It is all just a game.
Then again, maybe it isn’t.
Sports have always had a funny place in my heart. I think it does for a lot of people. It is hard to describe this funny place objectively, perhaps, it’s best done through an example. My Dad and I live on opposite coasts now, and I spent the better part of my high school and college life in a different city from him. Often times it would be weeks between the periods where we would see each other. But however long it would have been, we could always reconnect very easily. This is because our conversations always began with how the Patriots were doing. We’d talk about Tom Brady, and how Belichick was preparing for next week, and so on. After ten or fifteen minutes of the Patriots, the conversation would enter a deeper realm, “how are you”, “how is school going”, “are you healthy”, “are you happy”?
I thought we were just talking sports. But it was so much more. We were keeping in touch; something I don’t think would be as easy if I didn’t at first want his opinion on the Celtics game or the Red Sox pitching rotation.
Yesterday, I went to the 11:05 Red Sox game with an Aunt and two of my Uncles. Without getting into too many details, it has been a rough past few months for this crew. However, we spent yesterday talking, laughing, reminiscing, and also planning for the future. It isn’t hard to imagine the venue for these conversations was a sports stadium. It was familial support, disguised as a Red Sox game.
Like I said before, I think this is relatable for a lot of people. That’s why things like fantasy football leagues have grown so rapidly in size. It disguises things like keeping in touch with your friends, making sure they’re alright, seeing if they need any help, as sports, just as my Dad and I could disguise our care for each other as an affiliation for a common team.
I play in a fantasy football league with a close friend of mine from high school. His name is Kevin. Yesterday, Kevin’s girlfriend Abby was in Boston from out of town. She had come to watch a friend finish the marathon. Abby had wanted to meet up and I told her that I would when I left Fenway. After the game, I spent ten or so minutes trying to get in touch with her, all to no avail. I figured I’d walk down Boylston Street to Copley to see if I could find her, but the crowd was too expansive. I decided to turn around and head back home.
10 minutes after coming home, two explosions, seconds apart, occurred in Copley Square at the finish line to the Marathon. Three people lost their lives; over a hundred more were injured.
The Red Sox won 3-2 on Monday, and for the second day in a row had done so thanks to some ninth inning heroics. An hour later, the term heroic was being redefined; given gravity by the first responders, the selfless spectators who moved towards danger rather than away, and those who finished a 26.2 mile race and then kept running to the hospital to give blood or check in for work.
My friend Abby was not among those hundred injured, but that doesn’t mean she was not affected. Spectators and runners, children and parents, those in Copley Square and those all over New England, are forever affected.
Many families, who probably used competitive running the same way my father and I used the Patriots, won’t be able to hear the word “marathon” again without a momentary cognitive glimpse of yesterday’s events.
That is perhaps the thesis of this rant. In my life, sports has brought me and kept me close with very many people. It was sports that brought many families like mine (not mine, but like mine) to Copley Square on that sunny Monday afternoon.
And in a task that seems almost impossible today, it will be sports that restore us.
Sports can disguise the necessary emotional journey we must take.
Pride, disguised as a commemorative patch. Community, disguised as a gesture by an opponent. Hope disguised as a winning streak. Stoicism, disguised as the composure of our idols.
A city, disguised as a team.