Red Auerbach’s Cigar
The word HATE of course is too powerful to be used as broadly & indiscriminately as it is when
discussing Mondays, the color of that guy’s tie, avocado dip, or sports franchises, so in this case I’ll use it in lower case & wink figuratively when I do. I could hate Boston sports teams for any number of good reasons, including, but not limited to, the nerdy, provincial chauvinism of their fans, the squirm & grimace-inducing references to Birdman or Rem-Dawg & Big Papi, but my real reason for hating all-sports-things-Boston goes much deeper, is much more personal & stems from an indelible childhood trauma.
When I grew up in Syracuse, NY, we had a professional NBA team, the Syracuse Nationals, now the Philadelphia 76’ers. We won the NBA Championship in 1955 & hosted the 1961 NBA All-Star Game (I got every autograph). With the likes of Dolph Schayes, Hall Greer & Larry Costello, we won nearly every home game my father took me to see. Unfortunately for me, there was at that time the nearly-unbeatable Celtics team of Russell & Cousy, coached by the irascible & infuriating Red Auerbach, who routinely handed us our ass, home or away. Red had a habit of lighting a victory cigar on the bench when a Celtic win looked assured.(smoking was allowed back then in the ‘War Memorial Coliseum’, where the games were played….my dad took me to a Carmen Basillio fight there once & the whole place was choked with smoke)….I don’t think we had beaten them more than once or twice that year, and we were to play them at home in the last game of the season. My dad ‘knew a guy who knew a guy’, and we got seats right behind the Celtics bench. It was a rough & tumble game (on-court brawls were not uncommon in those days), and we were winning late in the 4th quarter, my favorite player Larry Costello (a paisan!) was lighting it up from all over the court with his patented 2-handed set-shot. In the last couple minutes of the game something totally bogus & grossly unfair happened (I can’t remember what it was….it was always something with those damned Celtics), and we ended up losing the game. Red peeled the wrapper off his cigar & fired it up with a huge Zippo-flame, the smoke not masking his assholish self-satisfied grin. As we filed out, I called out to him: “Aw, youse guys was lucky!”….He saw it was just a cute little innocent kid, me, so he came over to where I was standing, puffed that big cigar to stoke it (I can still see his evil grin), took a big long pull off it & BLEW THE SMOKE IN MY FACE!….”Hey kid”, he said, “lookit the scoreboard.”
So now I even hate the Bruins, and I don’t follow hockey!
….that’s my story & I’m sticking to it.