The time is 11 o'clock at night. Jay Miller looks out of one of the few windows at the back of the building. A crowd is leaving, another game finished. He can see a traffic jam in the big parking lot in front of him, the elevated expressway behind the parking lot and the Bunker Hill Monument in the distance.
"This is where we used to sneak in," he says. "See the fire escapes on the side of the building? We used to come in from Natick and chip in to buy a ticket for one kid. He'd go in and open the door for the rest of us. We'd be waiting on the fire escapes."
Today is yesterday and yesterday is today. Kids sneak into the building the same ways their fathers did. They come to the same neighborhood, see the same things, do the same things. No change. The Garden still is a collection of doors and stairwells and empty rooms leading to one large and famous room. The best seats in professional sport are here, so close you can hear the players breathe. The worst seats are also here—behind a pole, or underneath an overhang—obstructed views that make the action at one half of the floor only a rumor.
The night still wears a Borsalino hat and a pencil-thin mustache. Thirties romance and '40s adventure and '50s memories. The trains arrive. The trains depart. The rummies stand against the wall. Larry Bird waits inside. Or is it Bill Sharman? Or Eddie Shore? Or Bobby Orr? Or Gene Autry? Or Benny Goodman? Or Sonja Henie? Or Dorothy Hamill? Or Bill Tilden? Or Martina Navratilova?
"You always had to watch out for the guard with the German shepherd," Miller says. "It was just by chance. You never knew when he would come. One night, you won't believe it, a buddy of mine named Joe Atkinson and I were sneaking into a Celtics game and the door got stuck and Joe was half in and half out. The dog got him. Bit him on the arm."
Miller is 23 years old now. He will sneak in no more. He doesn't have to. This past season he has been a rookie forward, a tough guy for the Bruins. He now plays the games while the next generation tests the back doors. He is inside.
"I sit on the bench and look around," Miller says. "Every day I'm here, I look up at those flags and look around this building. I'm here. Bobby Orr sat on this same bench. Milt Schmidt. Lionel Hitchman. All of them. This is where I always wanted to be. And here I am."
This is it? This is it.