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On Second Thought

Arena situation is disquieting

By Kevin Paul Dupont
Globe Staff / May 2, 2010

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Such a clatter. Such a cacophony. Such utter nonsense.

For those who forgot — and I must admit that I did — a visit to the Garden wasn’t always SO NOISY!

How I wish I could be next to you right now, while you read your morning Globe, and I could just shout and scream, maybe load up some gargantuan hand-held whammy-kablammy blaster and send T-shirts rocketing around your family room or toss your frenzied kids hot, stuffed burritos, oozing with cheese and mystery meat.

Oh, you could keep reading. Of course. In fact, I’d be thrilled if you read the Pro Hockey Notes while I carried on with my value-added part of your reading experience.

Anyway, keeping in the spirit of things, I would not arrive at your doorstep alone with this revolutionary concept of Globe “in-house’’ entertainment. No way. I promise to show up with no fewer than a half-dozen Globe Delivery Babes, and they would wash your car, take your dog for a walk, mow your lawn, paint your house, and whip up a stack of chocolate-chip pancakes. OK, if you insist, they’ll toss them to your kids.

When does entertainment stop being entertaining? For me, at my age, it’s mostly about the decibels, when the general level of DISCOURSE! has me wondering whether the Jeremy Jacobs souvenir stands sell earplugs. No doubt they would be $9.95 (per ear), either in Bruins black-and-gold or Celtic green. But, hey, what’s a few cents when it comes to preserving a sense and maybe a modicum of sanity?

Once was the time, prior to puck drop on Causeway Street, that public-address announcer Frank Fallon asked everyone to stand while organist John Kiley played the national anthem. The full house of 13,909 promptly stood, Kiley played, and most of the crowd sang along, always with hats respectfully pulled off and usually with hands over hearts. Voices in the crowd added appropriate gusto when it came to “the bombs BURST-ING in air . . .’’

Short, simple, and in retrospect, quite sweet, delightfully primitive by today’s standards. Our needs and expectations were modest, our eardrums intact.

Other than the game, that was about the extent of “arena entertainment’’ at the old Garden, except for when a period ended and Kiley filled the break with more of his mellifluous organ music. The Beatles songbook (“Michelle,’’ “Yesterday’’) was a JK fave. The thought of John Kiley with a whammy-kablammy blaster . . . scary.

When the period ended, the house lights were dimmed, and get this, people talked with one another. Yep, true. They didn’t text. They didn’t check messages or search for closing quotes on Wall Street (we had newspapers for that). A game at the Garden, especially at intermission, had a theater quality to it. In its own way, it borrowed from the Colonial and Shubert experiences. I know you’re laughing; I am too, but it’s true.

Out-of-town scores weren’t streamed to anyone’s hand-held. They were posted on the out-of-town scoreboard, for the love of Gordie Howe and Pete Stemkowski. Did anyone really love the Polish Prince? That’s something you might have brought up to the guy next to you, and he no doubt would have added his two cents, and suddenly an idle thought about “Stemmah’’ would have turned into a few minutes of hockey talk and then, almost magically, the players would have returned to the ice. Game on!

Faithful reader Ray Gondola, of Tewksbury, just yesterday morning e-mailed a recollection of his trips to the Garden and what it was like during the national anthem. He noted that the anthem was not only a highlight for him, but also for the Bruins and Rangers, both of whom, he recalled, “had no chance of making the playoffs.’’

“I remember they turned down all of the house lights,’’ added Gondola, “and then a [yellow?] light would shine on the five Bruins’ forwards, a [blue] light would shine on the opposing five, and a red light shone on the two goalies.’’

For too many Boston goalies, as I recall, that red light never went off.

Look, I know we’re not going back to quieter times, just like we’re not going back to felt fedoras and 15-cent game programs or 25-cent Sunday Globes. Kinder and gentler fell out of the entertainment equation long, long ago. IT’S THE WAY OF THE WORLD! I hear you, loud and clear. I’m sure there isn’t an usher left in a North American arena who carries a small flashlight to help direct anyone to a seat.

My only wish is for the music to be turned down a few decibels, for the house lights to be dimmed at the breaks, for the commercial assault not to leave me with mystery meat embedded in my hair, and for the Jumbotron to focus on the game and not the exhibitionists. I’d like to be able to listen to the guy next to me, hear my own thoughts, appreciate the essence of what I came to see.

I ask, DOES ANYBODY HEAR ME?!!

Kevin Paul Dupont’s “On Second Thought’’ appears on Page 2 of the Sunday Globe Sports section. He can be reached at dupont@globe.com.

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