Tuesday, October 18, 2016

How to Be a New York Basketball Fan In Boston -- 2016-17 Edition

The Brooklyn Nets open the 2016-17 NBA season by visiting the Boston Celtics a week from tomorrow, Wednesday night, October 26, and will do so again on April 10, 2017. The New York Knicks visit on November 11 and January 18.

The New York Knickerbockers and the Boston Celtics are the only 2 teams left from the 1st NBA season of 1946-47 still playing in their original cities -- and, until 1995, the Celtics were the only one of those still playing in their original arena. Between them, they've won 19 NBA Championships -- although only 2 of those by the Knicks -- and reached the NBA Finals 29 times (the Celtics 21, the Knicks 8).

Yet these 2 historic franchises are both struggling at the moment: The Celtics have spun their wheels since the breakup of their "Big 3" of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen; while the Knicks are run by James Dolan, an enemy even Phil Jackson cannot defeat.

Some of you are Yankee Fans who hate the Red Sox. Some of you are Jet fans who hate the Patriots. Some of you are Red Bulls fans who hate the Revolution. Some of you are Devils, Rangers or Islanders fans who hate the Bruins.

This is a reminder for those of you whose memory doesn't go back any further than the late 1990s, when Pedro Martinez was the first true bastard of New England sports that you can remember, and for whom the late 2000s Celtics were admirable: Once upon a time, the Celtics were a spectacular combination of greatness and evil.

You may have heard it said that the early 1970s Knicks were the ultimate in team play in basketball. That's a load of malarkey: The Celtics, as assembled by head coach and general manager Arnold "Red" Auerbach, were the ultimate in team play. It's why, in Bill Russell's 13 seasons as a player, the Celtics got to the Eastern Conference Finals all 13 times, won the Conference title 12 times, and won the NBA title 11 times. (In all of sports, only Henri Richard of the Montreal Canadiens can match those 11 titles. Yogi Berra leads baseball with 10 World Series rings.)

It's why Russell could face Wilt Chamberlain, the most dominating player the game has ever known -- in Philadelphia with the Warriors, in San Francisco with the Warriors, in Philadelphia again with the 76ers, in Los Angeles with the Lakers, and of course in Boston itself -- 9 times in postseason play and win 8 times. (Only with the 1967 76ers did Wilt beat Russ in the Playoffs, and went on to win his 1st title.) It's why Wilt could set an NBA record of 55 rebounds, which still stands, against Russell, the greatest defensive player of the era except for Wilt, and the Celtics still won the ballgame. Wilt always had good teams around him (with guys like Tom Gola, Guy Rodgers, Nate Thurmond, Hal Greer, Chet Walker, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor and Gail Goodrich, Hall-of-Famers all), but the Celtics had the best team.

And they were dirty. Wilt hardly ever lost his cool, but there was a time when he started walking toward Sam Jones with a menacing look in his eye, and Jones picked up a chair; seeing that Sam was ready to throw it if need be, Wilt backed off. Russell, Sam Jones, K.C. Jones (no relation), Tom Heinsohn, and especially Jungle Jim Loscutoff could be dirty as hell.

Overseeing it all (figuratively and literally) was broadcaster Johnny Most. To this day, there are people who swear he once said, across the Celtics' New England radio network, "Chamberlain stuck his eye in Russell's elbow!" And these are Boston fans, bragging about it. Most was the ultimate homer: He made Mel Allen, Phil Rizzuto and John Sterling sound like dispassionate observers by comparison.

(Ironically, Auerbach, Most, Bob Cousy and Tom "Satch" Sanders were all born and raised in New York City. And Tommy Heinsohn is from Jersey City. That's a lot of New York Tri-State Area involved in the building the greatest of all Boston sports teams.)

The Celtics got less dirty in the 1970s, as a new crop of players came up, and Auerbach's influence was limited to the front office. But as the stars of the 1980s came up, they were at it again, turning off the air conditioning in the visiting locker room (yes, the Boston Garden had air conditioning), so their opponents got overheated -- the defining image being Kareem Abdul-Jabbar of the Lakers needing an oxygen tank on the bench during Game 5 of the 1984 NBA Finals. (Most people will tell you it was Game 7, probably because they like the sound of "Game 7," but they've got it mixed up.)

The Celtics won 8 straight titles from 1959 to 1966, topping the 5 straight of the 1949-53 Yankees and the 1956-60 Montreal Canadiens. They won 16 titles in 30 seasons from 1957 to 1986, a run of dominance that actually tops the Yankees' 20 titles in 40 seasons from 1923 to 1962, if not the Canadiens' 15 titles in 24 seasons seasons from 1956 to 1979.

Once the Larry Bird generation got old, the Boston Garden became a desolate place, and, unlike the Yankees in the 1st season of the new Yankee Stadium, it took them until the 13th season of the new Garden before they won that 17th title. (The Canadiens, however, opened their new arena the same season, and are now in their 21st season there, and still haven't won a Stanley Cup there.)

While the Red Sox have used steroids, the Patriots "Spygate" and "Deflategate," the Bruins letting the ice melt a little in the 2011 Finals, the Revolution diving and hacking (though they're now 0-5 in MLS Cup Finals), and the University of Connecticut's basketball program recruiting violations (the men have been caught and punished, we're still waiting for word on the women), the Celtics' 1 recent title seems unblemished -- but, given the team's history, you never know.

The Celtics are a New England team, and, for a New York Tri-State Area fan, that means that they
must go down.

But, as they're a Boston team, you need to be on your guard.

Before You Go. Boston weather is a little different from ours, being a little bit further north. Mark Twain, who lived the last few years of his life in nearby Hartford, said, "If you don’t like the weather in New England, wait a minute."

You should check the websites of the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald before you leave. Usually, the temperatures will be a little lower than what we're used to in New York and New Jersey at the same time. At least, being indoors, wind will not be the issue that it sometimes is inside Fenway Park. For the moment, they're predicting mid-50s for Wedenseday afternoon and mid-40s at night. There is no rain predicted for that day, or (if you are considering staying over at least 1 night) either the day before or the day after.

Do not want to wear is the kind of T-shirt you see sold at the souvenir stands on River Avenue across from Yankee Stadium, with messages like "BAHSTON SAWKS CACK" or "There never was a curse, the Sox just sucked for 86 years!" If you have one (or more) of these, leave them at home. The Chowdaheads are already antagonized by our mere presence in their city, and there's no reason to make it that much worse. Bald Vinny will thank you for your patronage, but he's smart enough to remind you that there is a time and a place where his product is inappropriate.

Boston is in the Eastern Time Zone, so adjusting your watch and your smartphone clock is not necessary. And, of course, despite the silliness of the concept of "Red Sox Nation," you do not need a passport to cross the New Haven City Line, or to change your money.

Tickets. In the 1960s, when the Bruins stunk and the Celtics were winning title after title, it was the Bruins who hit the Boston Garden's official capacity of 13,909 every game (with standing room not reported due to fire laws, but some people have suggested there was really more than 20,000 inside), while the Celtics found it only half-full. (Gee, could it have been because the Bruins were all-white and the Celtics half-black?) Throughout my youth, with both teams in the Playoffs just about every season, the Bruins always hit the listed capacity of 14,448 and the Celtics 14,890.

Opened in 1995, the building now named the TD Garden (TD is a bank, Toronto-Dominion) seats 17,565 for hockey, slightly less than the Prudential Center, and 18,624 for basketball. The Celtics averaged 18,169 fans per home game last season, about 98 percent of capacity. So, for the moment, tickets will be easier to get than for the Red Sox, Patriots and Bruins, but not by much.

As with Fenway Park, tickets at TD Garden cost a bundle -- law of supply & demand. In the lower level, the Loge, seats are $206 to $247 between the baskets and $80 to $112 behind them. In the upper level, the Balcony, they're $59 to $81 between the baskets and $30 to $58 behind them.

Getting There. Getting to Boston is fairly easy. However, I do not recommend driving, especially if you have Yankee paraphernalia on your car (bumper sticker, license-plate holder, decals, etc.). Chances are, it won't get vandalized... but you never know.

If you must drive, it's 214 miles by road from Times Square to Boston's Downtown Crossing, and less than another mile to the TD Garden.

If you're coming from Manhattan or The Bronx, get up to the Cross Bronx Expressway. If you're coming from New Jersey, get to the George Washington Bridge to the Cross Bronx. Then, after turning north and moving outside The City, the New England Thruway (or the New England Extension of the New York State Thruway). If you're coming from Brooklyn, Queens or Long Island, get to the Grand Central Parkway and take the Bronx-Whitestone or Throgs Neck Bridge, and follow the signs for Interstate 95 North. 

