On a warm Saturday in early July, an employee at the Maryland Historical Society placed a call to the police. He had noticed two visitors behaving strangely—a young, tall, handsome man with high cheekbones and full lips and a much older, heavier man, with dark, lank hair and a patchy, graying beard. The older man had called in advance to give the librarians a list of boxes of documents he wanted to see, saying that he was researching a book. At some point during their visit, the employee saw the younger man slip a document into a folder.
The Boston Celtics, a team I have followed obsessively since I was nine, didn't make the NBA finals last week, losing to the New Jersey Nets. But in defeat they achieved something even more important: They answered questions that have haunted the team, and the city, for decades. The Chicago Tribune posed them this way, in a 1992 article marking the retirement of Larry Bird: "Must the Celtics ... have a white star to placate the nearly all-white-ticket-holder base?