April 15, 2013. I remember it quite clearly. It was a gorgeous day and I was walking across campus to grab a coffee before class. Two girls were quickly striding past and I was hastily adjusting one of my earphones; in my motion one of the buds fell out and I heard a worried voice say to her friend, “Jenny just texted me. She said there were a bunch of loud bangs by the finish line of the marathon.”
I’m not exactly a marathon connoisseur and was a tad confused as to what she could be talking about, although I do remember thinking that the brief description of the situation had ominous undertones. I had yet to check my Twitter feed that morning and immediately pulled my phone out of my pocket to see if there was any kind of buzz. First to greet my eyes were the Tweets of several high school acquaintances, working in Boston, wishing the best of luck to their friends competing in the race or enjoying the festivities. I remember one friend being specifically put off by his obligation to sit inside at a cubicle all day while the fun was unfolding on the surrounding streets.
As I continued to scroll up, more and more breaking news outlets were starting to fill my page, and it was plain to see what had happened. First were blips such as, “Explosions near finish line of Boston Marathon this morning. Details pending.” These eventually graduated to “Confirmed. Bombs exploded at Marathon finish line. Injuries confirmed” and other things of that nature. I held a pit in my stomach for the rest of the day and was simultaneously thankful that I had no immediate family, relatives or very close friends living in the Boston area at the time.
2012 into 2013 was a time period mired with events of massive violence and sadly, too many deaths. I often felt that, as a society, we had begun to feel numb to these deaths that were uncovered (almost daily it seemed) on any of a myriad of screens that are now an undeniable reality of our everyday lives. The Marathon bombings were different. Being that the previous tragic events in the time period discussed were (mainly) facilitated with the acquisition and use of a certain three letter word, the use of bombs in a major city did not quite put the Boston Marathon incident into the same tier of consciousness.
It should be well understood that the tragic events taking place prior to the Boston Marathon incident led to a wide range of governmental talk, presidential speeches, proposed law changes and even state reforms. These events clearly instilled terror in the hearts of those affected, as well as those watching from the outside. These acts were not, however, acts of terrorism. On the other hand, the Boston Marathon bombings were an act of terrorism and an attack on the American way of life.
I am not writing this column to pick and compare apples and oranges between mass shootings and public bombings. Both acts are despicable and there is no rhyme or reason for any activity of such a nature.
Back to the aftermath of the bombings. I do not recall the author’s name, but I can clearly remember sitting at work the day following the bombings and flipping through the paper. It was USA Today and the piece began on the bottom left of the cover page. In a relatively short piece, the author detailed how scary it is that the bombing happened at an event that is supposed to be a break from reality, a day to be together, a day to celebrate. I remember that I stopped reading about halfway through when he referenced the final installment of the Christopher Nolan/Christian Bale Batman trilogy (specifically the scene in which the movie’s antagonist, Bane, blows up portions of a fictional professional football stadium in Gotham City) and bluntly questioned when an event similar to the marathon would happen at a larger and more visible sporting event. He seemed to be certain that it would happen eventually.
It’s a queer feeling coming back from a funeral. It seems that something is supposed to slap you in the face and tell you that it’s OK, that the Earth has begun to spin on its axis again, that the play button has been pressed and you’re supposed to resume whatever it is you were doing before. The part they never tell you is that it never stops, the ride is a long one and passengers will be lost along the way.
David Ortiz has been one of Boston’s most beloved sons for quite some time and wasted no time in reminding the city just who and what they were in the aftermath of the bombings. When the Boston Red Sox played their first home game after the bombings, Ortiz gave a short speech prior to the first pitch. Big Papi, in his short and succinct words, proudly told the fans, while pointing to his chest, that their jerseys did not say Red Sox but that they said Boston. Something along the lines of togetherness was mentioned and he ended with a passionate, “This is our (expletive) city” before dropping the microphone and walking back toward his teammates to a chorus of raucous cheers.
I’m a proud New Yorker. I do not personally pledge allegiance to any New York sports teams (although I do consider myself a Rangers fan), but have fervently supported Duke basketball and the Tennessee Titans for as long as I can remember. With that accounted for, I will also be the first to tell you that I, in no way, shape or form, support the success of any of Boston’s four franchises.
I never realized how blatantly ignorant fans of sports teams could be until I came to school in Massachusetts. It’s funny because my friends in New York identify with my complaints, yet my New England friends here have similar things to say about fans of New York teams. Maybe, just maybe, all support is relative. Anyways, the long and short of the scenario is very clear: Boston sports (more specifically fans) annoy me about as much as holes in my socks. I digress though, because sports as they pertain to relevancy in our culture often take much too high of a place (athletes were originally supposed to go to school, you know).
It’s only cliché to reiterate the idea that “sports bring people together” and clichés, much like stereotypes, exist because often they are true. I worked at a minor league baseball stadium for five years of my youth (pre-college) and absolutely love watching the game in person. I do not consider myself a fan of any team and I don’t watch much television. Similarly, I don’t spend a large percentage of my free time performing personal sports research, and when I happen to be reading about sports, it is definitely not going to be related to baseball. In fact, the only baseball I can remember watching this year was the Home Run Derby in a Florida pizza parlor and a few outs of last week’s Game Six while returning a textbook to a neighbor.
In our current age of increased medium interaction and social media overloads, it should have been expected that the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings (much like the other incidents preceding the act of terrorism) would inspire a unified force of all those reeling from the April 15 event.
#BOSTONSTRONG was all over my Twitter feed for months, and true to the spirit of dedicated fans that Boston sports undeniably have, it still is.
As the MLB playoffs unfolded and, more specifically, as the World Series began to take shape, it was impossible to ignore the possibility of a very determined and well-bearded Red Sox team winning it all. I was studying for an accounting exam as the final out was recorded, and as much as the cheers and yells and banging on the walls were an annoyance, I could not help but grin and be glad for people who felt they got what they deserved. This is America, and despite all of our current issues, we are still a nation that was built on strong relationships and love of the fellow individual.
It wasn’t about beating the Cardinals, and it wasn’t about winning the World Series. I am certainly not trying to trivialize the tragic events that took place on April 15 by relating them to a sport, because that’s what it is at the end of the day – just a game, a very simple game.
Our nation’s ideals, however, are often forgotten amid fantastical support of a city or region’s team, and are about supporting our neighbor and working toward the common good. I happened to be home this past weekend to see a concert and hang out with family. I posed the question to a few of my friends (all of whom are die-hard Yankee lovers): “Everything aside, it is pretty cool that the Sox won the Series, right?”
In an effort to continue writing for this paper, which I do very much enjoy, I will not write exactly what was said in response, but rest assured that they were nothing less than statements of absolute agreement. The Sox won the World Series, and that’s something that we should all be happy about.
Jake Nelson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org