Continue on I-95 North into Connecticut to Exit 48 in New Haven, and take Interstate 91 North toward Hartford. When you reach Hartford, take Exit 29 to Interstate 84, which you will take into Massachusetts, all the way to its end, where it merges with Interstate 90, the Massachusetts Turnpike. (And the locals call it "the Mass Pike" – never "the Turnpike" like we do in New Jersey.)

Theoretically, you could take I-95 all the way, but that will take you though downtown Providence, Rhode Island, up to the Boston suburbs. I like Providence as a city, but that route is longer by both miles and time than the route described above.

Fenway Park, or at least its light towers, will be visible from the Mass Pike. The last exit on the Pike is Exit 24B. Follow the signs for "Concord NH"/"Interstate 93 N." I-93 becomes the Tip O'Neill Tunnel, then get off at Exit 23 (this is for I-93, not I-95), keep right at the fork, and follow the signs for the North End and North Station, which is under the arena, just as New York's Penn Station is under Madison Square Garden. (In fact, the old Boston Garden/North Station complex may have been the inspiration for the "new" MSG/Penn Station.) 

If all goes well, and you make one rest stop (preferably around Hartford, roughly the halfway point), and you don’t get seriously delayed by traffic within the city limits of either New York or Boston (either of which is very possible), you should be able to make the trip in under 5 hours.

But, please, do yourself a favor and get a hotel outside the city. It's not just that hotels in Boston proper are expensive, unless you want to try one of the thousands of bed-and-breakfasts with their communal bathrooms. It's also that Boston drivers are said to come in 2 classes, depending on how big their car is: Homicidal and suicidal. If you're just going for the one game, then find a park-and-ride for the subway. For example, Exit 14 will take you to Riverside Station in Newton, the terminal for the Green Line D Train. From there, it's a 40-minute ride to the Garden.

Boston, like Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, is too close to fly from New York, and once you factor in fooling around with everything you gotta do at each airport, it doesn't really save you much time compared to driving, the bus or the train. It certainly won't save you any money.

The train is a very good option. Boston’s South Station is at 700 Atlantic Avenue, corner of Summer Street, at Dewey Square. (Named for Admiral George Dewey, naval hero of the Spanish-American War, not New York Governor and 1944 & '48 Presidential candidate Thomas E. Dewey, and not for former Red Sox right fielder Dwight "Dewey" Evans, either.)


It'll be $152 round-trip between New York's Penn Station and South Station, and the trip should take less than 5 hours. The last Amtrak train of the night leaves South Station at 9:30, arriving at Penn Station at 2:15 AM, so unless you leave early, you won't make it. Then again, if you can afford the train instead of the bus, chances are, you can afford a hotel room also.
South Station

South Station also has a bus terminal attached, and it may be the best bus station in the country – even better than New York's Port Authority. If you take Greyhound, you'll leave from Port Authority's Gate 84, and it will take about 4½ hours, most likely making one stop, at Hartford's Union Station complex, or in the Boston suburbs of Framingham, Worcester or Newton. New York to Boston and back is tremendously cheaper on the bus than on the train, usually $90 round-trip (dropping to nearly half that, $60, with advanced purchase), and is probably Greyhound's best run. On the way back, you’ll board at South Station’s Gate 3.

Once In the City. Named for the town of the same name (a shortened version of "St. Botolph's Stone") in Lincolnshire, in England's East Midlands, Boston is home to about 670,000 people, with a metropolitan area (including the areas of Hartford, Providence, and Manchester, New Hampshire) of a little over 8 million people, making it the largest metro area in the country with only 1 MLB team (Dallas is 2nd; trailing the 2-team areas of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and the San Francisco Bay Area).
The State House, on Beacon Hill

Boston is easily the largest city not just in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, but in all of New England. The next-largest are Worcester, Massachusetts and Providence, Rhode Island, each with around 180,000. The largest in Connecticut is Bridgeport with 145,000; New Hampshire's largest is Manchester with 110,000; Maine's is Portland with 66,000, and Vermont's is Burlington with a mere 42,000. Of New England's 100 largest cities and towns, 53 are in Massachusetts, 30 in Connecticut, 9 in Rhode Island, 4 in New Hampshire, 3 in Maine and 1, Burlington, in Vermont; only 2 of the top 17 are outside Massachusetts and Connecticut.

Counting New England as a whole -- except for the southwestern part of Connecticut, which tilts toward New York -- there are about 13.5 million people in "Red Sox Nation." This isn't even close to the top, when "markets" are viewed this liberally -- the Yankees have close to 20 million in theirs, and the Atlanta Braves lead with over 36 million -- but it does rank 7th out of 30 MLB markets, and aside from the Yankees none of the pre-expansion teams has as big a market.

Boston is also one of the oldest cities in America, founded in 1630, and the earliest to have been truly developed. (New York is actually older, 1626, but until City Hall was built and the grid laid out in 1811, it was pretty much limited to the 20 or so blocks from the Battery to Chambers Street.) It's got the history: The colonial era, the Revolutionary period its citizens did so much to make possible, the abolitionist movement prior to the Civil War, Massachusetts' role in that conflict, the Industrial Revolution. Aside from New York, it was the only city on the Eastern Seaboard to have grasped the concept of the skyscraper until the 1980s.

It also has America's 1st college, Harvard University, across the Charles River in Cambridge; and a few other institutions of higher learning of some renown in or near the city: Boston College, Boston University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Northeastern University, Tufts University, College of the Holy Cross, and so on. The particular instance of Harvard, funded by Boston's founding families, resulted in Boston and the surrounding area having a lot of "old money." And then there's all those Massachusetts-based writers.

All of this gives Boston an importance, and a self-importance, well beyond its interior population. One of those aforementioned writers, Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. (grandfather of the great Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.), named the city "the Hub of the Solar System"; somehow, this became "the Hub of the Universe" or just "The Hub."

Early 19th Century journalist William Tudor called Boston "the Athens of America" -- but, as a Harvard man, he would have studied ancient Greece and realized that, while contributing greatly to the political and literary arts, Athens could be pretty dictatorial, warmongering, and slavery-tolerating at times. Later sportswriters have called the Sox-Yanks (in that order) rivalry "Athens and Sparta." (Remember: If not for Sparta, all of Greece would have fallen to the Persian Empire.)

Well, to hell with that: We are Yankee Fans. New York is the greatest city in the world, and we don't even have to capitalize that.

ZIP Codes in Massachusetts start with 01 in the West, and 020 to 027 in the East. Famously, the PBS kids' show Zoom, taped at WGBH-Channel 2, told its viewers who had ideas for the show, "Write Zoom! Box 350, Boston, Mass 0-2-1-3-4! Send it to Zoom!"

The State's Area Codes are 617 and 857 for Boston proper and the immediate Western suburbs, 339 and 781 for Boston and the South Shore, 351 and 978 for the Northeast, 413 for the West, and 508 and 774 for the Worcester area and Cape Cod. 

The sales tax in Massachusetts is 6.25 percent, less than New Jersey's 7 percent and New York City's 8.875 percent. However, aside from that, pretty much everything in Boston and neighboring cities like Cambridge, Brookline and Quincy costs about as much as it does in New York City, and more than in the NYC suburbs. In other words, a bundle. So don't get sticker-shock.

When you get to South Station, if you haven't already read The Boston Globe on your laptop or smartphone, pick it up. It's a great paper, with one of the country's best sports sections. There's probably no paper that covers its local baseball team better, although the columns of Dan Shaughnessy (who did not coin but certainly popularized the phrase "The Curse of the Bambino" and wrote a book with the title) and Tony Massarotti (who started at the rival Herald and whose style is more in line with theirs) can be a bit acerbic.

You will also be able to pick up the New York papers at South Station, if you want any of them. If you must, you can also buy the Boston Herald, but it’s a tabloid, previously owned by William Randolph Hearst and Rupert Murdoch. Although neither man's company still owns it, it carries all the hallmarks of the papers that they have owned (Murdoch still owns the New York Post, the Hearst Corporation owned the New York Journal and its successor, the New York Journal-American, which went out of business in 1966). In other words, the Herald is a right-wing pack of sensationalism, frequently sloppy journalism, and sometimes outright lies, but at least it does sports well (sometimes).

Once you have your newspapers, take the escalator down to the subway. Boston had the nation's 1st subway service, in 1897, along Boston Common on what's now named the Green Line. Formerly known as the Metropolitan Transit Authority, leading to the folk song "MTA," in 1965 it became the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), or "the T," symbolized by the big T signs where many cities, including New York, would have M's instead.

