Let’s start with the tweets, because there’s no way to explain Janos without them.
You might already know what’s happening here, but for a moment, let’s all imagine we don’t. Read through the broken English, strange as it might seem, and we can learn these things immediately about the tweeter: his name is Janos, he’s a Celtics fan, and he’s thrilled about the team’s victory over the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference semifinals. If you squint at his avatar, it looks like he’s a middle-aged European man. His basketball opinions skew pretty heavily towards homerism, sure, but it’s earnest. And they’re funny!
Given this introduction, you might assume this story will tell you everything else you need to know about Janos. But this is not that type of story, because everything you just learned about Janos is just about everything anyone knows about him.
Janos is the patron saint of Celtics Twitter, someone who adores Rajon Rondo, hates that his son is too lazy to get a job, hates referees who screw over his beloved Boston team even more, and truly loves soup ... assuming you reheat proper, you bum.
Alway use stove for reheat soup not microwave . Is no shortcut soup or life;, alway do a proper— Janos (@isjanosnba) January 5, 2018
Janos created his Twitter last November and tweeted quietly for a month or two before people started noticed. It seemed clear he was a joke account, a novelty created for the moment, until someone at the start of the year stumbled across old message board posts from a “Janos” from more than five years ago, showing a user with the same cadence and complaints.
“Once people found out he had been doing this for at least seven years, it felt like the myth of Janos really started there and he started exploding,” says Sam Packard, co-host of the Locked On Celtics podcast. “I don’t know, he kind of became the guy of Weird Celtics Twitter.”
But after Danny Ainge gave Janos a co-sign in February, using our hero’s own signature phrasing, it was clear: Janos was real.
“It’s clear to me that people in the Celtics organization all have like burner accounts and are aware of the weird shit that’s going on, and just the fact that they decided to participate is just evidence of that,” Packard says.
The more you know about Celtics Twitter, the less strange this is. Of all the various subsets that exist among Twitter, there is a certain weirdness among this corner of Boston’s basketball internet. It’s a place distinct even from the traditional beat writers and shitty Patriots truthers, one that has built off itself for years.
“I don’t know if this element exists in other team Twitterverses,” says John Karalis, a Boston.com contributor and Locked On Celtics co-host. “There’s probably like five to 10 tweeters that I’m aware of that are part of this kind of super weird, Celtics Twitterverse that I am only sort of aware of and only tangentially involved in.”
Weird Celtics Twitter was described to me, multiple times, as “Marxist.” They’ve coined phrases like “thick, jacked frame” and “combat muscles,” both originally referring to Marcus Smart but useful for any particular swoll person. There are layers and layers of references: Rick and Morty, Bojack Horseman, Alex Jones, Prince’s Erotic City. And when Kyrie Irving reveals he’s a flat earth truther, well, you can see how that would just amplify this all.
“There’s just this entire weird language and lingo that has developed around the Celtics,” Packard says. “This Celtics team, it felt like because there was only four guys returning, fans needed to create their own personality for the team because they had no idea what it was actually going to be. Ended up getting real weird with it online.”
Consider all that, and it’s no real surprise that Janos would thrive in such an environment. He has passed 16,000 followers now, and a couple tweets following Boston’s Eastern Conference semifinals win were each been liked over 2,000 times. You don’t have to partake in Weird Celtics Twitter — led by folks like @HebertofRiffs and @SamSheehan — to enjoy Janos, but you’ll enjoy the mythology that has surrounded him since his discovery so much more.
“Once they found Janos, they just embraced him,” says Jared Weiss, who writes about the Celtics for The Athletic. “He’s just this weird cousin to Weird Celtics Twitter, and they kind of brought him in. Janos has kind of been a part of it. He’s interacted a little bit, he’s just started tweeting at people, when he tweeted at me the other day and I was like, wait, really, he tweets at people? But I kind of think of him, he exists in a silo where he can only send out messages and he can’t take them in. He’s like an alien in space trying to look for other life.”
No one can decide if Janos is real, or a Weird Celtics Twitter creation that hasn’t been revealed, or perhaps someone who used to post at the message board where Janos’ years-old posts were discovered. Perhaps it’s the same person behind both accounts, or perhaps the bit was coopted by someone who saw new potential for it in today’s internet landscape. The Celtics Twitter folks that I talked to can’t make up their mind, either.
“My working theory is that it’s the same guy doing the same bit, just in a different medium,” Packard says. “But I have no idea. They unearthed the stock image from Janos, so it would be good detective work to steal it as your own, but I choose to believe it’s just been some guy who has been super committed to this bit for a while and it’s just way more fun to believe there’s a Janos out there, a soup-loving, Rondo-type character out there, I think it’s just a guy who’s just one of these internet geniuses, like a @dril or something like that.”
Karalis says he’s a little too old to fully understand what’s happening around him, even though he supports it. (He’s the dad buying booze for the teenagers, he jokes.) All Karalis asks is that fame doesn’t ruin Janos, one of Twitter’s purest accounts.
“My only closing Janos thoughts are that he’s awesome,” Karalis says. “I just want Janos to exist in this plane where we know it’s kind of a joke, but we’re all going to pretend it’s not, and this is just the perfect zone for Janos. I just hope this stays. I don’t want Janos to be revealed.
“I just want Janos to be this forever.”