In view of the terrorism that has been seen, recently, in multiple parts of the world, it must be said that it is hard to see any of it as not intensely sensitive and personal for everyone. Freedom of speech is a delicate matter that people find fundamentally important, as it expresses their true selves to society. We are social creatures, who want to be remembered and connect to others for a sense of value and acceptance. When we feel disrespected, we want to express that anger and frustration. The issue becomes a choice of medium to ultimately declare those thoughts and feelings.
The city of Boston is no exception to that desire. With the trial of the Boston Marathon bomber looming closer, jury selection has started, and so has security. In a report by CBSNews.com, yesterday, “law enforcement officials will be keeping a watchful eye on the demonstrators and onlookers the proceedings periodically have drawn, as well as the hundreds of prospective jurors who have been filing in and out of the courthouse complex.” The court will be the medium of choice for the law to have its say on the matter.
But what about sports? Should the sports universe ever speak on such sensitive subjects? Is not baseball, or any other sport, simply a pastime that governs entertainment and nothing else? The purpose of this edition of Red Sox Memories is not to declare blame or rally anyone against any individual or group, as that is a very personal and private choice for anyone on either side of the equation to decide. Revenge and justice are two very different things, and hate stops any open dialogue for a solution. However, this article is definitely about how a rally of positivity and hope from athletes can make them look more human, where, instead of idolizing or worshipping, we can stand proudly with them.
Oct 23, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; The grounds crew waters the infield as the Boston Strong logo is seen in the outfield at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
In 2013, the Boston Red Sox and the other sports franchises stood with the marathon runners, policemen, firefighters, and other members of the community to show a unity of care for the victims of the attack and the city itself. It was encapsulated in a phrase, and later in the hashtag #BostonStrong. The phrase turned up quickly after the attack, appearing on T-shirts and billboards, including the Green Monster. Louis DuBois of NBC News reported that at the first game at Fenway Park, the stadium announcer told the crowd: “We are one. We are strong. We are Boston. We are Boston strong.” Center field had the phrase combined with the Red Sox’ famous ‘B’ logo to further the statement. These types of supportive displays united everyone, even people not living in Boston, to care and help those in need, whether a victim of the attack or just a fellow citizen whom we would simply pass by without a moment’s thought.
In 2014, David Ortiz, the designated hitter and face of the Red Sox franchise, wrote an article in Sports Illustrated‘s magazine that was dedicated to the event. He connected the support to the Boston Marathon, showing how both have the same purpose:
"“So many runners every year are there to raise money to fight diseases like cancer and diabetes. We all know someone who suffers from those things. Working and competing to help those people is beautiful. Why would anyone ever want to attack that?” – David Ortiz"
Ortiz also commented on how the media reflected on his speech at the first game after the bombing, where he used profanity to declare that Boston was theirs, the free citizens dwelling within it. He stated, “I was just expressing what I was feeling: I was looking for a hero to protect what was ours. Our city. Our Marathon. Our way of life. When I said what I said and I saw the look in people’s eyes, I knew we would be all right.”
Sep 28, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts (2) and designated hitter David Ortiz (34) present New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter (2) with a respect sign before the game at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
The people were not looking at a professional athlete that day, in that moment; they were looking at a Bostonian. He was not born in Boston, but he was, and still is, one of their own. Ortiz was one of the many, that day. He was just another human being, who wanted the hate to stop and the love to carry them through dark days.
I am not from Boston, either. I try never to get too personal in my writing, unless it is needed. In this case, it is needed. In April 2013, during the investigation and media coverage, I wore my Red Sox pin every day on my chest, as I taught my classes. All of my students noticed the pin and asked me about why I was wearing it. I told them the same thing I tell you now:
"“Tragedies are for when the world forgets to care about each other.” – Brandon Nickel"
Take that for whatever it is worth to you, from an average citizen. To me, the Red Sox have the same right to tell the city of Boston that they care for them as much as any of us, Bostonian or not. The #BostonStrong movement is an idea, based on the fundamental principle that all men, women, and children are created equal, regardless of religion, race, or other creeds. We should stand strong together every day, not just when something terrifying or horrific happens. The movement is not about vengence.
Ortiz was reminded that “life can change in an instant. It’s easy to forget that, especially for athletes like us. It doesn’t matter if you won the World Series or if you’re a regular person cheering on a runner, you never know what can happen in the next moment” (Sports Illustrated). The spirit of competition is meant to be the joy of our accomplishments, even in defeat, not simply to defeat an opposing force. We need to remember that every day, so that we can move forward to success, instead of wallowing in self pity and hate for those whom we feel have wronged us. Life is much bigger than a scoreboard.