(Here's a link to the most familiar version of the song, done by the Kingston Trio in 1959. Keep in mind that Scollay Square station is now named Government Center, and that the reason Mrs. Charlie doesn't give him the extra nickel along with the sandwich isn't that she keeps forgetting, but that they're acting on principle, protesting the 5-cent exit fare -- my, how times have changed.)

Boston was one of the last cities to turn from subway tokens to farecards, in 2006, a decade after New York's switch was in progress. They cheekily call the cards CharlieCards, after the song character. A ride costs $2.75 with cash, the same as New York's subway, and if you're there for the entire series, it may be cheaper to get a 7-day pass for $21.25. The MBTA 1-day pass is $12, so the 7-day pass is a better option.

There are 4 lines: Red, Green, Orange and Blue. Don't worry about the Silver Line: That's basically an underground bus service designed to get people to Logan International Airport. (General Edward L. Logan was a South Bostonian who became a hero of World War I and then the commander of the Massachusetts National Guard. Boston kept the name on their airport in spite of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, leaving New York to name an airport after that great Bostonian.) Chances are, you won’t be using the Blue Line at all on your trip, and the Orange Line might not be used, either.

It's important to remember that Boston doesn't have an "Uptown" and "Downtown" like Manhattan, or a "North Side," "East Side," "South Side" or "West Side" like many other cities. It does have a North End and a South End (which should not be confused with the separate neighborhood of South Boston); and it has an East Boston, although the West End was mostly torn down in the late 1950s to make way for the sprawling complex of the new Massachusetts General Hospital.

Note also that Boston doesn't have a "centerpoint," where all the street addresses start at 1 and move out in 100-segments for each block. It doesn't even remotely have a north-south, east-west street grid like New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Chicago, and so on.

So for subway directions, remember this: Any train heading toward Downtown Crossing (where the Red and Orange Lines intersect), Park Street (Red and Green Lines), State Street (Blue and Orange Lines) or Government Center (Blue and Green Lines), is "Inbound." Any train going away from those 4 downtown stations is "Outbound." This led to a joke that certain Red Sox pitchers who give up a lot of home runs have "been taken downtown more than the Inbound Red Line."
Red Line train, crossing the Charles River
via the Longfellow Bridge

South Station is on the Red Line. If you're coming by Amtrak or Greyhound, and are up only for one game and are going directly to Fenway, take the Red Line to Park Street – known locally as "Change at Park Street Under" (or "Change at Pahk Street Undah" in the local dialect) – and then take the Green Line, either the B (terminating at Boston College and having that on its marquee), C (Cleveland Circle) or D (Riverside) train. Do not take the E (Huntington Avenue), because it breaks off before reaching Kenmore Square.
Green Line D Train at Pahk Street Undah


Going In. The building was originally named the Shawmut Center, named for a bank, which in turn was named for the original Native American name for the land on which Boston now sits. Before it could open, Fleet Bank bought out Shawmut, and the building opened in 1995 as the FleetCenter (1 word). In 2005, TD bought out Fleet, and it became the TD Banknorth Garden, before becoming simply the TD Garden in 2009. It is 1 of 10 current arenas housing both an NBA team and an NHL team.

The T station for the Garden is "North Station" -- the Boston Garden name is no longer part of it. With the old Garden, the Orange Line was underground while the Green Line was elevated. In a 1986 Sports Illustrated article, Boston native Leigh Montville said the spot underneath the Green Line in front of the Garden was the wettest spot on Earth. Now, both lines are underground.

I can't confirm that Montville was right.
can confirm that the situation was bad enough.

The address of the old Boston Garden was 150 Causeway Street. The address of the new TD Garden is 100 Legends Way. It's roughly the same spot, but the old Garden was on Causeway, while the new Garden was built behind it, and the old one was demolished for a parking lot for the new one. Parking is $9.00, relatively cheap compared to other NBA and NHL arenas, and cheap considering it's Boston. But driving to and in Boston is ridiculous, and parking is at least as bad.
The entrances to North Station are on the east and west sides, and escalators will take you from the Station to the Garden. The court is laid out east-to-west. While they kept using the famed parquet floor from the old Garden until 1998, they then replaced it with the current one.
If you visited the old Garden but not yet the new one, you'll be happy to know the new one has no obstructing support poles, the upper deck doesn't have an overhang that blocks the view of people sitting in the last few rows of the lower level, and the only rats are the men wearing Celtic uniforms -- and a few of the people cheering them on. No actual rodents are running around the place.
Notice that, no matter how many banners the ceiling has,
the seats are still Bruin yellow, not Celtic green.

Like its predecessor did from the 1952-53 season to 1994-95, it hosts the annual Beanpot, a hockey tournament between BU (30-time winners and current holders), BC (19-time winners, last in 2014), Harvard (10-time winners, last in 1993) and Northeastern (4-time winners, last in 1988). As far as I know, Detroit is the only other U.S. city that hosts a college hockey tournament like this.


The Garden, then still known as the FleetCenter, hosted the Democratic National Convention in 2004, in which home-State Senator John Kerry was nominated for President. Its predecessor never hosted a major-party convention, but it held many political rallies, liberal and conservative, most notably the Election Eve rally of Boston's native son, John F. Kennedy, in 1960.

The old Garden was home to the Bruins from 1928 to 1995, the Celtics from 1946 to 1995, and the New England Whalers in the 1973-74 season. The Beatles played the old Garden on September 12, 1964. Elvis Presley played it on November 10, 1971. It also hosted James Brown on April 5, 1968, Brown insisting to Mayor Kevin White that the show must go on after the assassination of Martin Luther King, so as to keep the peace. White agreed, decided to call Boston's PBS station, WGBH-Channel 2, and have them televise it live, and he announced that anyone who didn't have a ticket should watch it at home, instead of going to the Garden and risking additional strife. It worked, and it's known as "The Night James Brown Saved Boston."

The old Garden hosted the NCAA's hockey version of the Final Four, now known as the Frozen Four, in 1972, 1973 and 1974. The new one has done so in 2004 and 2015.

Food. Dunkin Donuts started in the Boston suburbs, and has stands inside the TD Garden. What else do you need to know?

Okay, okay. The Frank House (not named for Celtics legend Frank Ramsey) serves customized hot dogs (behind Sections 3, 10, 14, 21, 302, 308, 310, 315, 317, 324 and 327). The Links Grill offers "Old World Italian Sausage with peppers and onions and a Jumbo All Beef Dog with your favorite toppings" (17, 310, 322, 330). They have a Back Bay Carvery with roast beef and turkey sandwiches (8 and 323). They have Sal's Pizza (6, 307 and 325), a Kosher Café (4), and West End Brew, with "Crispy Chicken Tenders, a bucket of Spicy Cheese Fries, and a soon-to-be Garden favorite – Lobster Rangoon" (8 and 19). For dessert, Sweet Spot is behind 309.

Team History Displays. Like the Yankees, the only team title notations that the Celtics have on display are for their World Championships. While the Bruins hang 6 Stanley Cup banners, they also hang a banner mentioning of their 25 Division Championships, one for their 17 Prince of Wales Trophies, one for their 4 Conference Championships (post-1982 realignment) and one for their 2 President's Trophies, plus 10 banners, for each of their retired numbers.


The Celtics' banner display, the parquet floor, and that winking leprechaun at center court were all cited as intimidating factors for opposing teams. But they don't hang banners for their 21 Atlantic Division titles, or even for the years they won the Division but failed to win the Eastern Conference: 1972, 1973, 1975, 1980, 1982, 1988, 1991, 1992, 2005, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. Nor do they hang banners for their 21 Conference Titles, or even for the years they won the Conference but lost the NBA Finals: 1958, 1985, 1987 and 2010. (There are photos from the 1960s which show Conference and Division title banners, green with white lettering, but those are long gone.)

Instead, their banners, white with green bordering and lettering, are all for their NBA Championships, 17 of them: 1957, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1969, 1974, 1976, 1981, 1984, 1986 and 2008. (The Lakers have won 16, but "only" 9 since they moved to L.A., so a 17th title wouldn't really match the Celtics' record.)
To put the Celtics' glory in perspective: From May 1941 to January 2002, in their sports' finals, the Celtics went 16-3, while all other Boston sports teams were 2-17. The Bruins were 2-10, the Red Sox 0-4, the Patriots 0-2 (0-3 if you count the AFL) and the Braves 0-1. Even if you count the New England Whalers in their World Hockey Association days, that 2-17 only rises to 3-18. However, from February 2002 onward, the Patriots are 4-2, the Red Sox 3-0, and the Celtics and Bruins both 1-1; total, 9-4; overall total, from the Red Sox' win in the 1st World Series of 1903 to today, Boston is 39-25 in finals. (Though that drops to 39-30 if you count the New England Revolution of MLS.)

