Saying something nice about the Sixers.
Actually that’s not completely accurate. My cousin Bobby, standing a safer distance from the keg, and my older sister Mary, actually said it. He said, as Andrew Toney was pumping in another basket over Larry Bird in the waning minutes of this 120-106 Game 7 blowout, "Well, they deserved to win." He said it as fans in the old Garden recognized this as well, began that oh-so-memorable "Beat LA" chant, which I believe is still the only time Boston fans have ever cheered for a Philadelphia team in the history of all sports.
Those fans, of course, were a good 100 miles away from my big sister Mary, who had traveled up to the family beach house to watch the two weekend games with her brothers and cousins and anyone else who sensed a good party and another Sixers collapse. The Sixers had blown a 3-1 lead in games the year before of course, and their 3-1 lead in games had disappeared again, the Celtics beating them in the Spectrum the previous Friday night.
Game 7 was a Sunday afternoon. As I recall, we bought the aforementioned keg (which, as the crowd swelled, became kegs) and ordered about five pecks of steamed clams. But from Friday to Sunday, the fickle Maine weather turned from bad to worse, so the idea of an outdoor bash watching the imminent triumph under the sun had to be scrapped. We should have seen it as an omen. At least Mary should have. But none of us did.
A quick word about Mary: If she fell in love with a team, it was Joan of Arc falling in love with a team. She proudly believed, as if it was a staple of religion, that all forms of sportsmanship had no place in sports, at least as it pertained to fans. She also believed that all NBA referees, and particularly Jake O’Donnell and Earl Strom, were born with an inherent bias against the Celtics and that if she missed Mass on Sunday, God might punish her by assigning one or both to a key Celtics game.
Strom had done Game 2 of the Series, a Celtics loss. Jake had Game 4, also a loss. Jake also had Game 6, a win, which we attributed to Mary attending a weekday mass. But there was no Jake and no Earl in Game 7, and it was in Boston.
So there were a lot of things that led to what later became referred to gingerly as "The Celtics incident." The weather was crappy, the game was crappy (at least to a room filled with green people), and there were not enough chairs in the living room.
Which is why I was sitting on the floor in the first place, way too close, as I said before, to the keg.
It wasn’t personal. It could have been anyone who got the beer bath.
Really, it should have been my cousin Bobby.
Anyway, the sad part of this story is that Mary lost a long battle to breast cancer in 1998, and so this story and some other endearing ones are what we hold onto so dearly as the years pass, as dearly as Danny Ainge should have held onto the ball during that game.
Man, if Mary could have gotten at him that day …
It’s probably a good thing she was 100 miles away.
I believe she’s different now, found religion so to speak. I like to believe she has watched these games with Earl by her side, amiably pouring some suds into his mug, laughing about the good old days, when Magic, Bird and, of course, the good Doctor ruled the land. I would even like to believe that since most of her relatives have migrated down this way now, and that her beloved goddaughter grew up a diehard Sixers fan, she may even have some conflicting emotions over this Game 7. I said, "Would like to believe."
It doesn’t mean, though, that when my daughter said, "The Celtics are punks" while watching them play the Sixers once, I didn’t immediately look upward and cover our heads.
And I most certainly didn’t say, "You’re right."
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