A friend of mine rents an apartment in one of those new fangled gated communities that comes with the use of an outdoor pool, private movie theater and gym.
I went up on Sunday to kick my workout to a new level. Only twenty five days until I’ll be strutting around Seven Mile Beach on Grand Cayman so the time for fucking around is officially over.
While taking one of our many breaks (we are old), my buddy bursts out laughing at seemingly nothing. He looks at me, says ‘Dude, the Celtics!’, fist bumps me and proceeds with, ‘We are definitely going to the parade if they win this year!’
This, in turn, sets me off laughing because the mention of any Celtics parade instantly evokes memories of one of the funniest things we have ever seen.
Allow me to set the stage.
The year is 1986 and the Celtics have just won number 16 with the hopes of many, many more to come (alas!). The entire city was giddy from what many still consider the greatest Celtic team ever. Other than 2004, this was the only time I can remember the city fully appreciating a team at the moment it was together. Often we look back and think ‘Man, I forgot how good that team was’.
Not this year. This year we were fully prepared to celebrate and show our appreciation for this team. To give you an idea how confident the entire region was in this particular team, nearly all of us were sorely disappointed the Lakers didn’t make it to the Finals. We were all ready to kick Laker ass in order to put things right with the universe by atoning for the 1985 Finals.
Normally, the Lakers make me nervous. (Yes, this year, too). The only year I wanted them to face the Celtics was in 1986. We all wanted the Lakers to be our whipping boys and they weren’t even courteous enough to show up. Bastards!
Cast of Characters:
Possibly Tim, as well, but I have no recollection of him being with us that day even though he is adamant he was there. Everyone else is a bit fuzzy on his participation, as well.
Three joints shared on the train tracks prior to embarking on our trip. Brian stole his father’s half empty bottle of Jack Daniels which was combined with cans of Coke. It’s a simple process, actually. Buy Coke, empty half, pour JD into can until full again. Repeat as needed until you can dispose of JD bottle.
1986 was also the summer after my freshman year of college. My usual close knit of high school friends were together after a winter apart and were primed and ready to cut loose with another Celtics trophy.
Into Boston we went. Most of us had already taken the day off from work and those that hadn’t either called in sick or simply didn’t show up. Before we even made it to the city, we all realized this was going to be a bit more intense than the previous parades in ’81 and ’84. The train was packed with rowdy fans. When we arrived in the city it was nearly impossible to walk down the street. Millions of people were coming to celebrate.
Quickly we made an agreement to meet back at North Station when we got separated. There was no ‘if’ this day; we were definitely going to get split up. In fact, we lost Brian and Kevin less than an hour after we arrived.
The parade was going to start somewhere on the south side of the city and culminate at City Hall. We wove our way through the throngs of people until we caught a glimpse of the parade coming our way. By now we were down to Steve, Gary, Jimmy, Rob and Myself. Everyone else had been lost along the way.
Angling to get as close to the flotilla of trucks coming our way as I could, I somehow wound up on the street instead of the sidewalk. Keep in mind this was back in the 80s when security wasn’t the best. Back in those days it was every man for himself.
Someone yelled at me to get back, but the parade was RIGHT there so I simply started jogging next to the trucks. I turned back and see not just my friends, but a bunch of people running alongside. We weren’t being disrespectful, mind you, just running next to the trucks and high fiving the players. I still have vivid memories of looking up to see Bill Walton already shit faced, his truck littered with empty cans of beer. He was loving it and was high fiving anyone and everyone that came close.
The Boston Police Motorcycle detail riding alongside the trucks, however, were most definitely not loving it. Rob told me later that one of them deliberately ran up the back of his leg with their front tire in an attempt to get him to move out of the way. This may have explained why I later witnessed him kicking the back of one of the motorcycles until the back signal broke off and was left dangling. All while never breaking his stride.
It could also explain why the police decided to single out our group of friends. It’s amazing how quickly things can go south. Immediately after Rob finishing pummeling the motorcycle, a hand reached out to grab me. I quickly turned and dipped my shoulder to elude the grasp and kept running.
Even over the crowd noise I heard a commotion behind me and saw Jimmy struggling to free himself from the grasp of a cop who was standing by the side of the road. Steve was running past at the same time and slowed to see what was going on. The cop said something to Steve who kept running past, but was paying close attention to what was going on.
The cop was using his forearm to keep Jimmy pinned up against a chain link fence that was running alongside a construction area. I had slowed to nearly a stop and was walking backwards with Steve. Just as the cop’s attention was diverted, Jimmy caught my eye and slipped out from under his grip and started sprinting our way.
He made it about a hundred yards before the shit hit the fan. When Jimmy started running towards us, Steve and I began running in earnest to get as far away from the dissed cop as possible. It wasn’t nearly fast enough for Jimmy.
Perspective is a funny thing. While in reality the cop had no more than 3 inches on Jim, it sure looked like the raging, red faced, absolutely furious cop chasing my friend was a giant. I was still facing backwards and was yelling out a warming, but Jim couldn’t hear me. The policeman came up behind Jimmy, grabbed him by the back of the collar, hoisted him above his head and launched Jimmy into the crowd lining the streets.
He disappeared completely. One moment Jim was all flailing legs and arms and the next he was gone; swallowed whole. Steve and I gave each other a look, shrugged, turned and kept running with the parade.
Several things with this incident:
1: I will never ever forget the contrasting looks on the face of Jim and the cop. Jim had a smug, ‘Can you believe what I just did?’ smile while the cop was a grimacing mask of absolute fury. I have always suspected that Jim escaping his grasp was the last straw with that police officer. He had probably been dealing with unruly, maddening teenagers all day and this one (Jimmy) was going to pay for all of them.
2: To me the funniest part was just after the cop collared Jim. Jimmy’s smug smile was replaced with a bug eyed, ‘holy shit, what is happening?’ expression of shock as his legs left the ground; still making the running motion. For a second it looked like Jim was trying to run to heaven.
3: The strength of the cop. Jim was no lightweight. Five feet, ten inches or so and at least one hundred and sixty pounds was lifted with ease and in one motion above the cop’s head. Jim staring at the sky and squirming to get away before free falling into a sea of people. I often wonder if this was a case of Incredible Hulk syndrome where adrenaline and rage fueled super human powers.
4: The instant and silent debate between Steve and myself about what to do next. In a matter of .0001 seconds we decided ‘Screw it, he’s on his own’ and went on our way. We didn’t even stop to see if he was hurt.
Ironically, by the time the parade had made it to City Hall we were all alone. I’m still not sure where I lost everyone, but one by one we met back at North Station to take the train home. All except Gary who we didn’t see for two days after he mistakenly wandered to South Station and was confused why he couldn’t find a train to anywhere besides Providence.
Jim informed us all the cop wanted was for him to stop running alongside the parade and was holding him there until everything went past. Jimmy was telling the cop he simply wanted to stay with us. He also told us that the crowd parted nicely for him when he was thrown so he landed on the concrete sidewalk before rolling a bit. Several bruises and scratches were his reward.
Several uncontrollable bouts of laughter and an often repeated story was our reward.
Unfortunately for Jimmy, his bad day didn’t end there. When we got back to our town we decided to stop at Burger King for a late lunch. Jim joined us before realizing – much too late – that he was supposed to be working there and had called in sick. He was fired on the spot and responded with ‘Does this mean I can’t use my employee discount?’
Today’s distraction: Bob Ryan’s take on the greatest sports rivalry and points out that back in the 60s and 70s the games would start at 8pm Pacific Time which meant nobody on the East Coast could watch. That doesn't mean I need to like these 9pm starts, mind you. They still suck.