Sports

Watching Warriors-Celtics Game 3 at SF’s bridge Boston bar

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The crowd was going wild; high-fives abounding, highs and lows. It was the closing seconds of Game 3 of the NBA Finals, and the Boston Celtics had defeated the Golden State Warriors, 116-100. In an instant, the soundtrack at the bar – in San Francisco, of all places – drowned out the patrons. First, a banjo blared. Then came the accordion. The powerful thuds from the drums arrived.

Oh God. Oh no. It was Dropkick Murphys time.

It’s safe to say the Celtics fans at Connecticut Yankee, a Boston sports bar nestled in the San Francisco neighborhood of Potrero Hill, collectively lost their s — t at “I’m Shipping Up to Boston.” It will not shock you to learn they had a similarly euphoric reaction to “Sweet Caroline” after Mahcas Smaht and Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown sunk the Dubs.

I visited Connecticut Yankee on Wednesday to take in the sights and sounds of a popular sports bar for New Englanders-cum-San Franciscans, many of whom are, as it turns out, pretty fond of the Warriors – except when they’re playing in a previously improbable Finals against Da Celts. It was… everything you’d expect. And actually pretty fun.

Boston Celtics fans get ready for Game 3 of the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors at Connecticut Yankee in the Potrero Hill neighborhood of San Francisco, on Wednesday, June 8, 2022.

Kevin Kelleher / Special to SFGATE

The bar is owned by Tony Cooney, who also owns Tempest Bar & Box Kitchen, The Showdown and Louie’s. He admits he’s not a big sports fan, or even a New Englander, but when he bought the property in 2015 from Fritz Frisbie – a massive Boston sports fan – he promised to keep it intact. Fritz bought the bar in the 1980s and “made it what it is today,” Cooney told me. “Our style is saving those cool little gems in the city, keeping them what they are. Fritz was ready to pass it on but didn’t want to change it from what it was. ”

Sure enough, the most popular drinks option is still the Southie special: Sam Adams and a shot of Jameson for $ 11. The walls are still adorned with memorabilia that New Englanders love, and everyone else, uh, doesn’t. Larry Bird choking out Julius Erving? Check. Touchdown Tom behind the bar? No doubt, kid. A Coors Light LED sign that prominently features a Patriots logo? Gotta have it.

A Celtics banner of retired player numbers, including the local University of San Francisco great Bill Russell, # 6, hangs in the main room of The Connecticut Yankee along with an array of New England sports and collegiate memorabilia.  The bar is a haven for Boston fans to watch big games like the current 2022 NBA Finals series against the Golden State Warriors.

A Celtics banner of retired player numbers, including the local University of San Francisco great Bill Russell, # 6, hangs in the main room of The Connecticut Yankee along with an array of New England sports and collegiate memorabilia. The bar is a haven for Boston fans to watch big games like the current 2022 NBA Finals series against the Golden State Warriors.


Kevin Kelleher / Special to SFGATE

A Boston Celtics / New England Patriors fan cheers during the first minute of Game 3 of the NBA Finals versus the Warriors on Wednesday, June 8, 2022.

A Boston Celtics / New England Patriors fan cheers during the first minute of Game 3 of the NBA Finals versus the Warriors on Wednesday, June 8, 2022.


Kevin Kelleher / Special to SFGATE

A Celtics fan catches the start of Game 3 in the back room of The Connecticut Yankee in the Potrero Hill neighborhood of San Francisco on June 8, 2022.

A Celtics fan catches the start of Game 3 in the back room of The Connecticut Yankee in the Potrero Hill neighborhood of San Francisco on June 8, 2022.


Kevin Kelleher / Special to SFGATE

A framed photo on the walls of The Connecticut Yankee depicts the legendary fight between NBA Hall of Famers Larry Bird, right, and Julius Erving.  The Portrero Hill bar is a haven for Boston sports fans who moved to San Francisco.

A framed photo on the walls of The Connecticut Yankee depicts the legendary fight between NBA Hall of Famers Larry Bird, right, and Julius Erving. The Portrero Hill bar is a haven for Boston sports fans who moved to San Francisco.


Kevin Kelleher / Special to SFGATE


Scenes — and Celtics memorabilia — from Connecticut Yankee during Game 3 of the NBA Finals, on Wednesday June 8, 2022. (Kevin Kelleher / Special to SFGATE)

But there are also some San Francisco sports trinkets plastered to the walls, reflecting the fact that this is, you know, a bar in the Bay Area. One big-screen TV in the back (this place is huge, by the way, with tons of space both indoors and out) is adorned on each side by a Celtics banner and a Warriors banner.

Hence lies the unexpected predicament at hand: Nobody at Connecticut Yankee really thought this specific scenario, Dubs vs. C’s for all the marbles, would unfold in San Francisco. And it’s a stretch to say the series has ripped open a real rivalry.

On Wednesday, Celtics fans at the bar far outnumbered Warriors fans, but the latter group was allowed to co-exist in enemy territory-within-enemy territory. The only real vitriol I detected was toward Draymond Green, who, in fairness, is a heel to literally every other NBA fanbase. Otherwise, Celtics fans were mostly resigned to accept the stellar play of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, who had 31 and 25 points, respectively.

Conner Brown of Norfolk, Mass., Reacts to a play during the first few minutes of Game 3 at Connecticut Yankee, on Wednesday, June 8, 2022.

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Conner Brown of Norfolk, Mass., Reacts to a play during the first few minutes of Game 3 at Connecticut Yankee, on Wednesday, June 8, 2022.

