Glen Macnow: Sixers – Celtics, Boston – Philly rivalry finally back in earnest

Glen Macnow, Sixers, Celtics, Philly, Boston, rivalry

All those great memories remain fresh. Andrew Toney – the Boston Strangler – launching daggers, accentuated by broadcaster Steve Fredericks’ trademark, “Bang!” The 1982 Game 7 road win as fans at the Garden chanted, “Beat LA.”Doctor J wind-milling over Larry Bird. Or choking Larry Bird.

The bad memories, too. “Havlicek stole the ball.” The blown 3-to-1 series lead in 1981. Tommy Heinsohn’s biased TV commentary. Red Auerbach’s infuriating victory cigars.

Sixers vs. Celtics was once a rivalry as nasty as a Luke Jackson elbow to the jaw. From Wilt vs. Russell, to Moses vs. Parrish, to all of us vs. Danny Ainge the player. Only Eagles vs. Cowboys was more intense from a Philly fan point of view – and that was close.

And then, well, let’s be honest, it stagnated. For nearly two decades, one franchise would rise as the other fell. Yeah, they played a seven-game series in 2012, but that was a mediocre Celtics team against a 76ers franchise that soon went into full tank mode.

And now, the rivalry is back. For Sixers fans over 40, it’s a reawakening. I’m not sure that anyone among these current Celtics is as eminently unlikable as M.L. Carr, but we’ll find someone in the next week. My money is on Marcus Smart. He may not be as thuggish as most of the Miami Heat, but he’ll aim to intimidate the young Sixers with an extra push and shove.

For the Process Generation, this Boston team – among many in the NBA – represents the high-handedness the rest of the league showed the Sixers in recent times. Younger fans here have a chip on their shoulder against everyone, from the Commissioner, to rookie Jayson Tatum (taken two picks after Markelle Fultz) to Danny Ainge the GM.

What we all have in common is a disdain for Boston fans. Yes, as a Philadelphian weary of hearing about Snowballs at Santa, I concede the recklessness of branding an entire fan base over the acts of a few. But they don’t call them Massholes for nothing.

For the rest of the world, Boston’s arrogant fans are personified by Bill Simmons, who evolved from an everyman sports blogger to a media mogul (good for him) who uses his national stage to whine about every ref’s call that goes against his team. Or by that smug Sign Kid who showed up at the last Pats’ Super Bowl celebration with a poster reading, “15 years, 10 parades.” 

Okay, we haven’t had 10 parades over that time. We’ve had two – the 2008 Phillies and the 2017 Eagles. That Super Bowl celebration, if case the Chowder Heads have forgotten, came against Bill Belichick and the Patriots. Oh, and I savored my own victory cigar after that one, Mr. Auerbach.

Yeah, beating your enemy makes it all the sweeter. A Sixers takedown of the Celtics, at this time in the young franchise’s development, would be like finding a hundred bucks on the sidewalk.

I’ll predict the Sixers in seven – clinching it right in front of 18,624 gape-jawed Boston fans. But regardless of how it turns out, the slumbering rivalry has awakened. And this portends to be fun for seasons to come.

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