Times of tragedy and triumph are said to reveal people’s true colors. The heinous attack on the Boston Marathon last Monday and its unsettling aftermath have revealed that no matter the different hues of uniform that Boston professional athletes wear they’re true blue when it comes to representing the city.
The response from the Red Sox, Bruins, Celtics, and Patriots showed Boston isn’t just a city of champions. It’s a city championed by its sports teams and its athletes. After years of the city rallying around its teams, those teams rallied around the city. Some of Boston’s biggest professional athletes were its biggest cheerleaders as the tragedy and agony of the Marathon bombings unfurled.
The support was punctuated by Red Sox slugger David Ortiz declaring, as baseball was being prepared to be played at Fenway Park for the first time since Marathon Monday, in both profane and profound terms that Boston remained unbowed.
“This is our [expletive] city, and nobody is going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong,” said Big Papi Saturday before a cathartic day of baseball reborn in the Fens.
The tense and doleful days between the stunning bombings and the massive manhunt that ensnared suspected terrorists Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev represented a role reversal. Fans who had displayed unwavering fealty, deep emotional attachment, and passionate dedication toward their teams had the sentiment returned by teams and athletes encouraging them.
They were supporting us, saluting us, encouraging us, cheering us on, and proudly displaying uniforms with our number (617) on it.
“Exactly,” said Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks, who is regarded as one of the promoters of the “Boston Strong” motto, which has become a rallying cry in the wake of the terror attacks. “They’ve had our back for years. It’s our way of giving back and showing our support, showing them we’re not just here for baseball. We’re here to be a part of the city too.”
One of the great qualities about sports is that they conjoin people from all walks of life, different ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic backgrounds, on common ground. One of the painful truths of a tragedy such as the Boston Marathon bombings is that it does the same, but bound by grief, instead of allegiance.
Athletes are human beings too, and when tragedy strikes they’re not immune from it. The Marathon attack hit home for many of them because this is their home.
Middlebrooks lives in South Boston. He has teammates who live in the Back Bay area. Bruins captain Zdeno Chara biked to the Bruins Stanley Cup parade from his home in the North End, home to several Bruins. Bruins enforcer Shawn Thornton resides in Charlestown.
“That’s kind of what I use Twitter for is just to talk to people, relate to them, and just let them know we’re human too,” said Middlebrooks. “I wanted to live here. I moved here last offseason. I just wanted to be a part of the city. I think getting out in the city and just walking around I get how resilient this city is and how strong [people] are. I just wanted to let them know that I knew that and just to stay strong, as hard as it may be sometimes.”
How can you still feel angry about the Red Sox’ 69-93 last-place finish in 2012 after how they’ve responded to a crisis? If you are, then it’s time to grab a pair of glasses, or schedule that laser surgery with Dr. Melki, because you have no perspective. The same applies if your first thought about the Bruins is the petrified stick of forward Milan Lucic.
There is no stat category for humanity. Care and compassion can’t be displayed in a trophy case.
There have been numerous examples of players and teams paying tribute to the city.
The Bruins played the first professional sporting contest in town after the bombings, gracing the ice last Wednesday at TD Garden. After a 3-2 shootout loss to the Buffalo Sabres, the two teams united and raised their sticks in a salute to the Boston crowd.
On Sunday, the Bruins did their annual game-worn sweater giveaway, bestowing the jerseys on first responders from the Marathon attack.
The same day in the first game of a doubleheader against the Royals, necessitated by Friday’s citywide lockdown, Jonny Gomes stepped up to the plate with a bat inscribed with the names of the three people killed in the bombing, Martin Richard, Krystle Campbell, and Lingzi Lu, and MIT police officer Sean Collier, who authorities say was gunned down by the fleeing bombing suspects Thursday night.
The Celtics have been out of town since the attack and the Patriots are out of season, so their emotional support roles have been less viral. But they have not been less important.
Patriots players such as Vince Wilfork, Danny Amendola, and Devin McCourty have collected and/or pledged charitable donations. The Kraft family, which owns the Patriots and the New England Revolution soccer club, is collecting funds through both clubs’ charitable foundations and will match up to $100,000 in donations.
The Celtics donated $100,000 to The One Fund Boston. They will funnel additional funds to the charity to benefit Boston Marathon bombing victims by allowing fans to choose to donate the cost of refunded tickets for the April 16 game against the Indiana Pacers that was canceled because of the attack. They also will earmark all the proceeds from the sale of 2,600 special warm-up shirts emblazoned with “Boston Stands as One” that the Celtics players will wear for their playoff series with the Knicks.
All of the Boston teams have donated more than $100,000 to Marathon victims. That’s a score that really counts.
Boston is famous for one-way streets. It’s good to know that the sense of kinship with the teams and athletes that play here isn’t one of them.
Christopher L. Gasper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.