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Monday, January 25, 2010

Me, Max, Lucky and the Trophy

Bolando recounts a work night at the TD Banknorth...

Last week, I attended a work event. But not just any work event. It was a social work event with customers. And when you're with customers, the company spares no dime. Especially when my boss is running the event. My manager likes to make things shine when it comes to presentation. As a former Harvard MBA, he has his connections. This time, his particular connection was a minority owner of the Boston Celtics. So my manager gets to thinking, let's do a customer event -- with the Celtics. We'll rent out one of the suites and dress the night up well. The plan is in motion, and to my surprise, we filled the box with relative ease -- despite the fact that it was MLK day and most attendees had the day off. Using his insider connections, my manager had some special tricks up his sleeve.

The night started with me getting there 45 minutes early because I mis-read the instructions, so I need to find something to do for 45 minutes -- low and behold there is a bar at North Station these days -- wasn't the case 12 years ago when i was taking the train in from Lowell -- perfect -- i say -- I'll sit here -- have a couple and just relax before I go in. When you sit at a bar by yourself, you can people watch pretty well -- or listen to conversations... like the guy and his buddy who down at the other end of the bar and one of them was blasted after attending the Bruins game that afternoon... I mean BLASTED -- (still got served too) or the conversation the bartender was having with some patrons about who she was voting for on Tuesday -- "Coakley" she said... one of the patrons agreed, the other didn't. I later asked her why Coakley and she, being a younger girl in her mid-20's at best, saying because Brown doesn't support abortion for rape victims... which made me think about how dangerous propaganda can be... anyways -- i don't express my political position, only asking her questions -- and telling her that I don't see how someone's abortion position has much to do with what i think are the important issues -- like jobs, economy, etc. Then a guy steps up orders himself a drink -- and we chat briefly -- seems like a sports fan -- actually is a sports fan based on the stuff he knew.... and we get to talking about the Sunday football games -- Dallas getting whacked and San Diego choking -- and I say -- "You wonder if Phillips and Turner could be in trouble after that -- makes you appreciate that despite how bad the Pats played..." and before I can finish my point on the stability of Belicheck, he interrupts and says "Well maybe they ought to get rid of him..."

Just when I thought I was going to have an intelligent conversation with another sports fan, I realize I'm dealing with an idiot. That's ok -- time to go to the Executive Offices of the TD Garden and get this thing going.

In order to expense this event, two things were important -- First -- we needed customers to attend -- done -- we had 16 customers coming. Second -- we need to hold a work meeting of some capacity. After all, while we are being social, and schmoozing, business is business. So we need a place to host the meeting, which will be a brief presentation done by some VP out of Headquarters in California who's going to powerpoint his way through a 30 minute discussion. The destination for this meeting was the Celtics' "Owner's Room" -- which sounded so enticing. I mean -- wow -- the owners room. What will this place be like? Mahogany furniture? Leather chairs with ottomans by a fire place with memorabilia throughout the room? This sounded cool.

Well -- picture a war room -- like the ones you see on Draft Day in the NFL or any other major sport. There is a bar with some flat screen TVs, a bathroom, and then a bunch of tables where you could have a 45's tournament or something. And that was pretty much it - no fireplace -- no trophy case -- no mahogany - nothing that really stood out to warrant being called the "Owner's Room" -- Anyways -- it's ok -- I'm here to be social and watch a C's game -- and maybe meet a legend? What? a legend? Yeah -- one of the Celtic greats -- and rumor had it that it'd be JoJo White -- which didn't mean much to me because he was ahead of my time, and was essentially part of those often forgotten championship Celtics teams that played after Russell and before Bird. Still though -- White's resume is impressive -- 7 straight All-Star teams -- NBA Finals MVP -- played 82 games in 5 straight seasons in the 70's and in the infamous triple overtime Championship game vs. the Phoenix Suns in 1976, JoJo White played in 60 of a possible 63 minutes of the game -- that's the stuff of Celtics legends...

Before we're going to meet a legend, there is something else we're going to do -- go down courtside -- and get a picture on the parquet. We make our way down courtside -- there is 30 minutes before tip-off and the only Celtic out there is Rasheed shooting. Some of the Mavericks were out there -- like Nowitzki, etc. The interesting thing about being courtside is you start to get a sense of the size of these people -- the 6'5" guys are on the small side. Nevertheless, we're standing courtside behind the scorer's table. The most awkward part of this is here we are standing there while people are filing into their seats -- and we're standing in front of them -- all 25 of us -- awkward and I couldn't help but think that I'm one of these jerks standing in their view as they were hoping to savor every moment of being 5 rows behind the scorer's table.