There are 39 men with some sort of connection to the Celtics in the Basketball Hall of Fame, but some of these connections are stronger than others. For example, John Thompson played for the Celtics during their 1960s title dynasty, but is in the Hall for his coaching at Georgetown University.

There are 18 players who were with the Celtics for at least 4 seasons and are in the Hall. Two of these have not had their uniform numbers retired: Nate "Tiny" Archibald (7, although his 10 is retired by the Sacramento Kings for his time with them as the Kansas City Kings -- and he's another New Yorker who starred for the Celtics) and Bailey Howell (18, probably better known as a Detroit Piston, although they haven't retired his number).

The Celtics have 22 retired-number honorees, more than any team in sports, even the Yankees. Unlike the Bruins, who have individual banners with full names for their honorees (Number 4 is listed as "Robert G. Orr" instead of "Bobby Orr"), the Celtics have 3 banners with room for 8 numbers each, and only the numbers.

1st banner: 22, 14, 23, 15, 21, 25, 24, 6.
2nd banner: 1, 16, 19, LOSCY, 17, 18, 10, 2.
3rd banner: 3, 33, 32, 35, 00, 31, with room for 2 more.
* The only player honored from before they started winning titles is Number 22, center Ed Macauley -- and it's been joked that, since he was the trade bait for Bill Russell, that's reason enough. Actually, Macauley is in the Hall of Fame, although he helped beat the Celtics for the St. Louis Hawks in 1958, to give the franchise now in Atlanta its only title.

* From their late 1950s and early 1960s titles: 1, Walter Brown, owner of the company that ran the Garden, and thus the owner of both the Celtics and the Bruins, and thus in both the Basketball and Hockey Halls of Fame; 2, Red Auerbach, head coach 1950-66, general manager 1950-84, president 1984-2006 (when he died); 14, guard Bob Cousy; 15, forward Tommy Heinsohn; 16, forward Tom "Satch" Sanders; 18, forward Jim Loscutoff (who, by his request, is honored instead with the letters "LOSCY"); 21, guard Bill Sharman; 23, forward Frank Ramsey; 24, guard Sam Jones; and 25, guard K.C. Jones. Also a microphone for radio announcer Johnny Most. Cousy and Heinsohn have also broadcast for the Celtics.

* From their late 1960s titles: Auerbach, Russell, Sanders, both Joneses and Most; 17, forward John Havlicek; and 19, forward Don Nelson (who is in the Hall of Fame, but for what he achieved as a coach).

* From their 1970s titles: Auerbach, Havlicek, Nelson and Most, plus Heinsohn as head coach; 10, guard Jo Jo White; and 18, center Dave Cowens.


* From their 1980s titles: Auerbach, K.C. Jones as head coach, and Most; 00, center Robert Parish; 3, guard Dennis Johnson; 31, forward Cedric "Cornbread" Maxwell; 32, forward Kevin McHale; 33, forward Larry Bird. K.C. coached their 1984 and 1986 titles. Bill Fitch coached their 1981 title, making him, along with Doc Rivers, the only title-winning Celtic coach not yet honored. Also not yet retired is the 44 of guard Danny Ainge, now the general manager, and the architect of the 2008 title.

* Since their 1986 title, the only honoree has been Number 35, forward Reggie Lewis, who died while still an active player. He, Loscutoff and Maxwell are the only Celtic honorees who are not yet in the Hall of Fame. (White was elected earlier this year.)

* From the 2008 title, Kevin Garnett (5) has just retired, Paul Pierce (34) says this will be his final season, Ray Allen (20) has not officially retired, and Rajon Rondo (9) is still with the Celtics. I suspect they will be honored when they retire, as well as Rivers. Most likely, his notation will be "DOC," since he never played for the Celtics; he played for 4 teams, including the Knicks, and always wore Number 25, which the Celtics have already retired for K.C. Jones. Perhaps they'll also add Ainge's 44. Either way, after retiring 2 of these, they'll have to move on to a 4th such banner. If all of those are retired, then the only numbers below 35 still available will be 0, 4, 7, 8, 11, 12, 13, 26, 27, 28, 29 and 30.

(Interestingly, while it is one of the most common nicknames in sports, according to Basketball-Reference.com, Glenn Anton Rivers is the only NBA player or coach generally known as "Doc," although such men as Jack Ramsay, who have doctorates, have been known as "Doctor (name)," and, of course, Julius Erving was "Doctor J," but rarely shortened to "Doc.")

1st banner: 22, 14, 23, 15, 21, 25, 24, 6.
2nd banner: 1, 16, 19, LOSCY, 17, 18, 10, 2.
3rd banner: 3, 33, 32, 35, 00, 31, with room for 2 more.

Cousy, Sharman, Sam Jones, Russell, Havlicek, Cowens, Bird, McHale and Parish were named to the NBA's 50th Anniversary 50 Greatest Players in 1996. Russell, Cousy, Sharman and Jones had previously been named to the NBA's 25th Anniversary Team in 1971; Russell, Cousy and Havlicek to the 35th Anniversary Team in 1980.

The Garden is also home to The Sports Museum of New England, encompassing all sports in the 6-State area; and a statue commemorating the overtime goal that Orr scored to win the 1970 Cup. There are statues of Celtics legends Red Auerbach and Bill Russell, but they're elsewhere.

Stuff. The Bruins Pro Shop reminds you that, even though the Celtics are by far the more successful team, the Bruins have always been the owners of the Garden (old and new). Anything black and gold takes precedence inside over anything green and white. Nevertheless, both Bruin and Celtic items are available.
Books about the Red Sox are plentiful; the other Boston-area teams, less so. But the Celtics, as one might guess from their storied (in more ways than one) history, have their contributions to good sports literature.

Peter May wrote the definitive story of what was, for a long time, the last Celtic title: The Last Banner: The Story of the 1985-86 Celtics and the NBA's Greatest Team of All Time. That's a title that longtime Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan, who's been watching the Celtics close-up since he got to Boston College half a century ago, publicly agreed with on a 1996 ESPN Classic special designed to debate that question. When the Celtics finally made the title of May's book obsolete, he wrote the definitive story of that championship: Top of the World: The Inside Story of the Boston Celtics' Amazing One-Year Turnaround to Become NBA Champions.

Although a native of Trenton, New Jersey, his BC tenure made Ryan a Bostonian by osmosis. (That is possible. Bostonians are not like Southerners, with a motto of, "A cat can climb into the oven to have her kittens, but that don't make 'em biscuits.") Ryan's books include his recent memoir Scribe: My Life In Sports, which has chapters about the 1970, 1974, 1981 and 1986 Celtics, plus chapters dedicated to Auerbach, Cousy, Heinsohn, Havlicek, Cousy and Bird; a record of the 1974 Celtic title, Celtics Pride: The Rebuilding of Boston's World Championship Basketball Team (1975); and an overall history of the team, published in 1990, Boston Celtics: The History, Legends, and Images of America's Most Celebrated Team. He also collaborated on the autobiographies of the 2 greatest Celtic forwards, Havlicek's Hondo: Celtic Man in Motion and Bird's Drive: The Story of My Life; and with Cousy on a 1988 book about the team, Cousy on the Celtic Mystique

DVD collections have been put together for the Celtics' 1986 and 2008 titles, and in 2004, as part of their Dynasty Series, the NBA released Boston Celtics: The Complete History. (With the late-2000s revival, it is now woefully incomplete.)

They've also released The Essentials: Five All-Time Great Games of the Boston Celtics. These 5 games are: Game 7 of the 1984 East Semifinals against the Knicks (Bird & Co. taking on Bernard King), the 1986 title clincher against the Houston Rockets, Game 7 of the 1988 East Semifinals against the Atlanta Hawks, Game 7 of the 2008 East Semifinals against the Cleveland Cavaliers (the game that essentially meant that LeBron James would have to leave Cleveland to win a title), and the 2008 title clincher against the Lakers (also known as Kobe Bryant's ultimate on-court humiliation -- not to be confused with his in-court humiliation).

The Globe staff put together, and sat for interviews for, Boston's Greatest Sports Stories: Behind the Headlines. I have this DVD, and it's fantastic, even if you don't like the teams involved. It has Ryan, Dan Shaughnessy, Leigh Montville, Bud Collins, Jackie MacMullan and others telling it like it was about the C's, the B's, the Sox, the Pats, and other local sports moments, ranging from the joyous (the 2004 Sox triumph had just happened when it was made) to the sorrowful (the deaths of Len Bias and Reggie Lewis), from the sublime (the steals of Havlicek, Bird and Gerald Henderson, and the great moments of Orr, Carl Yastrzemski and the young Tom Brady) to the ridiculous (Rosie Ruiz, that blackout at the old Garden during the 1988 Stanley Cup Finals).

