Sunday, June 8, 2008

Celts resurgent

That the Celtics are back in the finals (and are now up by six against the Lakers in game two) is nearly inconceivable to a lapsed fan.

The Bill Russell and Kevin Garnett one-on-one on ESPN. If this doesn't move you, not sure what will.

After moving to Boston in the early 80s, I became a Celtics fan. There was really no choice. This was the Bird-McHale-Parrish-DJ-Maxwell era.

Some personal snapshots from the memory bank.

*Playing Pacman, drinking at Satch's on Stanhope Street with Satch Sanders himself holding court. Sometimes KC Jones played piano. Well.

*Cedric Maxwell (resplendent in his Celtics green satin jacket) at Strawberry's in the Back Bay, rifling through the album racks. I seem to remember him wearing Walkman headphones but was that pre-Walkman?

*Larry Bird reacting to a fan's sign, agreeing that, in fact "Moses does eat shit."

*The whole office following the 1986 victory parade to City Hall, where a love-struck editorial assistant snuck into the no-access area and was touched by Bird on his way on stage. She said he took her by the shoulders and removed her out of his path. Nicely, but forcefully. She didn't shower for weeks.

*Boston fans demanding that the hated 76ers "Beat LA" when it became clear that Philadelphia would win the east. (The "Beat LA" chant seems to have displaced "Yankees Suck" mantra at Fenway at least lately. Give it time.)

It's now 96-75 Celtics. Lots of close-ups of Kobe who looks bemused. Leon Powe, formerly a homeless person (as ABC keeps reminding us) is having the night of his life for the Cs.

Other memories: Riding the Westin's up escalator on Election night in (what was it? 1984?) wearing a Mondale button. K.C. Jones is coming down the other side. He sees the button, shakes his head sadly and says: "Keep the faith."

*Another escalator encounter, this time at SFO several years later. Bill Russell is coming up as I go down. He assumes the 1000-mile-stare. He doesn't want to be acknowledged. So be it.

*Fast forward to a few years ago: Bill Russell returns to the Garden to see his number retired and be properly feted at long last. There was some bad blood but all was forgiven. Bird was there. Dr. J. Wilt Chamberlain! Walton. Less impressively, Bryant Gumbel and Bill Cosby. But still. Breathtaking. A friend--a Boston lifer--took me and it was clear that he, like the bulk of those there were awestruck.

It's a great time to be a Boston fan. There's an embarassment of riches and the yahoos are already unbearably obnoxious. One of the great things is that the various athletes from different sports support each other. It's a richer version of high school. Tonight, Curt Schilling, Big Papi, Richard Seymour, are all at the new Garden in appropriate attire.

Whoa, it's now a four point game. How did that happen? Lesson: never underestimate Kobewankenobe.

The Celts manage to hold on. Huge relief.

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