By BEN WALKER
AP National Writer
Paul Pierce spotted a few pals seated courtside at Madison Square Garden and wanted to make nice. So on his way to the foul line, the Boston Celtics star stopped by to slap hands and say hey to Plaxico Burress, R.W. McQuarters and some other New York Giants.
Real friendly, real peaceful.
A minute later, Pierce went ballistic. His trash talking with Quentin Richardson of the Knicks escalated, and both of them were ejected.
"With the Super Bowl, with New York Yankees-Red Sox, that's just the way New York-Boston sports are," Pierce said. "For some reason when we play the Knicks, it's a heated game."
Oh, for the record: Pierce hopes the New England Patriots beat his buddies Sunday.
Be it on the field, court, diamond or ice, that's how it is between Beantown and the Big Apple.
Goes beyond Babe Ruth, Bucky Dent and Bill Buckner, too. Way past Spygate or when Bruins rabblerouser Mike Milbury climbed into the stands and banged a Rangers fan with his own shoe.
Think of Boston Pops vs. Metropolitan Opera. "Boston Legal" vs. "Law & Order." Boston cream pie vs. New York cheesecake. New England clam chowder vs. Manhattan clam chowder.
Culture or colleges, politicians or players, bring it on.
It's a long-running rivalry -- say, Boston Marathon vs. New York City Marathon -- that dates to the original Patriots and settlers. Maybe Paul Revere vs. Henry Hudson, right up to Mitt Romney vs. Rudy Giuliani.
Now, the biggest game in America. Super Bowl, super rivalry.
"In every sport, doesn't matter what it is -- could be checkers or chess -- they want to beat the heck out of each other," New York Islanders captain Bill Guerin said.
Guerin, by the way, is from Wilbraham, Mass. "Of course, I'm pulling for the Pats," he said.
The Islanders played at Boston a few days ago and lost. Among the fans watching at the TD Banknorth Garden was Paul Redmond, wearing a Patriots shirt.
To Redmond, it's pretty simple.
"I think of classic good vs. evil, right vs. wrong," he said. "Any stereotype you could use when you pit two people or groups against each other."
Leave it to a Steinbrenner to be a bit more blunt.
"Let's face it, I don't like 'em, any more than they like us," New York Yankees senior vice president Hank Steinbrenner said, referring to the Red Sox.
"Of course, I'd like to see the Giants win because it's New York against Boston," he said. "But at the same time, I love Bill Belichick. I just think he's a genius. I hate to see the Patriots not get their just due because they've been dominant. Moreso than the Red Sox. Obviously moreso than the Red Sox. Boston's doing pretty well right now."
Belichick, formerly an assistant with the New York Jets and Giants, will be trying to coach the Patriots to their fourth NFL championship in seven seasons.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, meanwhile, got his start in the Hub. Born in the suburb of Medford in 1942, he got his MBA from Harvard.
"I can tell you that when I lived in the Boston metropolitan area, they did not have a football team. So nobody can accuse me of having been a Patriot fan. I am a New York fan," he said.
When Bloomberg was in graduate school, Fenway Park was home to the Boston Patriots of the old American Football League. At the same time, Yankee Stadium housed the Giants.
Years later, the Giants moved farther into the Northeast, shuttling into the Yale Bowl for a couple of seasons while Yankee Stadium was renovated. Many fans in Connecticut still consider the state Giants territory; in fact, the Patriots almost moved to Hartford in the late 1990s.
The most intense matchups between Boston and New York came in other sports.
In 1972, Bobby Orr's goal helped the Bruins beat the New York Rangers for their most recent Stanley Cup title. Around the same time, John Havlicek, Dave Cowens and the Celtics were dueling Walt Frazier, Willis Reed and the Knicks for Eastern Conference crowns.
The Celtics and Knicks haven't met in the postseason since 1990. This season, Boston owns the NBA's best record and the Knicks have one of the worst.
"To really call it a rivalry is not the right statement because I believe rivals are made in the playoffs and championship games," Pierce said.
The Yankees-Red Sox rivalry might be the most charged in sports, heightened by what's happened in October.
New York beat Boston in Game 7 of the 2003 American League championship series. The next year, the Red Sox became the only team in baseball history to rally from a 3-0 deficit in the postseason.
After all those years of watching the Yankees win, the Red Sox and their fans can gloat with a pair of World Series titles in four seasons. Their success carries over into other sports.
"Right now the competition between the Red Sox and Yankees kind of parlays into the Rangers and Bruins," Boston defenseman Aaron Ward said. "It's always fun to beat New York. And when I was in New York, it was always fun to beat Boston."
AP freelance writers Mike Petraglia and Mark Altman in Boston and Mark Didtler in Tampa, Fla., contributed to this report.