During the Game. I only saw one sporting event at the old Garden; and, to date, have only seen one at the new Garden. Both were hockey games, Devils vs. Bruins. I have never seen a Celtics game, home or away.

But there was a game I saw at the Meadowlands in 1986, when the Lakers came in as defending NBA Champions, and there was this guy behind the basket that kept standing up and holding up a sign that said "CELTIC POWER" with Bird's Number 33 on it. Did he know the Celtics weren't in the building? Was he trying to send a message to Magic Johnson, with whom Bird essentially alternated titles and MVP awards with in the 1980s?

Am I saying that Celtic fans are dumb? No -- only that that particular Celtic fan was dumb. However, there is an innate insularity among people in "Greater Boston," and whether they take kindly to visitors on a given day is a crapshoot. And, unlike the old Garden, with its cramped quarters, obstructed views, and decades of Celtic arrogance, the new Garden doesn't exactly ooze menace. The new parquet floor has no dead spots. The center court leprechaun's wink is more whimsical than foreboding. There are no rats. Why, even the air-conditioning in the visitors' locker room works just fine. The greatest home-court advantage in the NBA no longer rests atop North Station.

A November 13, 2014 article on DailyRotoHelp ranked the NBA teams' fan bases, and listed the Celtics' fans 6th out of 30. That's mainly based on history, although some of that history is still recent (the 2008 title and the return to the Finals in 2010).

With a season's glory depending very little on the result of this game, the locals may not be inclined to compromise their safety, or yours. If a fan near you wants to engage in civil discussion, by all means, engage back. If not, get a feel for those around you, to see if they're going to be okay, before you start talking to any of them. Most likely, if you behave yourself, so will they. If you simply support your team, and lay off theirs, you should be all right.

Because, let's face it, like any other group of people, there's always a 1 percent (or less) who ruin it for the other 99 percent. The type of people parodied in the Saturday Night Live sketch "The Boston Teens" (featuring Jimmy Fallon before he played a Sox fan in the U.S. version of Fever Pitch) were, in the Pedro Martinez era (1998-2004), too young to remember 1986, let alone 1978, 1975, 1967, or Boston's agonizing close calls of the late 1940s -- or the Bruin titles of the 1970s and the close calls of the 1980s, or the Celtics' down period around the time of the arena changeover, or the Pats' Victor Kiam era before Bill Parcells revived them.

These fans, these Townies, the British would call them "chavs" (and no American city is chavvier than Boston, at least not that I know of), really didn’t deserve the Sox victories of 2004, 2007 or 2013; the Pats victories of 2002, 2004, and 2005; the Celtics title of 2008; or the Bruins title of 2011 and near-title of 2013 -- and yet they’re the first to brag about them.

So if the Celtic fans around you just want to talk, by all means, talk with them. But keep it on a civil level. If they don't want to antagonize you, why antagonize them? These are not the Townies: They're basketball fans first and Celtic fans second. So be a basketball fan first and a Knick (or Net) fan second. It’s worth it.

John Kiley was the long-time organist at the Garden and Fenway Park, and thus the answer to the trivia question, "Who played for the Red Sox, Celtics and Bruins?" But he's gone, now, and so is Johnny Most.

The Celtics hold auditions for singing the National Anthem, rather than having a regular singer. I don't know if Celtic fans have a noted chant or song that they sing during games, unless you count, "Let's go, Celtics!" "Ayo Technology" by 50 Cent (another New Yorker borrowed by the Celtics) is their pregame introduction song.

Red Auerbach insisted that the Celtics would never have cheerleaders for as long as he lived. He kept that promise unto his death on October 28, 2006. Shortly thereafter, Celtic cheerleaders were introduced. So was a live-action mascot, a representation of their center-court symbol, Lucky the Leprechaun. He is the only NBA mascot who shows his actual face, rather than wearing a big foam head over his costume. (Notre Dame's leprechaun mascot also shows his real face.)
UPDATE: On April 8, 2017, Andrew Lynch ranked the NBA mascots for Fox Sports' website. He ranked Lucky dead last, saying, "Dressing a human up as an Irish stereotype is just lazy."

Like the Red Sox, they play "Dirty Water" by the Standells as a postgame victory song, even though the band, and the song's writer Bob Cobb, were from hated Los Angeles.

After the Game. Win or lose, get out of the arena and back to your hotel (or to South Station or the park-and-ride you parked at, if you came up just for the day) as quickly and as quietly as possible. This will require you to be on the streets of Boston, and, unless you can get a taxi (don’t count on it), to take the Green Line in one direction or the other.

You’ll have to take some verbal on the streets and especially on the subway. Respond as little as possible. This is a good time to observe the advice of the great football coach Paul Brown: "When you win, say little; and when you lose, say less."

Chances are, no one will try to pick a fight with you, or damage your Knicks/Nets gear (by spilling a drink on it, or worse). Most Celtics fans, regardless of how much they've had to drink, will not fight. And if they see New York/Brooklyn fans ready to defend each other, they could very well back off entirely.

Perhaps the best way to avoid a confrontation is to stay at your seat for as long as the Garden ushers will let you. This is a tactic used in European and Latin American soccer, with stadium stewards keeping the visiting fans in their section until the entire rest of the stadium is emptied of home supporters, to minimize the chance of hooliganism. This will also allow the crowd to thin out a little and make it easier to leave the building, regardless of the level of aggression.

Another way to avoid any unpleasantness is to find a bar where New Yorkers not only hang out, but are left alone. Easier said than done, right? Well, just as the Riviera Café off Sheridan Square in the West Village and Professor Thom's on 2nd Avenue in the East Village are New Englander-friendly bars in New York, there are places in Boston that welcome New Yorkers and New Jerseyans.

The following establishments were mentioned in a Boston Globe profile during the 2009 World Series: Champions, at the Marriott Copley Place hotel at 110 Huntington Avenue (Green Line to Copley); The Sports Grille, at 132 Canal Street (across from North Station and the Garden, Green Line to North Station); and, right across from Fenway itself, Game On! at 82 Lansdowne Street. I've also heard that Jillian's, across from Fenway at 145 Ipswich Street, takes in Yankee Fans, but I've only seen it rammed with Chowdaheads, so I would advise against it.

The local Giants fan club meets at The Greatest Bar – a name, if not an apt description – at 262 Friend Street off Canal, a block from the Garden. M.J. O'Connor's, at 27 Columbus Avenue at Church Street, in the Back Bay, is the local home of Jets fans. (Green Line to Arlington.) The Kinsale, at 2 Center Plaza at Government Center, is also allegedly a Jet fan bar.

Several noted drinking emporiums are near TD Garden. Perhaps the most famous, and once rated the best sports bar in America by Sports Illustrated, is The Fours, at 166 Canal Street. It’s named for "the Miracle of the Fours": 1970 Stanley Cup Finals, Game 4, overtime (therefore the 4th period), winning goal scored by Number 4, Bobby Orr, while tripped up by Noel Picard, Number 4 of the St. Louis Blues, to clinch the Bruins' 4th Stanley Cup. (Some people like to point out that it was Orr's 4th goal of the Finals, but this is incorrect: It was his 1st.) McGann's isn't exactly New York Tri-State Area-friendly, but it is close to the Garden, at 197 Portland Street.

But the 2 most famous Boston sports-related bars will be unavailable to you: The Eliot Lounge, in the Eliot Hotel at the convenient intersection of Massachusetts & Commonwealth Avenues, closed in 1996; while Daisy Buchanan's, postgame home to many a Boston and visiting athlete, closed last year -- at its original location, anyway: 240A Newbury Street at Fairfield. It's a development issue, and the owner says he's going to try to reopen the bar, named for The Great Gatsby's lost love, elsewhere. Bruins star turned broadcaster Derek Sanderson was one of the original 1969 owners.

If your visit to Boston is during the European soccer season, as we are now in, there are 2 great area bars at which you could watch your favorite club. The bad news is, neither is actually in the city of Boston. The good news is, both are easily accessible via the Red Line.

The Phoenix Landing in Cambridge is the original Boston-area footie pub, and is still the best. Red Line to Central. The Banshee Pub in Dorchester is much more working-class, but if you think you're "hard enough," "come and have a go." (No, I'm not suggesting that anyone will try to fight you: As long as you show respect, you will have that respect returned.) Red Line to JFK/UMass.

