Ted Williams put down his paper and placed his reading glasses on the table.
"That kid will be up here someday, won't he?" inquired The Thumper.
"What kid?" replied Bill Russell.
"Brady. The football guy. Never had a football guy up here, but this kid's comin'. He was way off his game the other day in San Diego -- my hometown, by the way -- but when they needed the big throw, he came through. Gotta love those kind of guys."
It is morning coffee and schmooze time at Olympus Heights, the spectacular retirement community for the greatest of Boston's greats. No condos for these guys. We're talking major mansions. Bel Air stuff.
"Football, huh?" said Russell. "Isn't that something? I gotta tell ya, I never honestly thought one of those football guys would ever get up here. I mean, for a long time the best player the Patriots had was that Hoggy guy, the one with the big thighs. They had to be the only team in the NFL whose all-time player was one of those big ol' linemen. But I was talking to Jim Brown the other day, and he says this kid is like Otto Graham. He just wins the damn game."
"Your buddy Jim Brown," piped up Bobby Orr. "God, he could run, but Brady's lucky he's not playing with him. He'd get killed waiting for Brown to pick up a blitz."
"Aw, Bobby, there you go again," said Larry Bird. "That blitz thing. It just so happens hardly anybody blitzed when Jim Brown played. Yeah, the Giants did, but that's about all."
"Excuuuuuse me," said Orr. "Larry Bird. Mr. Pigskin. Next thing you'll be pontificating about David Beckham going to the Galaxy."
"People always underestimate me," Bird decided.
"You realize most of my time in Boston we never had a team," pointed out Williams. "There was something going on during the war . . ."
"None of those WWII stories or Korea stories or John Glenn stories today," cackled Russell. "Not today. Can't handle it."
"All right, all right," boomed The Thumper, "but I wasn't going there. But if you want to hear about fishing in the Miramichi . . ."
"Ted!" shouted Russell, grinning.
"Good fishin' stories are all right with me," said Bird.
"Me, too," said the ever agreeable Orr.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," said Williams. "G'wan, Larry, tell us again about how you used to look up at Bobby's number 4 during the anthem. I hear that one again, I think I'll puke.
"The point I was making was that when I played in Boston, there was zero competition from football. I had great timing. I left, and then the Patriots came. No point in them coming while I was still around."
"I went down to see 'em at Fenway every once in a while," said Russell. "Remember that great year Jim Nance had in '66? He was our Jim Brown. Real nice guy. Died way too soon."
"I was all over those '85 Pats," said Bird. "You know who people forget? Craig James. Couldna won it without him. The town was really into it during January when they won those three road games. Then they got croaked and everybody went back to see us. And we were the best team ever, of course."
"Really?" said Orr. "Then how come the Bulls won 72 one year and you guys couldn't? What did you win that year? 65? 66?"
"67," Bird declared. "And the only reason we didn't win 70 was that it never occurred to us. If we'd started out tryin' for 70, we'da won 70."
"OK," said Russell. "So we know Brady's coming here someday. You realize, of course, that he is from Northern California, where all the great ones are born and bred. By the way, Larry, my McClymonds High team would have beaten you hicks by 40. And I'd have shut you out!"
"I'd like to meet the guy," said Orr. "Sixth-round pick. I wonder what that's like? I was 12 when the Bruins signed me up, you know."
"#*&$#@*$#!" thundered Williams. "Do I have to hear that one again?"
"I've been watching him since Bledsoe got nailed and Belichick put him in the lineup," said Bird. "I found out I was looking at guys differently when I became an exec. Never heard one bad word about him. Team guy, all the way. By the way, Bledsoe, how sad is that guy? Remember when people were suggesting he'd be up here someday?"
"He had a lotta yards early," said Russell.
"But statues in the Common have more mobility," Williams added.
"What do you think about this week, Russ?" inquired Williams. "Manning and Brady. Pretty good stuff. I even heard someone say it was a football answer to you and Wilt."
"Not the same," grunted Russell. "I guarded him. He guarded me. Brady runs his offense and Manning runs his. I'm a little worried this week. Game's in that damn dome. Oughta blow those places up."
"You're probably right," said Williams. "Although I mighta had a chuckle blasting 'em off the Hefty bags in Minny. Have I ever mentioned that I hit .366 and knocked in 142 in Minny back in '38?"
"I heard about that place," sneered Bird. "What was it? 250 down the line in right?"
"The guy's amazing," said Orr. "He's good, he's clutch, and he always says the right thing. And he doesn't hide away in his apartment, either. You know what I'm talking about, Larry. People didn't see you outside that house in Newton for years. But this guy goes wherever he damn well pleases. Nothing fazes him."
"But why exactly are we talking about this?" said Bird. "What is he? 29? He may be coming up here, but it's not like he's gonna be spendin' Fourth of July with us. He's got a few more titles to win."
"I was just pointing out that there can no longer be any doubt this guy gets the next plot up here," Williams said. "You know me. I like to stay ahead of the curve."
Bob Ryan is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.