Boys Will Be Boys

February 14, 2011

Couple of memories…

When I was 12 and my brother, Luke, was 10, Dad was the coach of the Maine Mariners, the minor league affiliate of the Boston Bruins. Once the Bruins’ season ended, they’d be looking for a new coach, and Dad really wanted that job. The Bruins were playing the Canadiens in the playoffs, and Dad was going to Montreal to watch the games. As it happened, April school vacation coincided with the playoffs. Someone (Mom?) had a great idea–Luke and I should join him. Make it a road trip! We’d drive to Montreal, just the Milbury boys.

So we set off from Portland, heading for Montreal in the “way back” of our standard-issue Oldsmobile station wagon. We had flipped the middle seats down, creating one massive way-back area. Being the 1980s, no one cared about child safety. Two loose children floating around the cabin of the station wagon, bouncing with every bump, flopping with every sharp turn—it was glorious. Luke and I played, fought, and argued in the way back. At some point, probably when Dad needed a break from the nonsense drifting up from behind him, we pulled over at a rest stop. Luke and I were each allowed one can of Coke, which had to last the rest of the trip.

We got back into the station wagon and hit the road again. Luke decided to show off.

“I can put all of my Coke in my cheeks without swallowing it.”

“No you can’t,” I said.

Never tell Luke he can’t do something, because he will immediately try to do it. He popped the top and poured Coke into his mouth. It wasn’t quite the entire can, but it was close. His cheeks bulged with soda. I can only imagine what the fizz was like in his nose. He couldn’t smile but I could see triumph in his eyes.

What could I do but pop his cheeks? I squished his face between my palms and sent soda foam spraying across the way back.

“That’s my whole can!” Luke cried. “Now I have nothing to drink. I’m sooo thirsty!”

This may have been the time that Dad started having second thoughts about the boys’ road trip. Or maybe it was when we arrived at the Chateau Champlain in Montreal. We stepped out of the car, and walked up the steps to the hotel. We could see all the Bruins executives through the tall glass walls of the hotel lobby. The General Manager, the President, a bunch of other guys in suits… everyone who had a say in the hiring of the next coach of the Boston Bruins.

“OK,” said Dad sternly. He really did want that job. “Please try to behave for a few moments. I’d like to make a good impression here.”

And with that he stepped into the revolving doors of the hotel. These were the kind of revolving doors that were big enough for one person at a time. Luke must have been anxious, though, because instead of waiting for the next compartment, he squeezed in with Dad. Well, I didn’t want to be left out, so I pushed right in behind Luke. That meant three people were suddenly crammed into a place meant for one. To complicate things, I was wearing a backpack. The door, which only revolved one way, caught on my bag. We were stuck. Dad kept pushing but my backpack held. We couldn’t go forward and we couldn’t go back.

“What the hell?!?” he yelled as he continued to push in vain.

“I don’t know!”was all I could think to say. My face was squished up against my brother. The Bruins executives watched us. We were fish in a bowl. So much for first impressions.

You’ll be happy to hear that he still got the job.

And so then later that year we moved back to Boston. There were a lot of cool things about Dad being the coach of the Bruins. One of the most underrated things was going to the Boston Garden whenever we wanted and running around the arena. Really, no one cared. We could run around the seats, out onto the parquet floor, or even up into the rafters. Yup, the rafters. Again, not so much with the child safety.

One morning around 11:00 AM, I was at the Garden with Dad and Luke. The Celtics were playing a playoff game that night. The parquet floor was set up and the place was pretty much empty, so Dad went and found a basketball, and we ran out onto the court to shoot hoops. Pretty neat to play on that floor. If you dribbled around enough you could find the dead spots.

So the three of us were in a tight game of HORSE, when suddenly down the far end of the court here comes, yup, Larry Bird. He ran out in his warm-up gear with a ball under his arm, and proceeded to stand at the free throw line and shoot free throws. Over and over again, just free throws. Dad decided to go over and ask him if he was interested in a game of two-on-two.

Larry said, “I’d love to, but I’ve got to practice for the game tonight.”

Probably a good idea, since playing a two-on-two game against my dad would have definitely left him with a twisted ankle or worse. We finally left about an hour later, and Bird was still there, shooting nothing but free throw after free throw, seven hours before his game that night.

Boys will be boys.

7 Responses to “Boys Will Be Boys”

  1. ebbillings says:

    Wow, what cool way to spend your childhood. I always wonder what its like for the children of major league sports teams.

  2. bluedelakanluran says:

    Too bad people didn't take as much pictures back then as they do now or the three of you in that revolving door would have been classic.

  3. paypar says:

    You described the revolving door ah..'situation' so well, I was laughing out loud! Could have been that damnyouautocorrect website warmed me up, but honestly, it was something I've done before as an adult actually…hmm…ok not as funny anymore. 🙂

  4. Seriously–the revolving door scene had me truly laughing out loud, too.
    What priceless memories.
    And I feel totally naive, because I'm still mortified by the dead spots–aren't they supposed to fix them??

    • Owen says:

      They are supposed to fix them, but the original Boston Garden was just an old building, and they didn't bother. And of course, the Celtics knew where the dead spots were, but the visiting team wasn't used to it. A very clever home court advantage. I guarantee Larry Bird knew every imperfection in that floor!

  5. The Tailor says:

    Ah, the old Garden dead spots.
    Nice piece, Owen.

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