Sidelights. Boston is probably America's best sports city, per-capita. Which doesn't make it an easy place to be a fan of a non-New England team.

UPDATE: On February 3, 2017, Thrillist made a list ranking the 30 NFL cities (New York and Los Angeles each having 2 teams), and Boston came in 8th, in the top 1/3rd. They said: 

Have you ever walked through the Public Garden onto the cobblestone streets of Beacon Hill on a crisp fall day, and found a cannoli from Mike's that you didn't even realize you'd purchased hours before, and thought that you were in the greatest city in the world; the Hub, if you will, of the universe? 

And then did you get hit in the head by a Sam Adams bottle thrown by a 320lb liquored-up dude wearing a Marchand jersey over a Welker jersey over a Foulke jersey over a Scalabrine jersey, who'd just gotten so fired up rattling off Deflategate conspiracy theories that he missed the last Red Line train to the Quincy Adams station, and thought that you might not care if this city burned to the ground? Then congratulations, you truly understand the ups and downs of the Boston experience. 
The number of sports-themed sites you might want to check out is large:

* Solomon Court at Cabot Center. This is part of Northeastern University’s athletic complex, and was the site of the Huntington Avenue Grounds, the only other home the Boston Red Sox have ever known, from their founding in 1901 to 1911. When the Sox won the first World Series in 1903, it was clinched here. At roughly the spot where the pitcher’s mound was, there is a statue of Cy Young, who pitched for the Sox in their 1903 and 1904 World Championship seasons. Huntington Avenue at Forsyth Street. Green Line E train to Northeastern.

* Matthews Arena. Opened on April 16, 1910 as the Boston Arena, this is the oldest currently-used multi-purpose athletic building in use in the world. Northeastern still uses it, while BC, BU, Harvard, MIT and Tufts all once played home games here. It was the Bruins' 1st home, from 1924 to 1928, making it the only remaining original arena of one of the NHL's "Original Six" teams. (The Montreal Forum and Maple Leaf Gardens still stand, but neither was their team's original arena.

The Celtics played the occasional home game here from 1946 to 1955, on occasions when there was a scheduling conflict with the Garden. In 1985, the Celtics played an alumni game here, with the opposing teams coached by Red Auerbach (his players wearing the white home jerseys) and Bill Russell (who didn't play, his players wearing the road green).

A gift from NU alumnus George J. Matthews led the school to rename the arena for him. In spite of its age, the building is fronted by a modern archway. 238 St. Botolph Street at Massachusetts Avenue. Green Line E train to Symphony. Symphony Hall, Boston's answer to Carnegie Hall, is a block away at Massachusetts and Huntington Avenues.

* South End Grounds. This is still the most successful baseball location in Boston history. It was home to 3 ballparks, all named the Sound End Grounds. In 1871, the first such park was built there, and was home to the Boston Red Stockings of the first professional baseball league, the National Association. This team featured half the members of the first openly professional team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings (hence the name), and also had a young pitcher named Al Spalding, who would later co-found the team now known as the Chicago Cubs and the sporting-goods empire that still bears his name. Those Boston Red Stockings team won Pennants in 1872, ’73, ’74 and ’75, and its strength (domination, really) was one of the reasons the NA collapsed.

When the National League was founded in 1876, the Red Stockings were a charter member. They won Pennants in 1877 and ’78, and by the time they won the 1883 Pennant, they were popularly known as the “Boston Beaneaters.” No, I'm not making that name up. Building a new park on the site in 1888, they won Pennants in 1891, ’92 and ’93. But on May 15, 1894, in a game against the NL version of the Baltimore Orioles, a fight broke out, and no one noticed that some kids had started a fire in the right-field seats. (Or maybe it was the ashes of a grown man’s cigar. Both have been suggested, probably nobody knew for sure.) It became known as the Great Roxbury Fire, and the story goes that the park and 117 (or 170, or 200) buildings burned to the ground, and 1,900 people were left homeless – but nobody died. (I don’t buy that last part at all.)

A new park was hastily built on the site, while the Beaneaters temporarily played at the home of the city’s team in the 1890 Players’ League. This last South End Grounds hosted the Braves' 1897 and '98 Pennant winners, and lasted until 1914, when, with the team now called the Braves (owner James Gaffney had been a “Brave,” or officer, in New York’s Tammany Hall political organization), decided it was too small for the crowds the team was now attracting. So he moved the team to Fenway, and played their 1914 World Series games there, and opened Braves Field the next season. Overall, 12 Pennants were won here, in a 44-year span -- one more than the Red Sox have won at Fenway Park in 102 seasons.

Parking for Northeastern University is now on the site -- and save your Joni Mitchell jokes. Columbus Avenue at Hammond Street. Orange Line to Ruggles.

* Third Base Saloon. There’s some question as to what was the first “sports bar”: St. Louis Brown Stockings (the team now known as the Cardinals) owner Chris von der Ahe’s place on the grounds of Sportsman’s Park, or Michael T. McGreevy’s establishment that opened just outside the South End Grounds, both in the 1880s. “I call it Third Base because it’s the last place you go before home,” McGreevy would tell people. “Enough said.” McGreevy used that phrase to settle any and all arguments to the point where not only did “Nuf Ced” become his nickname, but he had it (spelled that way) laid in mosaic tile on the bar’s floor.

Third Base Saloon became the headquarters of the Royal Rooters, a Beaneaters’ booster club, founded in 1897. In 1901, when the American League and the team that became the Red Sox was formed, Beaneaters founder-owner Arthur Soden made one of the dumbest mistakes in sports history: Despite competition practically next-door to his team, he raised ticket prices. This infuriated the working-class Irish fan base of the NL club, and they immediately accepted Nuf Ced’s suggestion of switching to the AL outfit. (I wonder if they built their park near Nuf Ced's place for just that reason, to get his customers?)

Nuf Ced and the Rooters stayed with the Sox after their 1912 move to Fenway, until 1920 when Prohibition closed him down. He died in 1930, and to this day, no Boston baseball team has ever won a World Series without him being present at all home games. (Not legitimately, anyway.) A park with a bike trail is now on the site, so the address, 940 Columbus Avenue, is no longer in use. As with the site of South End Grounds, take the Orange Line to Ruggles.

A new version, named McGreevy's 3rd Base Saloon, was founded by Dropkick Murphys member Ken Casey, with "an exact replica of McGreevy’s original barroom." 911 Boylston Street. Green Line B, C or D train to Hynes-Convention Center.

* Site of Braves Field/Nickerson Field. Although Boston University no longer has a football team, it still plays other sports at Nickerson Field, which opened in 1957. Its home stand is the surviving right field pavilion of Braves Field, where the Braves played from 1915 until they left town. In return for being allowed to play their 1914 World Series games at Fenway, the Braves invited the Sox to play their Series games at Braves Field, which seated 40,000, a record until the first Yankee Stadium was built. The Sox played their home Series games there in 1915, '16 and '18.

The Braves themselves only played one World Series here, in 1948, losing to the Indians, who had just beaten the Sox in a one-game Playoff for the AL Pennant at Fenway, negating the closest call there ever was for an all-Boston World Series.

The Braves' top farm team was the Triple-A version of the Milwaukee Brewers, and, with their team in decline after the '48 Pennant and the Sox having the far larger attendance, they gave up the ghost and moved just before the start of the 1953 season, and then in 1966 to Atlanta. But they already had Warren Spahn and Eddie Mathews, and, ironically, if they'd just hung on a little longer, they would have had Hank Aaron (they’d already integrated with Sam Jethroe in 1948, 11 years before the Sox finally caved in to the post-1865 world and added Pumpsie Green). They could have played the 1957 and '58 World Series in Boston instead of Milwaukee. If this had happened, once Ted Williams retired in 1960, interest in the declining Sox would have faded to the point that Tom Yawkey, not a Bostonian, could have gotten frustrated, and the Red Sox could have moved with the Braves staying.

If so, while the 1967, '75, '86, 2004, '07 and '13 World Series would have been played somewhere else, Boston would have gained the 1957, ’58, ’91, ’92, ’95, ’96 and ’99 World Series, and, because of the proximity, there would be a big New York-Boston rivalry in baseball, but it would be Mets-Braves. (Of course, this would have meant the Yankees' main rivals would be the Baltimore Orioles -- who are, after all, the closest AL team to them, closer than the Red Sox.)

