As a New York Yankees fan – yes, please don’t hate me – my fondest memories are as follows: the entire Yankee Stadium chanting “Who’s your daddy” to Pedro Martinez, the same man coming out victorious in a boxing match between him and the Evil Empire’s then 72-year-old bench coach, Don Zimmer, and then there is the bloody sock worn by Curt Schilling and incessant clutch hitting by Johnny “Caveman” Damon contributing to the end of the Curse of the Bambino in 2004.
Notwithstanding, it’s safe to say that I despise the Boston Red Sox. Until last Monday, at least, when two men decided to end lives, maim several and injure over a hundred with homemade bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
What started out as a cool day with the resounding excitement reverberating off the walls of Fenway Park as Patriot’s Day ensued as planned – the flooding of Red Sox fans leaving the stadium to catch the end of the marathon was something the event was accustomed to – turned into utter devastation and chaos.
In pure American fashion, though, we did not let this terror cripple our nation. As with other attacks, such as 9/11, the Red, White and Blue showed that we were made to do two things when caught in the state of distress: unite and persevere.
One gateway to that is, surprisingly, the gritty and intense nature of sports. The thing is that you can never dull is a sports fan’s passion. Whether it’s geared towards a quarterback to be walloped by a defensive end, two gloveless hockey players to beat each other to a bloody pulp or a designated hitter to be pelted by a 95-mile-an-hour fastball in order to avoid a homerun, there is no denying that sports fanatics are ready to pounce whenever they are tampered with. Sometimes it is a division rival or loud-mouthed opposing player – or both – that ignites their fiery spirit; in this case, though, they are terrorists.
A prime example of this was shown by the Yankees on the day after the bombing.
In the third inning of their Tuesday night game, a special moment was devoted to their long-time adversaries. After a moment of silence dedicated to those affected by the tragedy just over 24 hours before, the Yankees pulled a gesture that has brought them a slew of respect. What is an age-old tradition after the eighth inning in Boston’s Fenway Park, the speakers of Yankee Stadium blasted Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline.”
Yankees fans were seen singing along, swaying with the melody and showing off their patriotism by waving American flags, with not a care of whom the song usually is associated with. In one of the classiest moves I’ve seen, the Yanks and their supporters proved that sports aren’t just there to create rivalries and instill hatred; instead, they are a way for America to show their passion for a cause. That night, they proved that wins, titles and championships are simply inferior compared to meshing together for the greater good of our country.
Refreshing, isn’t it?
If that didn’t quite lubricate the gears to your slow-moving patriotism, maybe this other example will.
A bit closer to the bombing site, the Boston Bruins hosted their first home matchup on Wednesday night since cancelling their game originally scheduled on the day of the tragedy. It was the first major sporting event in the area, and security was high. But what trumped any level of security were the emotions that night, and that was made apparent before the puck was even dropped.
Rene Rancourt was set to sing the National Anthem before the game, as ribbons devoted to the first responders on Monday were simultaneously projected on the TD Garden’s ice. However, after the words, “proudly we hail,” were belted out of his mouth, he lowered the microphone and let the massive audience take over. Seemingly everyone joined in engulfing the arena with the Anthem, as Rancourt became just another spectator. From then until “and the home of the brave,” the Bostonians sent chills down the spines of those watching on television or YouTube later on, including myself.
It was the epitome of what sports are here to do in America’s time of mourning: to serve as a pick-me-up by giving ailing citizens a place to come together and enjoy a simple game.
Sport is just one avenue to the long road to closure. Another is by catching the perpetrators who did this, which is, as of Friday, in the rear-view mirror, thanks to the excellent collaborative efforts of the FBI, military and police.