Boston is pumped for the Finals
Reporting from Boston -- This was the steady pulse of a city, even on the sleepiest, haziest of holiday weekends, leaning on the pause button before unleashing the Lakers-Celtics whirlwind in the Finals:
Rondo, Rondo, Rondo.
Man-on-the-street analysis, really, is nothing but a snapshot of a situation. After all, what are the odds that the first two people interviewed, one a waiter at Legal Sea Foods and the second a security guard at Copley Square, would declare they weren’t into baseball, one calling it boring?
Is that legal in Boston?
But hold off on the headline: Red Sox Nation Losing Traction. The next person on the sidewalk, clad in Red Sox apparel, could have held court on the rotation for half an hour if she hadn’t been late for the subway.
Or, moving on to basketball, the next five people could be wearing Rajon Rondo jerseys.
Those odds, on the eve of the NBA Finals, aren’t bad in Boston.
“Rondo just fired up everything,” said Collins Leugna, a concierge at a luxury condominium in the Back Bay. “He’s the story in town. He’s the guy in the town now. You can see the jerseys, just flying off the shelf.
“For the last 10 games, he’s been the MVP. He’s unbelievable.”
Leugna, a native of Cameroon, has been here for 14 years, and he thinks the appeal of this year’s Celtics team is the sheer nature of the unexpected, the arrival in the Finals after an injury-marred second half of the season and a fourth-place finish in the East.
“That’s why the city is fired up,” Leugna said. “Suddenly, the Celtics showed up. And Rondo. Boom!”
Rondo also came up in an e-mail exchange with ESPN.com columnist Bill Simmons in regard to the Celtics’ hierarchy in the city of Boston. Simmons, who grew up in Massachusetts and Connecticut, moved to Los Angeles in 2002.
“It’s a Red Sox city obviously — they’ve been around the longest and passed through the most generations,” he wrote to The Times. “The No. 2 spot rotates [depending] on how the other teams are doing. In the ‘70s, it was the Bruins. In the ‘80s, [ Larry] Bird came to prominence and the Celts were actually more popular than anyone until [ Roger] Clemens and the Red Sox took it back in 1986.
“In the mid-90s, [Bill] Parcells made the Pats the No. 2 team and that held through the last decade. I’d say the Celts are No. 3 right now [behind the Sox and Pats] but the 1-2-3 spots are tighter than you’d think. . . . Of all the Boston athletes right now, I think Rondo might have the highest approval rating.”
The Celtics’ Paul Pierce, who was raised in Inglewood, quickly came to realize and appreciate the nature of the Boston sports machine and its fans.
“Just what the Celtics have done over the years in the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s and even now, people really enjoy their sports teams in Boston. It’s like a religion,” Pierce said.
Even if the church moves to another state.
“You may leave the city. You may leave the towns. But you don’t leave the teams,” said Jeff Gayer, who left for Houston five years ago.
Gayer, wearing a Patriots hat, was chatting in the gate area at Logan Airport. He declared respect, not hatred, for Los Angeles and the Lakers.
Gayer spoke about how LeBron James/Cavaliers vs. the Lakers in the Finals would have fallen far short of Lakers vs. Celtics.
"[James] is a really good player but he’s still an individual on a team and he hasn’t won anything,” he said. “He’s not a team player yet — he will be.”
Boston beat the Lakers in the 2008 Finals, and the Lakers defeated Orlando in last year’s championship series. And now, Boston vs. Los Angeles, The Latest Chapter.
Still, the famous invective between the cities and is not quite so one-sided anymore, Simmons noted:
“Sports just matters more in Boston. L.A. is too big and too splintered and has too many transplants and there’s too much to do. With that said, I have been living in L.A. for eight years now and this is the first time I can remember the city feeling like a real sports city.
“There’s real hatred for the Celtics now and I can’t believe how much people hate Pierce (a local guy by the way!). I went to a Dodger game this week and they were lustily booing two Celts fans behind home plate, I was cracking up, it was very un-L.A.
“There are definitely some scars from 2008, and also, I think people care about Kobe more than they did two years ago. Now it’s to the point where they feel like they could be witnessing the start-to-finish career of one of the best five or six players ever, but he still has to beat Boston before that becomes official.”
Times staff writer Baxter Holmes contributed to this report.
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