At some point during last night’s fourth quarter, while I was busy plotting Ryan Hollins’ 2013 All-Star campaign, a man several rows behind me at the TD Garden (we’ll call him Jiri Welsch) threw a pickle at the person directly in front of me (we’ll call him Brett Szabo). Szabo had been standing up and Welsch apparently took offense to his impaired view of the court. The pickle, I suppose, was Welsch’s way of politely asking Szabo to sit his ass down.
I already knew Szabo was a free spirit — he spent much of his night begging me (wearing a press pass, doing my best job of pretending to be a reporter) to drink a beer. But I did not know he would soon threaten to “Columbine this bitch.”
The pickle landed next to Szabo, not connecting with his body at all. Still, he turned around and, in the spirit of the Palace Brawl, targeted the wrong person. Rather than scream at Jiri Welsch, he began directing obscenities at the person directly behind me (we’ll call him Todd Day). I sat there, trying to focus my concentration on what JaJuan Johnson and Sean Williams were doing on the parquet floor approximately 80 feet away from us. But after a few minutes of the argument boiling next to me, I realized focusing on the game wasn’t going to happen.
“I ain’t no punk,” Szabo shouted. He wore a tight grey shirt and a matching beret. He did not look all that intimidating, but his words told a different story. “I ain’t afraid to shoot nobody in the head.”
“Shut up, tough guy,” responded Todd Day, who, again, was not actually the pickle-thrower. “Anybody can talk tough like that across a table.”
“Oh, you want me to come across the table? Bitch, I’ll shoot you and everybody you know. I’ll Columbine this bitch if I need to. I don’t need to call anybody else. I’ll do it my damn self.”
“Alright, whatever you say boss. Have a nice night. Hope you’re enjoying yourself right now.”
At that, Szabo turned to one of his friends seated next to him.
“Can you believe this shit? He’s acting like I’m a punk. I ain’t no punk. I ain’t no bitch. Mother-fucker threw a pickle at me.”
The friend looked at Szabo, who had been drinking heavily all game, whose eyes looked one step away from death.
“No need to blow this up, man. I don’t even think it was him who threw the pickle.”
Everything calmed down with that. Szabo kept his mouth shut. Day stopped pretending to be the pickle-chucker. I went back to watching the game, which the Celtics would win 87-74.
Yet the incident had not been given closure. That would come about 15 minutes later when security arrived at Szabo’s row.
“We need a word with you, sir,” Szabo was told.
Not willing to be entirely disturbed by the security guard who was about to drag his ass out of the TD Garden, Szabo took his full beer and chugged it. The security guards, oddly enough, patiently waited for the chug, which was both impressively quick and more disrespectful than the 7th-grade class clown. When the last of the beer went down Szabo’s throat, the security guards escorted him out of our section and likely out of the building. One of his friends left with him. The other two remained in their seats.
A woman two rows in front of Szabo’s turned to his friends and asked something like, “Is he always like that?”
One of the friends responded, “No, but he is when he takes a bottle of vodka to the face,” then reached underneath Szabo’s vacated seat and pulled out an empty handle of vodka.
Somehow, Szabo had smuggled vodka into the TD Garden, drank all of it, then used a thrown pickle that missed its mark to justify threatening a man’s life.
At least he didn’t Columbine that bitch, at least as far as I know.