Is Boston America's Best Sports City?
1983-84 Boston Celtics
Do you really I mean, do you really - appreciate all this town has to offer the sports fan? Unless you've been around to sample what's Out There, I don't see how you could. The Celtics. They are America's basketball team; oh, yes, they are. Had a guy call me the other day from down deep in Texas. Wanted to know when the next induction ceremonies would take place for the Basketball Hall of Fame. The guy was a John Havlicek fan and he sure wasn't gonna let ol' Hondo go into the Hall of Fame without paying his respects. Doubt if he's alone.
Travel the NBA for awhile and see what respect the Celtics have. There is no arena anywhere (even in xenophobic Portland, Ore.) where there aren't at least a few cheers when the Celtics score. In some buildings there's a helluva lot more than a few. They love 'em in the boonies, but we're the ones who have 'em all the time. The Bruins. Different crowd. Sometimes you get the feeling on a Sunday night that a lot of the people simply stuck around after the wrestling matches the night before. But they've got other fans who rival any group anywhere for knowledge and intensity.
The Bruins definitely attract the best voices. In a playoff game last year Gerry Cheevers sent Wayne Cashman over the boards. Someone sang out, "Hey, Chee-vuhs . . . have you lost yah mind?" Could have been the same guy I heard maybe 12 years ago on another occasion. Cashman - I swear - wound up for a slap shot and managed to get just a small piece of the puck. "What a bla-zuh, Wayne!" was the cry. The Garden. Here is a true love-hate relationship. C'mon, admit it. You want a cleaner, more comfortable building, but you would wind up missing the Garden, no matter which team you root for (not that you can't follow both). The banners wouldn't look the same in a new joint. There is a feel to the entire experience that would simply never be duplicated in some modern palace. There are buildings I'd trade the Garden for, but there are quite a few more that I wouldn't.
Fenway Park. In terms of good seating, it is overrated. Don't ever get stuck too far down the right field line. But what it offers could never be equalled. God bless The Wall, and the damnable door down the left field line and the gap inright- center and the treacherous right field foul line. It's always great to walk up the runway and get the first glimpse of that beautiful green grass (God bless Joe Mooney and his groundskeeping crew, while we're at it). There's even something magical about the place at night, especially if the Orioles or Yankees are in town. Please . . . don't start taking Fenway Park for granted.
Sullivan Stadium. OK, there is no discernible charm. It's a pain to get to and even worse to get out of. Yet it has truly outstanding seating. It was built for the purpose of watching football and nothing else, and there are only good and less good seats. Once in a while the team is even worth watching. All in all, this year wasn't too bad, was it?. But Boston is much, much more. It's more than the numerous colleges and high schools. Boston is Upton and Dave; Guy and Glenn; Eddie, Mark and Jim; Eli, George and Teddy; and that's just the beginning of the radio coverage, since any number of suburban stations also provide sports talk. This journal's sports coverage is enormous, and the guys up the road have come a long, long way in a year. Each TV station offers a superior sports product. Trust me: you would be instantly appalled if you could see what passes for TV sports in any other major locale.
Boston is the only city in the land where two major professional franchises (the Celtics and Red Sox) deliberately downplay All-Star balloting. While in attendance at a Boston sporting event, you are never insulted by a PA man saying, ". . . and here are your Boston Celtics," the way they do in other ports of call. There are no cheerleaders in Boston Garden (take note, messrs. Gaston, Dupee and Cohen) and there is no cheerleading organist, either, unless you consider John Kiley playing "Tico, Tico" during a timeout the height of rabble-rousing. Virtually every local team considers the press excessively negative, which is a very good sign for you, the consumer.
What's so good about Boston is that both the press and the teams seems to appreciate the sophistication of their constituents. Change is hard to come by in Boston. That's as it should be. There must be a reason why every radio, TV and newspaper person is besieged by friends from other cities wanting to know how they can get a job in Boston. There is. If you're going to cover sports for a living, this happens to be one of the very few places to do it. In fact, it may be the best. So, Merry Christmas, and thanks for everything.
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