MEDFORD, Mass. It was, basketball experts agree, a mental error on a par with the attempt by Michigan's Chris Webber to call time out when his team had none remaining in the 1993 NCAA championship game. "Basketball isn't just dribbling and shooting," says East Central Kansas Junior College coach Bill Lambert. "You've got to have your head on straight, with lots of stuff in it."
So the Boston Celtics' took the unusual step of benching a loyal fan, Tony Demario of Medford, Mass., after the bridge toll collector neglected to stop his wife from washing his lucky socks before last night's sixth game of the NBA Championship Series against Los Angeles, which the Celtics lost by twenty-two points.
"It wasn't me who put them in the washer, but it's my responsibility to stop her and I didn't," Demario said as he brushed past reporters assembled outside Anthony P. Loconte Skating Rink in this near-suburb north of Boston, where Demario looked through a lost and found bin in the hopes of finding an equally-dirty pair of socks to wear for Thursday night's seventh game. "I take the blame."
Demario had worn the socks since Tuesday, April 27th, the date of the last game of the Celtics' first-round series against the Miami Heat. "You don't ever want to change the socks you wear when you watch the close-out game of a series," noted Superstition Editor Mark Klimrite of Inside Hoops. "There's a public health and safety exception for underpants, but all you get from old socks is maybe a little light fungus between the toes."
Sports fans frequently adhere to rituals based on magical thinking during professional playoff series, says Brandeis University anthropology professor Lyman Ward. "Baseball and football fans sit in the same seats and eat the same foods," he notes. "Pro wrestling fans plunder the same villages, and mixed martial arts enthusiasts take the same hostages."
Dimario will be banned from sports bars in Suffolk County, where Boston is located, during the seventh game of the series. He will be eligible for reinstatement if the Celtics win their eighteenth championship, or if a groundhog sees its shadow during the 2010 NBA Draft program.