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Pots And Pans

Pots & pans: I’ll always hate the Celtics

Our nation needs to come together, but Boston fans are the last people I’ll join hands with

Last month, an old friend named Hilda and her new husband and child came to visit in New Jersey. My wife made waffles and eggs. I cleaned our apartment and staged it for the explorations of CeCi, Hilda’s daughter.

I placed a big empty box on my living room floor, a few toys to pick up and roll, and about eight caps — some sports-related, some not — were on a coffee table.

The box was there to be everything from her castle to her spaceship. The toys stood as small diversions for a toddler’s big imagination. The caps were in case she wanted to play dress-up without much fuss.

After a while, she reached for a blue cap with white letters, her blue eyes sparkling. Andy, CeCi’s father, reacted as if she’d reached for a hornet’s nest — only he was the one about to be stung.

Andy announced that his little girl didn’t want the Yankees cap, and his little girl, trusting her father, moved on without complaint.

“Red Sox fan,” I said, understanding completely.

Andy, 6-feet-3, his hazel eyes pools of enchantment for his little girl, said yes.

Andy had grown up outside of Boston, the son of a firefighter, a son of Red Sox nation, and still turns on 20th-century World Series disappointments and Yankee regular-season torment, even though the BoSox have won three World Series in the 21st century.

None of that really matters in Sox nation, where the clocks are stopped at years where World Series heartbreak struck, 1946 to 1986, Johnny Pesky to Bill Buckner.

I have sports clocks like that. They stop at 1965, 1968 and 1981, years the Celtics beat the Philadelphia 76ers in seven games en route to another NBA championship, which broke my heart.

Consequently, I have hated the Celtics, all of them, hated them and their coaches, hated them and their fans, even if the Celtics were the first NBA team to draft a black player, the first to present an all-black starting five and the first NBA team to have a black head coach.

None of that matters to me. That’s why more than 25 years ago I told my infant daughter, Lauren, her big brown eyes pools of wonder, “We don’t like the Celtics.” Those are the facts of life.

That’s why, 17 or 18 years ago, I refused to get my little boy, Marc, his eyes pools of indifference, a foam Boston Celtics finger. After all, the Celtics have given Philly’s NBA teams and their fans the finger and the blues for so many years.

Even today, I kid my wife about giving my son an ultimatum: Get the Celtics finger and be left in Boston, or don’t get the Celtics finger and return home to Hartford, Connecticut, with me.

My wife, also a native Philadelphian, thinks my whole Celtics trip, long and strange, is silly too.

And it is.

But it’s so delicious. Even after I stopped rooting for the 76ers or any other NBA team, I’ve continued to love rooting against the Celtics. I’ve loved hating the Celtics. And I’ve loved being mocked by those who love the C’s.

During the 1980s, I encountered a young man wearing a Celtics T-shirt, as we both walked across a West Coast college campus where I worked. We bantered across campus, parted with knowing glances and went our separate ways. We’d banged the drum and waved the flag for our respective teams.

A few years later, a co-worker at the Hartford Courant decorated my new office with Celtics regalia, an act of workplace harassment I should have taken up with Human Resources, but I was too busy laughing.

And toward the end of the last NBA regular season, another former Courant colleague sent me (via Facebook) league standings that showed the Celtics in first place.

At the time, still recovering from a serious operation, I didn’t reply. Had I replied, I would have said that for the longest time, the Celtics, mired in mediocrity, had been beneath contempt but had now risen to contemptible again.

Oh, I know, the nation and the world suffer from acute tribalism. Why poison sports with the toxic divisions that plague the rest of the world?

People who make that argument are correct. Getting beyond the trouble the world is in will take finding new ways to come together.

That said, I’m thinking, at least when it comes to sports, Celtics fans are going to be the last people I’ll join hands with and sing Kumbayah.

Who are yours?

A graduate of Hampton University, Jeff Rivers worked for Ebony, HBO and three daily newspapers, winning multiple awards for his columns. Jeff and his wife live in New Jersey and have two children, a son Marc and a daughter Lauren.