By Phineas J. Stone
Dennis Harrison was just a regular guy up to Saturday evening, and then he pulled the fire alarm to underground fame.
Harrison, for those who don’t know, is the Eastie guy who came by some information that the Pittsburgh Steelers were staying in Eastie at the airport hotel. Then he hatched a plan with his friends over late night cocktails, went to that hotel and pulled the fire alarm at 3 a.m. – waking up everyone in the hotel, including Steelers players and coaches.
Though reprehensible, and a shock to those who live in the middle part of the country, this is the obnoxious things we do as sports fans around here. We pull fire alarms at visiting team’s hotels, we leave the ice bumpy on your side, and we serve your team warm, tepid water on the bench while we get cold, refreshing water.
It’s the New England home field advantage.
Getting the disclaimer out of the way, it isn’t cool to pull a fire alarm as a trick. Harrison’s act was a drunken, stupid act. But any sports fan around here threw their fist in the air and rejoiced at yet another low and petty move from a fan base hated for such things all over the country.
We’re jerks and we revel in it.
Harrison fits in with so many stories of Boston sports teams – little things that annoy, are never acknowledged, but give us the same kind of edge that we have over a tourist when trying to maneuver the streets of our city.
Tough luck. You’re in Boston. That’s what we say.
Up on Route 1, outside the City, a restaurant placard proudly proclaimed, “Free wings for anyone named Dennis Harrison.” We all feel that way, despite the nature of the silly act. It was the ultimate act by a Boston fan.
In the Eastie courtroom where Harrison was arraigned, the judge scowled at him on Monday. But inside the judge’s chambers hangs a giant Patriots banner.
Do you think he left the courtroom and had a hearty chuckle in his chambers? I do.
I have it on good information that the plan was hatched out at a little Chinese joint in Eastie amongst several friends who regularly gather there. Like most things in Boston neighborhoods, one guy knew a guy who had a friend who works at the airport. After about three drinks, they began talking about that “guy who has a friend.” The guy had shared with a friend that he was working the tarmac when the Steelers arrived into Boston for the big game. That guy learned from another guy, a guy who used to be his mother’s neighbor, that they were taking the baggage to the airport Hilton.
Hmmmm, they all thought. That wasn’t too far away from the little Chinese food haunt.
The next thing you know, they’re headed over in the car to the Hilton.
The best part – the part everyone from outside of Boston doesn’t get – is the patented move by Harrison’s friends to bail and leave him high and dry after he pulled the alarm. This is such a Boston thing – bailing on a friend who did something stupid that you were a part of.
“I’m drunk; I’m stupid. I’m a Pats fan,” he allegedly told police on his capture.
We’re with you, Dennis.
The fact is, Harrison isn’t alone in his memorialization into the Boston sports jerk Hall of Fame.
Rumors abounded for years that the Celtics’ Red Auerbach would have the old Garden maintenance men jack up the heat to unfathomable temperatures in the opposing team’s locker room. He never admitted it, and even Larry Bird wouldn’t say it happened – though I have heard people tell me that when asked about it, he smirked.
We all remember the bumpy and difficult parquet floor on the old Garden, where the Celtics players had memorized all the “dead spots” and loose seams that would cause the ball to fly in different directions. Magic Johnson of the LA Lakers used to constantly complain about the floor. And while the Celtics knew where those spots were, opposing teams didn’t. We could have easily fixed that floor, but we never did.
The Zamboni driver for the Bruins was always rumored to conveniently “miss” key spots on the opposing team’s offensive side in front of the Bruins’ goal when making his rounds to smooth out the ice between periods. That was especially true, I’m told, when the B’s played the Canadiens of Montreal. But really, it is hard to see all the way down to the ice from a perch on the Zamboni, isn’t it?
The Patriots have always had a cloud over them when it comes to opposing teams and their fans.
They’re said to serve warm water to the opposing team in the coolers provided at Gillette, while the Patriots get ice cold water.
Finally, you have Mark Henderson, who will now stand side by side with Dennis Harrison.
Henderson is the plow driver who cleared off a nice little space, illegally, for the Patriots’ kicker to set up on a snowy field in December 1982. No one told him to do it; he just went out and acted on his own out of a fan’s compulsion. That nice, clear space amongst the piles of snow gave the Patriots a 3-0 win over the surging Dolphins as the clock ran out in the last few seconds.
There were complaints and protests.
But no one paid attention.
It’s Boston. Get used to it.
Sometimes “things” happen here.