It was like something out of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Some Puck went stealing among the Sox as they slept, and lo! They woke up greatly changed. Those who had been smooth of cheek now were strangely bearded. And a team that had hissed like vipers, now cooed like doves — in a pit still, not a nest, of course, but never mind. For now, forsooth, they who had been hopelessness itself, started to hit and hit and hit.
Then suddenly they were in the World Series and rising one after another, fantastically, to the occasion: Napoli! Gomes! Victorino! Ross! Lackey! Lester! Uehara! This Series was about redemption, resurrection, and resilience on so many levels it was hard to take them all in.
Underneath it all, though, the biggest resurrection was perhaps of Boston itself. The Marathon bombing was a blunt trauma, sure, for which even the fact of crowds gathering without incident was a much-needed salve. But it was a trauma, too, that had renewed a special doubt. For Boston has, after all, always been as a city upon a hill, except. Except that the Sox were the last baseball team in the league to integrate. Except that Celtics legend Bill Russell had his house broken into and his bed defecated on. Except that we had all that trouble around busing. And what about our redlining of Jews? It’s hard not to recall these things and wonder: Did we fail the Tsarnaevs somehow? It’s not clear that we did. And yet for people who knew Dzhokhar especially, who had seen him at school, who had studied and partied and played sports with him, the lurking fear has been that we failed to truly open our hearts, that we accepted him, but only up to a point.
Now, though, above the many miracles of this Series looms the figure of David Ortiz. Not just Ortiz the hitting phenomenon, but Ortiz the man and leader. Ortiz the community supporter; Ortiz the giver of pep talks. Ortiz the unquestioned team spokesman. In the postgame interviews, one native-English-speaker after another managed to say nothing much; while Papi, with his goodly accent and his enormous heart, said it all, for all of them. And what about the pictures of Papi with Koji slung over his shoulder and pounding his posterior with joy? That’s not an image of a couple of token players of color. That’s an image of men at home and free to be themselves. Our own Sox are now World Champs with, not one, but two foreign-born MVPs. Koji gave his postgame remarks through a translator. And yet these men are indisputedly, irrevocably us. They are our very heart; they are Boston. Boston strong. Boston proud.
Cambridge author Gish Jen’s latest book is “Tiger Writing: Art, Culture, and the Interdependent Self.”