Thoughts on Boston and the Marathon

By Bryan Knowles

I was very young when my family moved away from Boston; most of my sport memories start in the Bay Area in California.  Not all of them, however - my first piece of sports memorabilia that I ever got was a Wade Boggs signed bat, though I'm not sure I fully grasped who Wade Boggs was or why he would be signing things.  Nevertheless, I've remained a Red Sox fan to this day, even as other Boston sports loyalties have fallen to the side.

I've kept up somewhat of a connection with the city since then, of course - I've still got friends in the area, I've considered moving back several times, though something has come up each and every time, and I consider myself partisan in the Boston - New York rivalry.  I don't think I'd call myself a Bostonian or anything like that; I think you'd have to have lived there more recently than the '80s to really put that level of personal attachment to the town, but I'm certainly more connected to it than I am to, say, Seattle.

Patriots Day in Boston is supposed to be a celebration.  It's one of the most anticipated days of the entire year - it's really the unofficial beginning of spring.  It may be done in specific celebration of the start of the American Revolution, but it's a deeper part of the local culture.

It's integrally tied in with sport, too - with the schools on holiday and everything, it wasn't uncommon to try to make a doubleheader out of the 11 AM start to the Red Sox game and the finish of the Boston Marathon - when they moved the start times for the marathon up in 2007, meaning runners would be finishing in the middle of the Red Sox game, it was a minor controversy.

All of this combines to create something of an idyllic quality to the day - like a piece of Americana stuck in time.  Patriotic reenactments of winning our independence, the national pastime, and the world's oldest annual marathon, all on a spring morning.

All of this made the terror attack of Monday all the more shocking and all the more disheartening.

I stared at the television coverage, appalled at the senselessness of it all, watching the footage of the first explosion on near endless loop - the serenity and enthusiasm leading up to it, the shock of the actual blast, the ensuing panic - in a state of shock.  As the hours went by, and still no rhyme or reason emerged - no one taking responsibility, no suspect in custody, no motive - the feeling only deepened, compounded by the stories of amputations and fatalities.  It was truly one of the most terrible days we've had in a long time.

The Boston Red Sox bow their heads

Apr 16, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; The Boston Red Sox bow their heads during a moment of silence before a game against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field to honor those affected by the Boston Marathon bombings a day earlier. Photo Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports.

I keep looking for a silver lining - "only" three people dead?  That's a hard one to stick to, though it is true that if the bombs had gone off even an hour earlier, there would have been more spectators and competitors on site; 17,000 of the 23,000 runners had already finished and left the area by the time the bombs went off.  And even the survivors feel like victims of a sick joke - runners without legs.

That's not to say that there aren't other things to focus on.  It doesn't make the tragedy 'worth it' or anything crazy like that, but seeing the stories of people coming out to help, offering their rooms to people stranded in the city, their cameras to police to try to hunt down the perpetrator, and their blood to the Red Cross to help the survivors helps restore some faith in humanity - a reminder that the majority of us aren't like the sick people who perpetrated this tragedy.  When you see people coming together like that, it helps take some of the edge off - an attack intended to divide and hurt actually bringing people together.

In the sports world, there are positive stories coming out, too.  Bill Iffrig, the 78-year old man who was knocked down by the explosion and can be seen on the video, and cover of Sports Illustrated, got up and finished the race.  There's something powerfully symbolic about that.

Danny Amendola, who is the replacement for Wes Welker for the Patriots, vowed to donate $100 for every catch to a relief fund for the Boston Marathon - and $200 for every dropped pass.  A class act by a classy guy.

Joe Andruzzi, former Patriot, has been in the news as well, with a viral photo of him carrying an injured woman to an ambulance spreading like wildfire - just one of the many people who immediately ran towards the explosions to render aid to those who needed it.

Perhaps the one that hit me the hardest, however, and unexpectedly so, were the tributes, led by the Yankees, to Boston during the past two days' baseball games.  I've always felt that "Sweet Caroline", played in the eighth inning every night at Fenway Park, was a bit of a manufactured tradition - something for people more there for the atmosphere than the sport.  A watered down version of English football songs, perhaps.  Still, as ballpark after ballpark finished a moment of silence by playing "Sweet Caroline" - in Cleveland, where the Red Sox were, in New York, where the Yankees' marquee paid tribute to their rivals, in Chicago, and Miami, and Cincinnati, and Los Angeles... I'll admit, I teared up.  There was something special in the air there.  Maybe I'm just getting soft in my old age.

...You've gotta practice singing, Yankees fans.

In the coming days and weeks, we'll find out more about the reasoning behind the attacks - if it was part of a terrorist organization or a lone wackjob, and what the reasons behind it were.  Until there's anything more solid, however, I'm going to choose to focus on the positive stories coming out of this tragedy.

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