Bruins Give Falmouth Resident Reason to Dance
By: Christopher Kazarian
At the end of March Joseph A. Sullivan of Waterside Avenue, Falmouth, had total hip replacement surgery, temporarily taking away the one thing he does best—dance.
And it forced him to take a hiatus from what he loves most, attending Boston Red Sox, Celtics and, most of all, Bruins games.
“I had people calling me up from the Boston Garden asking me, ‘Where are you? Are you okay?’ ” he said on Wednesday afternoon, hours before the Bruins ended 39 years of hockey fans' agony by winning the Stanley Cup.
But much like his Bruins’ return to the glory of the franchise’s past, so, too, did Mr. Sullivan make a triumphant return from his surgery—albeit his time away was not as long.
“I finally ended up at the Garden after four weeks with crutches in my hands. I couldn’t dance, so I just waved my crutches,” he said.
To the average fan Mr. Sullivan’s name or face may not ring a bell, but to a Bruins diehard it will.
Some reference him as “Mustache Man”—there is a Facebook group dedicated to him listed under this moniker—while Boston Globe sports columnist Bob Ryan has called him “that guy with the polka-dot hat who dances around at every Bruins and Celtics game.”
His reputation has grown to the point that some simply know him as “the Bruins guy” or “the Celtics guy.”
His preference? “Call me ‘The Mad Hatter,’ ” he said.
The Mad Hatter
Combined, his mustache, polka-dotted hats and spastic dance moves have made him a larger-than-life figure, a caricature of the Boston sports fan who roots for the hometown team, win or lose.
In his case, Mr. Sullivan spurs on the team through performance-art, dancing during intermissions and stoppages of play to the delight of others in attendance.
He is a fixture not only at games—since he owns season tickets to the Celtics, Red Sox and Bruins—but also on the Jumbotron, making him recognizable to almost anyone with an interest in Boston sports.
“It is great,” his youngest son, Chris, 18, said. “Everyone is coming up to him all the time asking him for photos.”
“Cars will go by after the game with people saying, ‘I love you, man.’ Especially with the playoffs,” his wife, Sandra M. Sullivan, laughed.
“We even have a neighbor [in Charlestown]; he is one of the players [goaltender Tuukka Rask]. He recognized Joe.”
While some Internet gadflies have come to question Mr. Sullivan’s passion—on one Bruins’ message board a user wrote,
“Guy’s a fake fan. Doesn’t even watch the game, only dances for the attention”— his loyalty for Boston sports is real, which is why Wednesday’s 4-0 victory over the Vancouver Canucks is at the top of his most thrilling moments as a fan.
“It is the best one, because hockey is just an exciting sport,” he said. “You are on the edge of your seat for the whole game while the Red Sox sort of lull you, well, into sleep. I just love hockey.”
A player and a fan
He earned that love from playing. He was a right winger at Cranwell Preparatory School in Lenox, before he put down the hockey skates in exchange for an education at College of the Holy Cross, receiving his degree in business administration from that Worcester institution in 1962.
Still he held firm to his love of hockey, jumping on board the Bruins bandwagon during their heyday in the early 1970s, when players like Bobby Orr and Derek Sanderson graced the ice.
While those years were exciting, he laughed that “you had to get out of there because the smoke was so thick. They allowed smoking there and smoking at Fenway Park. It was awful.”
He does not have a specific date for when he transformed from the casual fan into the super fan, but he said it was during the Larry Bird-era of the 1980s. He would don a green and white polka-dotted hat and a blazer and took to dancing in the aisles during Celtics games. That was when cameras pointed mostly to the action on the court, not to the happenings around it.
Since then he has not stopped shuffling his feet, or as he describes it: “I do a lot of jumping around, swinging my arms and wiggling my hips.”
While his moves have drawn applause and admiration from others, he laughed that he has no plans of starting a dance school, preferring to make his living as the owner of the Cambridge-based American Cleaning Company.
His legacy has also been defined by his polka-dotted hats, purchased from the Kromer Cap Company, and he sports a different-colored one for each Boston team. His mustache and glasses complete the look.
A dream come true
As to whether his antics are good for sports, he admits that “if Red Auerbach saw what goes on during breaks, he would turn over in his grave and his cigar would go out.”
Still, Mr. Sullivan said, he does not try to take away from the game, dancing only during breaks, cognizant of the line between exciting the crowd and angering them.
And for the most part the crowds love him. During the last game of 2010, they voted him fan of the year. The prize was an empty pizza box, the same award given to those who win fan of the game, which he has also won.
He has a legion of supporters—Facebook has also devoted a “Boston Bruins Dancing Fan Club” group to him—but occasionally, there are those who have tried to diminish his persona. During a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs in February, two fans stole his hat, capturing the incident on video and posting it on Boston.barstoolsports.com.
Other people’s reactions to the incident were of anger, as comments to the video lashed out at those who committed the prank.
The joke, though, may have been on those filming the video, as Mr. Sullivan appears to have hats for any and all occasions.
“He never goes anywhere without his hat,” Ms. Sullivan said over the phone on Wednesday. “He sleeps in it. He’s wearing it right now.”
And most likely he will be wearing one tomorrow morning when he plans to attend the Bruins parade.
“I’m elated,” he said yesterday morning. “We ended up spending the greater part of the game standing. We couldn’t sit down it was so exciting.”
The highlight of the game, he said, was the Bruins’ first goal, scored by his favorite player, Patrice Bergeron.
And like many, he stayed up past midnight watching the Bruins players celebrate on the Vancouver ice, lifting the Stanley Cup high above their heads.
“I’m almost wondering if it was a dream,” he said. “There was no crying, just a lot of smiling and screaming and dancing.”