Instead, the Braves moved, and BU bought the grounds and converted it into Nickerson Field. The NFL’s Boston Redskins (named for the Braves) played their first season, 1932, at Braves Field, before playing 1933-36 at Fenway and then moving to Washington. The NFL's Boston Bulldogs played there in 1929, before going out of business due to the Depression. The AFL's Boston Patriots played at Nickerson 1960-62, and then at Fenway 1963-68. The former Braves Field ticket office still stands, converted into the BU Police headquarters. Unfortunately, the field is now artificial.

Commonwealth Avenue at Babcock Street and Harry Agganis Way, 3 miles west of Downtown Crossing. (Agganis was a BU quarterback who briefly played for the Red Sox before getting sick and dying at age 24 in 1955.) Green Line B train at Pleasant Street.

* Fenway Park. If you can stomach being around so much Soxness -- or if you're a Mets fan and thus a fellow Yankee-Hater -- the Auld Enemy offers tours of their Back Bay bandbox on the hour between 10:00 AM and 5:00 PM for $17, accessing the warning track (but not the field), the Green Monster, the Monster Seats, the press box, and the Red Sox Hall of Fame. 4 Yawkey Way (formerly Jersey Street) at Brookline Avenue. Green Line B, C or D (not E) to Kenmore.

Across Lansdowne Street/Ted Williams Way is the Cask 'n' Flagon. This legendary bar is definitely not to be visited by a New York/New Jersey fan while a Boston sporting event is in progress, but one to try at other times. And if you look to your right as you come out of the Kenmore station, you'll see a Barnes & Noble that serves as the Boston University bookstore. If you look up, you'll see that the famous CITGO sign so often shown in shots of Fenway is on top of this building.

NCAA basketball tournament games have been held at the TD Garden, the Hartford Civic Center (now the XL Center), the Providence Civic Center (now the Dunkin Donuts Center), the Worcester Centrum (now the DCU Center), and the University of Rhode Island's Keaney Gymnasium in Kingston. But no New England building has ever hosted a Final Four, and none ever will, due to attendance requirements, unless the Patriots put a dome on Gillette Stadium, or the Sox ever do build a New Fenway, with a dome.

No school within the city limits of Boston has ever reached the Final Four. One Massachusetts school has: Holy Cross, in Worcester, winning the National Championship in 1947 with George Kaftan, "the Golden Greek," and reaching the Final Four again in '48 with Bob Cousy (a freshman in '47 and ineligible under the rules of the time).

The University of Massachusetts, with its main campus in Amherst, made the Final Four in 1996, under coach John Calipari, but had to vacate the appearance when later Knick Marcus Camby admitted he'd accepted money and gifts from agents.

The University of Connecticut (UConn, in Storrs, closer to Boston than to Manhattan) has made it 5 times, winning it all in 1999, 2004, 2011 and 2014, and losing in the Semifinal in 2009. The only New Hampshire school to make it is Dartmouth, in Hanover, in 1942 and 1944, losing in the Final both times. The only Rhode Island school to make it is Providence, in 1973 and 1987 (coached by future Big East Commissioner Dave Gavitt and future preening schmo Rick Pitino, respectively). No school from Maine or Vermont has ever reached the Final Four.

* Alumni Stadium. Boston College has played football here since 1957, and the Patriots played their 1969 home games here. Prior to 1957, BC played at several sites, including Fenway and Braves Field.

Attached to the west stand of Alumni Stadium is their basketball arena, the Conte Forum, named for a BC grad, longtime Congressman Silvio Conte, a native of Pittsfield, across the State in the Berkshire Mountains. It was built on the site of BC's original arena, the McHugh Forum, which hosted the 1963 edition of the NCAA's hockey version of the Final Four, now called the Frozen Four.

Across the street is a library named for Conte's friend and fellow Congressman from Massachusetts, Cambridge native and 1977-86 House Speaker Thomas "Tip" O'Neill. Beacon Street at Chestnut Hill Drive. Green Line B train to Boston College.

* Harvard Stadium. The oldest continually-used football stadium in America – the University of Pennsylvania’s Franklin Field is on the oldest continually-used football site – this stadium was built in 1903, and renovations (funded by those wealthy Harvard alums) have kept it in tip-top condition, if not turned it into a modern sports palace.

This stadium is responsible for the legalization of the forward pass in football. When the organization that became the NCAA was founded in 1906, rules changes were demanded to make the game safer. One suggestion was widening the field, but Harvard – at the time, having as much pull as Notre Dame, Michigan and Alabama now do, all rolled into one – insisted that they'd just spent all this money on a new stadium, and didn’t want to alter it to suit a rule change. Much as Notre Dame has sometimes been a tail wagging college football's dog, the Crimson were accommodated, and someone suggested the alternative of legalizing the forward pass, which had occasionally been illegally done.

Today, the stadium is best known as the site of the 1968 Harvard-Yale game, where the two ancient rivals both came into the game undefeated, and a furious late comeback from 29-13 down led to the famous Harvard Crimson (school newspaper) headline "HARVARD BEATS YALE 29-29" and a tie for the Ivy League Championship. (Actor Tommy Lee Jones, then listed as "Tom Jones," started at guard for Harvard in that game. His roommate at Harvard was future Vice President Al Gore.) The Patriots played 1970, their first season in the NFL and last under the name "Boston Patriots," at Harvard Stadium.

Although its mailing address is 65 North Harvard Street in “Allston, MA,” and the University is in Cambridge, 3 1/2 miles northwest of Downtown Crossing, the stadium is actually on the south, Boston side of the Charles River, 4 miles west. Harvard Street at Soldiers Field Road. Unfortunately, it's not that close to public transportation: Your best bet is to take the Red Line to Harvard Square, and walk across the Anderson Memorial Bridge.

A short walk down Soldiers Field Road, at 65 N. Harvard Street, is Jordan Field, the 4,000-seat home of the Harvard men's and women's soccer teams, and of the Boston Breakers -- not a descendant of the USFL team, but the local XI in Women's Professional Soccer. The Breakers previously (2009-11) played at Harvard Stadium. In 2013, the Revolution and the Red Bulls played a U.S. Open Cup game at Jordan Field, the only time the Revs have actually played a competitive match within the city limits of Boston. (The Revs won, 4-2.)

Boston College has won the NCAA Championship in hockey in 1949, 2001, 2008 and 2010; Boston University in 1971, 1972, 1978, 1995 and 2009; Harvard in 1989. Northeastern has never won it.

* Gillette Stadium. The NFL’s New England Patriots and MLS’ New England Revolution have played here since 2002. It was built next-door to the facility known as Schaefer Stadium, Sullivan Stadium and Foxboro Stadium, which was torn down and replaced by the Patriot Place mall.

The Pats played at the old stadium from 1971 to 2001 (their last game, a Playoff in January 2002, being the Snow Bowl or Tuck Game against the Oakland Raiders). It was home to the New England Tea Men of the North American Soccer League and, from 1996 to 2001, of MLS’ Revs. Before the Tea Men, the NASL's Boston Minutemen played there, including Mozambicuan-Portuguese legend Eusebio da Silva Ferreira (like many Portuguese and Brazilian players, usually known by just his first name). Because of this, and because of New England's large Portuguese community, a statue of Eusebio stands at Gillette, possibly puzzling people who don't know soccer and only go for Patriots games. The statue was there at least as far back as 2010, well before his recent death.

The U.S. national soccer team played 10 games at Foxboro Stadium, winning 7. They've now played 12 at Gillette, winning 7. The most recent was a 4-1 loss to Brazil this past September 8. BC played a couple of football games at the old stadium in the early 1980s, thanks to the popularity of quarterback Doug Flutie. Games of the 1994 World Cup and the 1999 Women's World Cup were played at the old stadium, and of the 2003 Women's World Cup at the new one.

The old stadium was basically an oversized version of a high school stadium, complete with aluminum benches for fans, and it was terrible. The new stadium is so much better. It has one problem: The location is awful. It's just off U.S. Route 1, not a freeway such as I-95, and except for Pats' gamedays, when an MBTA commuter rail train will take you right there, the only way to get there without a car is to take the MBTA Forge Park-495 Line from South Station to Walpole, and then get a taxi. That'll cost you $18 each way, as I found out when I went to see the New York Red Bulls play the Revs in June 2010.

60 Washington Street (Route 1) – or "1 Patriot Place," Foxboro. It's actually closer to downtown Providence, Rhode Island than to downtown Boston. Adjoining is the Patriot Place mall.

* Suffolk Downs. Opened in 1935, this is New England's premier horse-racing track. On their last tour, on August 18, 1966, the Beatles played here. However, as horse racing has declined, so has the track, to the point that New England's best known race, the Massachusetts Handicap (or the Mass Cap) hasn't been run since 2008. Previously, it had been won by such legendary horses as Seabiscuit, Whirlaway, Riva Ridge and Cigar.

