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Too bad these comments weren’t banned in Boston

BOSTON -- “You’re a moron.”

Of the thousands of words that have filled my e-mail inbox in the last two days, those were three of the nicest.

“I hope to God you are punished in some way, shape or form.”

Oh, I’ve been punished, all right.

In the wake of Friday’s column accusing the Boston Celtics’ Paul Pierce of milking his knee injury like a professional wrestler, I’ve been subjected to hundreds of e-mails whose cheap personal attacks would be an insult to professional wrestling.

“You disgust me. You are a whore.”

Virtually all the vile missives were from angry Celtics fans, who weren’t content to enjoy their team’s opening victory in the NBA Finals against the Lakers.

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They felt as if someone were threatening their hero, so they rushed to his defense. They didn’t agree with the message, so they attacked the messenger.

For every smart e-mail challenging my opinion, there was an angry e-mail ripping me personally.

“Die, you lily-livered ass.”

Are we in Boston or Deadwood?

“I wonder how many dried-up spit stains you’ve got on that cheap tie of yours, you stuttering, stammering slob.”

C’mon, I don’t wear cheap ties.

In my dozen years as a columnist here, I have written many critical articles about Los Angeles teams, and received loads of critical e-mails, so many that I sometimes wondered whether I had actually changed my name to Kobe Hater or Trojan Boy.

But never have these e-mails been so personal. Never have they been so nasty.

Southern Californians may sometimes have disliked my words, but they’ve never threatened my health.

“You better have extra security with you Sunday because Celtic fans who recognize you from ESPN will want to take a slap at you, and if I were there, I know I would.”

Of all the humanity-questioning notes, the most disturbing was apparent from a subject line that contained three words that could not be printed in this newspaper.

Then the writer really got mad.

“I hope you . . . get cancer and die,” he wrote. “Why don’t you just die or quit, you ugly fat (bleep). I’m going to find out where (a relative) is buried and me and my buddies are gonna dig (the) skeleton up.”

At first, I was angry that someone could react with such hate to a story of such frivolity. I don’t write about wars, I write about games.

I was angry, then curious.

Where does this come from? Is this a New England thing? Is it an anti-Lakers thing?

Is the romantic Lakers-Celtics rivalry actually a product of this dark underbelly?

Against all common sense, I tracked down the guy who wrote me the e-mail about cancer and skeletons.

I can’t believe he agreed to speak to me, but he e-mailed his phone number immediately.

His name is John Marsinelli. He is 31-year-old baker from Cambridge.

He said for nine months of the year, the Celtics are his life.

“There’s not much else to do around here during that time, either it’s too cold or to hot,” he said.

He awakens every morning at 4:30, arrives at his supermarket bakery by 6, and returns to his apartment and the Celtics.

For the home games, he has a balcony season ticket. For the road games, he has a TV and an empty family room.

“I can’t watch the games with anyone else,” he said. “From pregame to postgame, I watch by myself. I scream at the TV. I throw my hat down.”

And then you send horrible e-mails to guys like me?

“I was just venting,” he said. “I don’t know you personally, I was aggravated about a lot of other stuff in my life, I just got mad.”

I wanted him to apologize.

I stretched out the phone conversation waiting for an apology.

He would not.

It was as if, somewhere in his Celtics soul, he could not.

He hung up the phone, then sent me another e-mail with a pleasant request to mail him two copies of this story to his home address.

Nothing personal. Just Celtics. Very scary.

For fairness’ sake, I contacted a Celtics fan who had sent me an e-mail that was respectful in its disagreement.

His name is Josh Stevens, he’s a 24-year-old computer worker from the Boston area, and he said he’s not surprised by the wrath.

“I’ve heard Celtic stories for years from my father and my grandfather, now it’s my generation’s turn to experience the Celtic pride,” he said. “For people my age, it’s a Celtic resurgence, it’s our passion.”

In an age when an e-mail has no conscience and anonymity knows no fear, that passion can quickly get personal.

In doing so, both its strength and credibility are diminished.

For years, New England lived on an endearing reputation of being the most hard-luck sports region in the country.

With all the recent winning here, the place is no longer endearing, just hard.

Even a moron can figure that out.

--

Bill Plaschke can be reached at bill.plaschke@latimes.com. To read previous columns by Plaschke, go to latimes.com/plaschke.


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