Perhaps one of the more interesting parts of getting down courtside, is we're being escorted by Celtics personnel and our tour takes us through the bowels of the TD Garden. And it looks exactly as you'd expect it to look -- like the back of a warehouse with a bunch of crates, and equipment used to host a TD Garden event. There were these nooks and crannies in the back stage of the Garden -- places where Mick, Keith and a roadie might step into to blow a few lines before they hit the stage. Places where Eddie Vedder might take a groupie and have his way with her. It was a moment of "If these walls could talk"

Back to being courtside -- so just when I thought the picture wasn't going to happen -- and the picture moment has me imagining shaking hands with JoJo on the Leprechaun - just me and JoJo. The picture wasn't a big deal -- I'm not the type that has these hanging in my office or framed on my desk -- but wait -- we ARE going to take a picture -- ok -- my tough guy coolness is loosening up -- hell -- how many times am I going to be on the parquet, right? Only - no JoJo, no individual picture... they're taking all of us -- all 25 of us for a group shot on the Leprechaun. You know how some people like to stand front and center in pictures -- and in group shots -- they like to be right in the thick of it. Like a team captain on some team picture. I'm not that guy -- besides -- now that this is 25 pefect strangers in a picture on the parquet -- my interest in a picture is less appealing. I mean if this were my fantasy football league brethren which has people I've known for 25 years, then I might take this picture thing more seriously. Anyways, I saunter to the back shuffling around finding a spot in the back of the pack where I can stick my head over the shoulder of some zealous colleague who yearns to be in the front. Needless to say, I'm in the back - as things would have it -- i'm in the middle.

I feel like all eyes are on us -- from "real" fans who look at us as a bunch of empty corporate suits. And while I was accompanied by MANY empty suits -- one woman in her 40's told us she had never been to a basketball game -- I am a real fan -- I remember Moses Malone, Andrew Toney. I remember the 1984 Celtics as my favorite championship team -- I remember watching Game 5 with my dad in 1984 who told me before the game there was NO WAY the Celtics were going to lose that game. I remember when Kevin Bateman called me on the day the news that Len Bias died. I remember playing cards with DJ, Mark Shwetz, and Bill Tobin the night the news broke that Reggie Lewis died. I knew why Dennis Johnson dribbled the ball the number of times he did at the foul line. Remember when John Havlicheck went to the Lawrence Boys Club? I do.

But tonight -- I'm an empty suit. I just stood in front of these fans for 20 minutes courtside, and now I'm taking a picture center court, dressed in my slacks and button down with 25 other corporate goons. Right now, I suck.

Time to go to the suites -- Not sure if you've been to one of these -- but I have before -- this particular one was bigger though. Called the "Executive View" -- could fit about 30-35 people -- I mean there were about 6-7 card-tables all with chairs -- along with a big long couch over-looking the balcony. And of course -- corporate event -- so open bar and plenty of food. And this is where the schmoozing continues -- the game rolls along and I talk to most customers -- "so where you from" -- so "what's your role at EMC?" -- "how's things in the IT world?" -- blah, blah blah-biddy-blah...

The game cruises along -- basketball games don't take that long -- and before I know it -- it's halftime. And out of nowhere in the back by the door appears Cedric Maxwell -- dressed in his suit. Doing a cameo. No JoJo -- but that's OK -- Maxwell -- 1984 -- Game 7 -- as well as the rest of the early 80's. Last time I saw Maxwell was after a Celtics game at the Harp -- and he was doing an appearance -- i'm wasn't driving home that night so i have plenty in me -- enough in me that I wait my turn -- get an autograph -- and I remember me going straight up to him -- telling him "I remember Game 7." and that's all I kept saying -- and he looked at me like was some obnoxious fan who had a few too many -- I thought I was paying my respects by saying that -- he dropped 24 on the Lakers in Game 7 -- after telling his teammates to "hang onto his coat tails" -- the guy before me was busting his balls about when he said Kevin Garnett was better than Larry Bird. Here I am telling "I remember Game 7" you were awesome -- 1984 was my favorite team -- more than the 1986 team... and he's looking at me like "get the f*%$ away from me you idiot." But hey - at least I'm a real fan that night.