So, unless you really loved the film Seabiscuit or are a huge Beatlemaniac, I'd say that if you don't have the time to see everything on this list, this is the first item you should cross off. 525 McClellan Highway, at Waldemar Avenue, in the East Boston neighborhood, near Logan Airport. Blue Line to Suffolk Downs station.

* Basketball Hall of Fame. New York and Boston fans can debate which of their cities is "the home of basketball" or "the best basketball city," but the birthplace of basketball cannot be questioned: It is Springfield, Massachusetts, 90 miles west of downtown Boston. Dr. James Naismith invented the sport at the Springfield YMCA on December 21, 1891, because the Y needed an indoor sport for those months when it was too cold to play baseball or football outside.

The Springfield Y became Springfield College, and the "Hoophall," founded in 1959, opened its first building on the SC campus in 1968. It quickly outgrew the facility, and a new one opened on the Connecticut River in 1985. That one, too, was outgrown, and a 3rd one opened adjacent to the 2nd one in 2002.

1000 Hall of Fame Avenue. It might not be a bad idea to see the Nets-Celtics game on Friday night, stay over in Boston, and then on Saturday head west to see the Hoophall before heading south again to go home. Take the Mass Pike/I-90 West to Exit 6, to I-291, then take Exit 1 onto I-91, then take that highway's Exit 6, and the Hoophall will be on your right. If you'd prefer to take a separate trip from New York, it's 138 miles. Follow the directions to Boston: I-95 North to New Haven, then I-91 North, except, in this case, pass Hartford, stay on I-91, and, once in Massachusetts, take Exit 6. Hartford and Springfield are only 25 miles apart.

Springfield is also home to the 7,000-seat MassMutual Center, formerly the Springfield Civic Center, which has hosted NCAA Tournament games, minor-league hockey (including the current Springfield Thunderbirds) and concerts since 1972. The Hartford Whalers played there from 1978 to 1980 while the Hartford Civic Center was being repaired after its roof collapse. Elvis sang there on July 14 and 15, 1975; and July 29, 1976. 1277 Main Street.

* Museum of Fine Arts. This is Boston’s equivalent to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I’m not saying you have to visit, but you should see one major Boston tourist site that doesn’t involve sports, and it’s a 10-minute walk from Fenway and a 5-minute walk from the sites of the Huntington Avenue and South End Grounds. 465 Huntington Avenue at Parker Street. Green Line E train to Museum of Fine Arts station.

* Freedom Trail. Boston’s most familiar tourist trap is actually several, marked by a red brick sidewalk and red paint on streets. Historic sites include Boston’s old and new City Halls, Massachusetts’ old and new State Houses (old: Built 1711, with the State Street subway station somehow built into it; “new”: 1798), the Old North Church (where Paul Revere saw the two lanterns hung) and the Old South Meeting House (where Samuel Adams started the Boston Tea Party and would be horrified at the right-wing bastards using the “Tea Party” name today), Revere’s house, the Boston Tea Party Ship, the U.S.S. Constitution, and the Bunker Hill Monument.

The Trail starts at Boston Common, at Park and Tremont Streets. Green or Red Line to Park Street.

* Cambridge. Home to Harvard and MIT, it is not so much “Boston’s Brooklyn” (that wouldn’t be Brookline, either, but would be South Boston or “Southie” and neighboring Dorchester) as “Boston’s Greenwich Village,” particularly since Harvard Square was the center of Boston’s alternative music scene in the Fifties and Sixties, where performers like Joan Baez and the aforementioned Kingston Trio became stars. Later, it would be rock acts like Aerosmith and the J. Geils Band that would make their names in Cambridge.

The city is also home to the Longfellow House, home of the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. And while Harvard Yard is worth a visit, no, you cannot, as the old saying demonstrating the Boston accent goes, “Pahk yuh cah in Hahvuhd Yahd.” Harvard Yard does not allow motorized vehicles. Centered around Harvard Square at 1400 Massachusetts Avenue. Red Line to Harvard Square.

* John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. Unlike the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, which is a 2-hour drive north of Midtown Manhattan in Hyde Park, closer to Albany, the JFK Library is much more accessible – not just to drivers and non-drivers alike, but to anyone.

Maybe it’s because it’s more interactive, but maybe it’s also because FDR is a figure of black-and-white film and scratchy radio recordings, while JFK is someone whose television images and color films make him more familiar to us, even though he’s been dead for over 50 years now. (Incredibly, he’s now been dead longer than he was alive.)

Sometimes it seems as though his Library is less about his time than it is about our time, and the time beyond. While I love the FDR Library, there’s no doubt in my mind that this is the best Presidential Library or Museum there is. Columbia Point, on the Boston campus of the University of Massachusetts. Red Line to JFK/UMass, plus a free shuttle bus.

Also on the UMass-Boston campus is the Clark Athletic Center, which hosted one of the 2000 Presidential Election's debates between Al Gore and George W. Bush. 100 Morrissey Blvd., 4 blocks from the JFK Library.

Other Massachusetts Presidential sites include the JFK Tour at Harvard, JFK’s birthplace at 83 Beals Street in Brookline (Green Line B train to Babcock Street), those involving John and John Quincy Adams in Quincy (Red Line to Quincy Center – not to “Quincy Adams”), the house at 173 Adams Street in Milton where George H.W. Bush was born (Red Line to Milton, now has a historical marker although the house itself is privately owned and not available for tours), and the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Library and Museum, in Northampton where he was Mayor before becoming the State’s Governor and then President (20 West Street, 100 miles west of Boston, although Greyhound goes there). Closer than Northampton are sites relating to Franklin Pierce in Concord and Hillsboro, New Hampshire.

Salem, home to the witch trials, is to the north: MBTA Commuter Rail Newburyport/Rockport Line out of North Station to Salem. Plymouth, where the Pilgrims landed and set up the Massachusetts Bay Colony, is to the south: MBTA Kingston/Plymouth Line out of South Station to Kingston, then switch to FreedomLink bus.

Lexington & Concord? Lexington: Red Line north to its terminal at Alewife, then switch to the 62 or 76 bus. Concord: MBTA Fitchburg/South Acton Line out of North Station to Concord. Bunker Hill? 93 bus on Washington Street, downtown, to Bunker Hill & Monument Streets, across the river in the Charlestown neighborhood, then 2 blocks down Monument.

The Bull & Finch Pub, which was used for the exterior shot and the basis for the interior shot of Cheers, was at 84 Beacon Street at Brimmer Street, across from Boston Common and near the State House. It's since been bought and turned into an official Cheers, with the upstairs Hampshire House (the basis for the show's Melville's) also part of the establishment. Green Line to Arlington.  A version designed to look more like the one on the show, complete with an "island bar" instead of a "wall bar," is at Faneuil Hall. Congress & Market Streets. Orange or Blue Line to State, since Government Center is closed for renovations.

The Suffolk County Court House, recognizable from David E. Kelley's legal dramas Ally McBeal, The Practice and Boston Legal, is at the Scollay Square/Government Center complex.  The official address is 3 Pemberton Street, at Somerset Street. Again, use State, due to the closure of Government Center.

The Prudential Tower, a.k.a. the Prudential Center, at 749 feet the tallest building in the world outside New York when it opened in 1964, contains a major mall. 800 Boylston Street. The finish line of the Boston Marathon, and the site of the bombing, is at 755 Boylston at Ring Road. Green Line B, C or D to Copley, or E to Prudential.

There are two John Hancock Buildings in Boston. The older one, at 197 Clarendon Street at St. James Avenue, went up in 1947, and is now better known as the Berkeley Building. It is 495 feet high counting a spire that lights up, and is a weather beacon, complete with poem:

Steady blue, clear view.
Flashing blue, clouds due.
Steady red, rain ahead.
Flashing red, snow instead.

If it's flashing red during baseball season, when snow is not expected (except maybe in April), that means that day's Red Sox game has been postponed. When the Sox won the Series * in 2004, '07 and '13, it flashed red and blue.

The glass-facaded newer building, at 200 Clarendon across from the old one, was completed in 1976 and is 790 feet tall, making it not just the tallest in Boston, in Massachusetts, or in New England, but the tallest in North America east of Manhattan. Green Line to Copley

*

Boston may be, per capita, America's best sports city. Certainly, it's the nuttiest. Games played there, in any of their venues, are not for the faint of heart. But it is a truly great experience to see a game there.

Good luck, and remember: Safety first. Despite Boston's reputation of having several fine medical centers, if given a choice, it's better to be an uninjured coward than a hospitalized tough guy.

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