 15 questions were asked specifically about the Celtics in the survey. In what has to be a relatively encouraging number for the franchise, 52 percent of participants said they follow the Celtics at least 50 percent of the time. Thatís a big number for a team that won just 25 games last year.
Fifty eight percent of respondents also gave the team a grade of C+ or better for last yearís campaign, another acknowledgement that fans are accepting that losing is a necessary evil in the teamís quest to return to the top.
Brad Stevens earned rave reviews during his rookie season despite the teamís struggles. When asked to rate the team from 1(poor) to 7(excellent) on the hire of Brad Stevensí, a staggering 70 percent of respondents answered with a five or better.
Even though Celtics fans have been understanding of the teamís woes, they still want to see plenty of change moving forward. What kind of improvements are they asking for? The write-in suggestions from the survey probably align with what Ainge has been trying to do over the past year.
Define/make decisions about what players to build around: 22 percent
Better scouting on talent and free agents: 19 percent
Stronger/better center: 15 percent
Trade for a big defensive player: 12 percent
Acquire a marquee ďnameĒ player: 10 percent
Kevin Love (21 percent), LeBron James (16 percent), and Kevin Durant (13 percent) were some of the names thrown out by fans as players they would want to see the Celtics acquire the most. Expectations might have to be lowered a little bit in that department, but at least a few people would be content just to see a Paul Pierce (4 percent) reunion.
Overall, New England fans have showed themselves to be one of the wiser fan bases in sports during this survey. The results show there is plenty of hope for the Celticsí future. Now itís up to Ainge to make the necessary moves to start the teamís upward trend on the court and help the franchise earn more attention with the Boston pro sports scene.