Back to the suite -- so there he is -- Cedric Maxwell -- a fan favorite of the Celtics in the 80's -- And while I may have been the youngest attendee of the 25 people in our box, I had to explain to multiple people who he was -- like my manager -- who was running the event and wanted it to be a good one -- I tell him -- "that's Cedric Maxwell" -- he says "Is that a good one to get?" "Yes - that's a good one to get." And so the show begins, Maxwell is doing his thing -- and people are warming up to him -- all at half time. And then the pictures start coming -- one by one -- people line up to have their picture taken with Maxwell -- It wasn't required but it was interesting to watch as virtually everyone lined up -- like 12 year olds at the Methuen Mall when Bruins, Peter McNabb and Al Secord, used to come to sign autographs -- only I'm not 12 and neither is anyone else in the box -- so what is the hub-bub -- 5 minutes ago -- I had to tell you who he was.

I don't take a picture this time. I stand in the shadows and let the masses do their thing. Maybe I should have to tow the company line -- but given the way people were fawning over him -- there was no need to set a good example. It's funny too -- because I wonder how the woman in her mid-late 40's -- a senior VP at a Fortune 100 company would have felt if I told her the "bacon and eggs" Maxwell story.

Third quarter is about to start and Max has to say his goodbyes -- in all -- it was a nice touch -- remember we're schmoozing tonight. The game continues and the Celtics are losing grip -- only it's ok -- win/loss -- it was a successful night for the New England sales team and this event. But hold on -- what's this shiny gold looking thing that I saw Kevin Garnett hold up with one hand in 2008. The trophy. The 2008 World Championship Trophy is on full display in the box. They took it out of the case and placed it on the bar for all to see, touch, hold, look at, and of course take a picture. Which they did. In the beginning people didn't want to touch, until one VP from Staples basically said "Screw that" and grabbed the thing with two hands -- and said "Cheese" for the camera... He knew the significance of that trophy. And so it goes on again. The cameras flashing the poses, etc. I must say, I was surprised at the shape of the trophy. It had more dents in it than Dale Earnhart Jr's car on lap 410 of the Daytona 500. Fingerprints were everywhere -- it was a mess. But that's ok -- it's the trophy. And again -- my tough guy coolness thawed out a little -- and I had to get close to it -- after my boss prodded me on not taking a picture with Maxwell -- he's standing there again and says -- you need to take a picture this time -- to which I said -- "Yeah." so I did -- I stood there with my palm on the top of the ball portion of the trophy saying "17".

The trophy stayed the rest of the night, and about mid-way through the 4th quarter, one more guest arrived -- Lucky the Leprechaun, Version 2. Most people know the most recent Lucky is new to the job after the C's fired the previous guy who was in the job for a while. Lucky is all of 14 years old -- I mean I don't even think he's shaving yet. Which may explain how he's capable of doing his Mitch Gaylord with a basketball routine. Lucky is dressed in his costume and he's socializing for a while -- in fact for the rest of the game. I didn't talk with him, but I just remember he was personable to other attendees.

In the end, the C's lost to the Mavs by 11 -- having given up the game in the 3rd quarter. Jason Kidd showed Rondo that he's not dead yet as he posted 17 assists, while Dirk Nowitzki dropped 34 points.

Not quite sure how I felt about the night -- I know didn't want to go at all -- but I was obligated to attend. And I'm torn between being fortunate to go to such an event to feeling like the kid who's named team captain because his dad is the coach of the team. Like something didn't sit right with me.

My friend used to have season tickets to the Bruins -- he had 2 of them -- they were the very last row of the TD Garden... I mean you can stand the whole game because no one was behind you. I went to a few games with him at those seats... For some reason, I feel like I belong in those seats - in the nosebleeds, with an old friend -- rather than in this box. They were his seats, with his money that he earned and paid for. I guess I felt more comfortable being with him in those seats than rubbing elbows with #31 and Trophy 17.

1 comment:

  1. I LOVE those seats as well!!! The last row of the Fleet/Garden etc., are some of the most underrated seats in the building. You have great prespective Mr. Bolando. And it sounds like your friend is a hell of a guy with an equally compelling perspective!