It’s a moniker that may not have always suited the city. Yet in the last decade or so, as Boston ascended to the top of the sports mountain, it seemed to fit. The brash bravado of a city spoiled by success somehow was an appropriate fit for an outspoken bunch like Bostonians.
The brash Boston became a beaten Boston on Monday afternoon when explosions literally shook the foundation of the city. Two blasts ripped through the Boston Marathon’s finish line on Boylston Street, the same street that championship-winning Boston sports teams have become accustomed to rolling down in celebration of the Hub’s latest sports title.
It was such a sad irony that the City of Boston was attacked on a day that we were doing what we do best — celebrating. Bostonians were in full-fledged celebratory mode, doing Patriots’ Day partying and praising those marathoners. Those are the same marathoners that showed us not only the pinnacle of human endurance, but also the height of the human spirit. For every world-class runner who breezed through the city for 26.2 miles, there were handfuls of others who were running in honor of lost loved ones. Others defied odds in overcoming injury or disease, proving that not only could they beat those shortcomings, but they’d rub it in adversity’s face by running one of the world’s most famous marathons.
Oh, and the Red Sox kicked the day off with a walk-off win a short walk away at Fenway.
It was, quite literally, a day to celebrate all that’s good in the world and in this city.
And then it wasn’t.
Then, as quickly as we were reminded of how amazing this city and these people can be, we were swiftly and viciously kicked in the pants with an all too realistic reminder of how deplorable humankind can sometimes be. We struggled not only to put together pieces of information, but we also struggled to comprehend what had just happened. We struggled to comprehend why it happened. Much of that confusion will never be settled.
Shortly thereafter, however, we did see the greatness of this beautiful city. We saw the first responders run into the face of danger, while seemingly everyone else fled. We saw neighbors lend whatever they could — be it blood, shelter or something as simple as a sip of water — to those who had just looked pure evil in the face and will never be the same because of it.
As we begin the grieving and coping process, we remember that sports will help us get through this. That’s always been the case, during instances that admittedly pale in comparison to this, arguably the greatest tragedy of this city’s incredible history.
Sports, in the grand scheme of life, are inconsequential. No rational human would argue otherwise. But dammit, sports are one of the many things that will help this city rebound. We don’t look to sports solely as a distraction. We look to sports as part of our way of life, as part of the fabric not only of our city, but of our culture.
However, sports will pick us up. They always do. That will most likely start Wednesday at the Garden — you can bet that it will give this town a boost. It gives us a boost when things are going well, let alone when we’re in picking ourselves up off the canvas. But it won’t end there, not by a long shot. It will continue when the Red Sox return home. It will keep going all the way to next year or maybe the year after, which is hopefully when some of those who lost a limb Monday will be back at that fateful spot on Boylston. Hopefully this time, however, they’ll be doing so to finish the marathon in the ultimate eff-you to whoever is behind these awful events.
We know, especially in the wake of Monday’s events, that sports aren’t necessarily life; they’re just a part of life. But in a town like Boston, it’s a substantial part of life. So we’ll get back to our lives eventually, and sports will play a big role in that, especially the first time “Dirty Water” blares from the TD Garden or Fenway Park speakers. But we won’t soon forget the bravery and kindness that was on display Monday, and we will never forget the lives that were lost.
The unspeakable horrors of Monday certainly did confirm one fact, however: Boston is a city of champions. We don’t need championship banners or a Rolling Rally to know that.