For Celtics fans, no home game is complete without a sighting of Carl Lenhart, 71, in his tan blazer, pounding his chest to pump up the fans. Before the season opener, he chatted about what goes into being a fan favorite.
On His Roots: Back in the early ’50s in Indiana, when I first started seeing black-and-white TV, it was always the Celtics. I just loved seeing these championship players. The Celtics were the team in the country. I remember the old Garden with the squeaky tennis shoes on the parquet floor and [Red] Auerbach. My favorite player was No 14, [Bob] Cousy.
On His Tenure: I started as a season-ticketholder in 2008. I was going off and on since 1998, when we moved here from Indiana.
On His First Jumbotron Showing: It was not until May . I was there the whole year and hadn’t been on the Jumbotron. It gave me time to think “If they ever get me on that, what am I going to do? I don’t want to just be an idiot.” I’d been very impressed by [Kevin Garnett] and the passion he had for the game. … As part of his pregame routine, he comes to the crowd and does that chest bump, and I thought, “This guy is not forgetting us.” And I said, “When I go on the Jumbotron, that’s what I’m going to do.”
On His Wardrobe: I wore the jacket because it’s what I had and it was warm. As it turns out, the jacket was like the color of the parquet floor. I’d say, “I look just like that floor.” I also usually wear No. 34, a [Paul] Pierce jersey. … I didn’t wear the jacket for one of the games in the Finals in 2008, and boy did people get on me about that. We won the game, but if we had lost, I would’ve been in trouble. I thought right then, “Uh oh, I’m kind of becoming the property of the fans.”
On His Moniker: I call myself chest-bump guy. Some people, because I look like Santa Claus and wear a tan blazer, they call me suit-coat Santa sometimes.
On His Emotions: The whole flood of emotions from my childhood started coming back [in 2008]. … I’m expressing a love for life, an appreciation for my experiences and the Celtics are helping me to bring that to the front. It’s let me be like a child again.
On His Street Cred: I get recognized on the street by strangers. They’ll roll the window down and say, “Hey, you going to the game tonight?” Once, I was at Heathrow Airport in London, and I got recognized there.
On His Tip for the Jumbotron Operator: I like it at the beginning, when I have that emotion. I’m ready to explode myself on that court. So, get me then. And then at the end, when they want the crowd to get revved up, go to me. I’m so honored when they do that.
On His Wish: I want to meet KG. I’ve never met him. The people who know me tell me he’d really be pleased with my reaction to him.