Two Boston Traditions: One City, One Heart

Boston Traditions

Boston is woven out of a fabric of a long and rich shared history; for those moments that belong to more than just a few of us, they are part of a history where recollections are shared. They belong not to individuals, but to all of Boston—indeed to all of New England. That’s part of what makes us different: who we are.

July 4th on the Esplanade, high school football on Thanksgiving, the Public Garden, hot summer days on Cape beaches, the MFA, the Pats, Celts, and B’s— we love and treasure them all. But of all our traditions, none shines brighter or more vividly than the Red Sox, or as we Bostonians say, the Sawwx. Once called the only common religion in New England, their sermons are publicly announced every day from April to October, with the rapt attention of a six state congregation attentively listening.

The Boston Marathon, more than a century old, who among us has not run in it, knew somebody who did, or cheered the athletes on. How many of us have not walked down from Fenway after the 11:00AM Monday morning game to cheer the runners on. Who does not mark the third Monday of each April by the words, “Marathon Day. Hey, Sox at 11:00 too!!”

And if there has always been some momentary crossover of these two great Boston traditions, in the year 2013, they truly intersected. In the wake of the pain, sorrow and shock of the Marathon bombings, it remained for a 6′ 3″ slugger from the Dominican Republic who called Boston home, to begin to give voice to our feelings. We all know what he said by now—most of us by heart. But what might David Ortiz have really meant? I think he was talking in part directly to the perpetrators.

To me anyway, what he was saying was “Is that all you got?”

You think you can knock Boston out with a couple of bombs? No way.

Then I think he was speaking to all of us. Scared, frustrated, and angry, the entire city was on lockdown. We were captives in our own homes and communities.

Ortiz said, “Be strong,” words now part of the national lexicon. I think what he may have meant was be strong together. Like a team. Like teammates. We are all sharing this.

So many suffered so much: the families and friends of the four who passed, and those who were maimed and so senselessly injured. But the juxtaposition of the stunning courage shown by first responders, ordinary citizens and the injured battling their way back seemed again to scream out.

“Is that all you got?”

As the spring turned to summer and then summer to fall, through every single action on and off the field, the 2013 Red Sox seemed to evolve into a proxy for how New England felt. We would never forget, and the Sox sought not to have us remember, but rather to honor. The ceremonies, hospital visits, observances and of course, how they played. Whenever it seemed they were down and out—they came back.

“Is that all you got?”

During the winter, thoughts started to turn to today’s Marathon. What would security be like? Surely the organizers would tighten down on scope and size. Guess what? They actually are allowing 9,000 more runners!

“Is that all you got?”

The horror and losses of Marathon Day 2013 will always be with us, but I think I know with great precision the exact moment when we stopped looking entirely backward, and began to look forward with hope and promise. Once again Boylston Street was lined with millions, surrounding this time not runners, but duck boats. When Johnny Gomes and Jarrod Saltalamacchia jumped off of theirs to place the World Series Championship trophy on the Marathon finish line, among the real heroes of that long-ago spring day, who did not take a deeper swallow?

“Is that all you got?”

In memory of: Krystle Campbell, Martin Richard, Lingzi Lu and Sean Collier

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