Kevin Kelleher / Special to SFGATE

“I’m still Boston at heart, but this is now my home,” a Celtics fan named Ani told me. She says she likes the Warriors just fine. Anthony Mejias, a bartender in a Celtics jersey, said, “There were times where I rooted for the Warriors, but I would never say I was a fan.”

Kelly Howe, another bartender at Connecticut Yankee, was equally diplomatic. “I respect them, they’re a great team,” she said of Golden State. “It’s great for our business. But as a Celtics fan, I want them to win. ”

Howe was posted up with a front-row seat, sporting a green beanie, of course. She wasn’t actually working – she hurt her patella tendon and was limping around – but wanted to be in attendance anyway, mostly out of superstition. She left the bar early during Game 2, because she was in too much pain, and what happened? The Celtics lost.

Bartender Kelly Howe, left, currently on the Connecticut Yankee injury list, reacts with Celtics fans at the storied San Francisco Boston bar during the final seconds of the Celtics win over the Warriors, on June 8, 2022.

Bartender Kelly Howe, left, currently on the Connecticut Yankee injury list, reacts with Celtics fans at the storied San Francisco Boston bar during the final seconds of the Celtics win over the Warriors, on June 8, 2022.

Kevin Kelleher / Special to SFGATE

Kelly Valerie, the bar manager on duty, is from New Jersey, but was grandfathered into the Boston sports fandom by her fiance Tyler Hayden, who also works bartending shifts at Connecticut Yankee. “This takes the cake, no. 1, for sure, ”she told me about the energy of the crowd on hand.


In the bar’s backyard area, I found warring Warriors-Celtics couples seated across from each other. Alex, a Celtics fan, met Kate, a Warriors fan, during the pandemic. They’re both from New England, but Kate adopted the Warriors when she moved to Lake Tahoe in 2009. As she was sure to point out, that was during the Monta Ellis era, she’s not a bandwagon fan. If the Celtics were playing anyone else for the title, she’d be happily cheering for Boston.

“I remember thinking,‘ It’s fine to be a Warriors fan, because there will never be a day when they beat the Celtics, ’” Kate joked. Not so funny anymore.

Alex and Kate aren’t too worried about the outcome of the series affecting their relationship. “It’s a win-win,” Alex said. We’ll see how true that rings when a champion is crowned.

Alex Yule, center, watches Game 3 with partner Kate Roberts, as Will Hui, back left, reacts to a play on the outdoor patio of Connecticut Yankee, on Wednesday, June 8, 2022.

Alex Yule, center, watches Game 3 with partner Kate Roberts, as Will Hui, back left, reacts to a play on the outdoor patio of Connecticut Yankee, on Wednesday, June 8, 2022.

Kevin Kelleher / Special to SFGATE

Across the table were Joe and Anat. Joe freely admits he’s not a huge sports fan, but he is from Massachusetts. Years ago, he decided to wander into Connecticut Yankee on a whim. There was one seat left at the bar. It was next to Alex. “We got along and started hanging out,” Joe recalled. “I went to [Alex’s] birthday party and that’s where I met [Anat]. And now we’re married. “

Anat moved to the bay in 2009 and has lots of family here who are already diehard Warriors fans, so she quickly adopted the team. “I wanted to wear my Warriors shirt today, but my husband and uncle said,‘ Oh no, you’re going to be behind enemy lines! You’re pregnant, I don’t know if you should do that, ” she told me. But she quickly learned that Warriors fans are welcome at Connecticut Yankee. Next time, Kate told Anat, she’d have to be a true comrade and come with a Dubs jersey. And don’t worry, Kate added: She’ll be getting Anat’s child a Warriors jersey of their own someday.

The storied details of Boston sports cover the walls at Connecticut Yankee, in Portreo Hill, as seen here before Game 3 of the NBA Finals, on Wednesday, June 8, 2022.

The storied details of Boston sports cover the walls at Connecticut Yankee, in Portreo Hill, as seen here before Game 3 of the NBA Finals, on Wednesday, June 8, 2022.

Kevin Kelleher / Special to SFGATE

By the second half, the inside of the bar was packed. A run by the Warriors had the Celtics faithful nervous. When Andrew Wiggins bowled over Derrick White midway through the third, cries of “THAT’S A CHAAHGE” rang out. The Celtics started to pull away again in the final frame, and onlookers returned to typical sports bar activities, like making friends in the bathroom line. “This bar is sick,” said a 20-something dude with a Tatum jersey to a couple of older patrons waiting to go pee. They enthusiastically agreed.

When the game was clearly in hand, the sarcastic “WAAAAAAARRIORS” chants began. The Dubs fans in attendance were good sports about it and slowly made their way to the exits. Most didn’t want to be in attendance for Dropkick Murphys, and I can’t blame them for that.

I exited the bar a short time later. Warriors fans from other nearby bars were walking down the sidewalk and helped me snap back to reality: this is San Francisco, not Boston. My final verdict? Connecticut Yankee is a fun option for any masochistic Warriors fans who want to embrace their team’s current underdog, down-on-their-luck, on-the-road status, but without the assumed faint hint of menace. And it’s the real deal for New Englanders, with one very big difference: All the diehard sports fans there were extremely nice.

The Connecticut Yankee bar crew, from left, Tyler Hayden, Anthony Mejias and Kelly Valerie share a few laughs during halftime of Game 3 at the renowned Boston Haunt in the Potrero Hill neighborhood of San Francisco, on June 8, 2022.

The Connecticut Yankee bar crew, from left, Tyler Hayden, Anthony Mejias and Kelly Valerie share a few laughs during halftime of Game 3 at the renowned Boston Haunt in the Potrero Hill neighborhood of San Francisco, on June 8, 2022.

Kevin Kelleher / Special to SFGATE

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