Searching for sports distractions

Searching for sports distractions
April 22, 2013, 1:45 pm

Fans filled Fenway Park on Saturday and paid tribute to the victims of last week's terrorist attacks.

(AP Images)

It’s hard to believe we’re only a week removed from a terrorist attack on the Boston Marathon. It’s even harder to believe the details of everything that’s happened since. Looking back now, mere days after the insanity of the marathon manhunt, when Boston suddenly transformed into Gotham and residents became unwilling extras in a new season of "24", I’m not sure anyone truly knows what to make of it. All I know is that nothing around here will ever be the same. For better, for worse and everything in between, last week changed us forever.
 
Moving forward, there’s no point in trying to reclaim the normalcy we maintained before the tragedy, instead it’s about finding a new normal in the shadow of such a pointless disaster. And this, all while knowing that for the families of Martin Richard, Krystle Campbell, Lu Lingzi, Sean Collier and the other victims, the new normal is a nightmare.
 
In that sense, it’s nearly impossible to transition into our post-tragedy lives without feeling an enormous sense of guilt. Even with all the inspiration that’s come from this story — the unforgettable anthem on Wednesday night at the Garden; the heroes that emerged after the bombing and during the manhunt; the way the rest of the world went above and beyond in showing their support — there are times when you take a step back and wonder: What’s the point? What are we really doing here?
 
Take something as genuine and justified as the proposed Duck Boat parade for Boston Law Enforcement. Of course, I’m in favor seeing this happen. Who can argue against paying that kind of tribute to those who put their lives on the line last week (and every week)? Especially when they were so wildly successful and heroic in doing so. But at the same time, I picture this parade, and I see a party. I see the final scene in "Ghostbusters". I see confetti, cheering, smiling, drinking — a celebration! I see it as another step in the development of a stronger, more unified Boston. A city with newfound perspective. And when it ends, I see all of us walking away inspired and proud, stocked with another surreal memory from this most surreal series of events. And that’s great.
 
But then I see those families. The Richards. The Campbells. The Lingzis. The Colliers. And I know that for them, there’s nothing surreal about this. It’s very, very real. And random. And cruel. And will continue on that way for the rest of their lives. Last week isn’t just some crazy time they’ll periodically think back on with shock and amazement, that they’ll use as a helpful reminder as to why you should never take your loved ones for granted. Years from now, they won’t tell their kids and grandkids dramatic and uplifting stories about the night Boston turned into a war zone and the heroes who came to our rescue.
 
While we all gather in celebration of law enforcement, as a way to say thank you for keeping us safe, what will those families have to say? How does that help them cope with such a horrible and pointless tragedy? How does anything make it better?
 
These last few days — and I’m sure it will only increase in the coming weeks — I keep hearing people talk about a return to normalcy. How it’s so nice that things are getting back to the way they were. How it’s so great to see this or that or anything that resembles life before the marathon tragedy. And I get it, but not entirely. Honestly, what’s normal anymore?
 
Normal is pretty much a just a matter of how easily you can distract yourself from reality. How easily you can step away from what happened and pretend this mess is in the rear view, as opposed to something that will haunt certain members of our community every single day from here on out.
 
For most of us, that won’t be so hard. Unless you were truly and devastatingly affected by last week’s events, distractions are everywhere — friends, family, music, movies, television and obviously, sports — and they’ll eventually win out.
 
We talk a lot about the role sport plays in a tragedy like this. But really, it's a distraction, nothing more and nothing less. Sports don’t help us heal. They just take our minds off the pain. It’s unfair to expect anything more. And unnecessary for sports to try to be anything more.
 
I say this in light of the tribute at Fenway Park on Saturday afternoon. And because, at the risk offending some or sounding like an emotionless jerk, I wasn’t all that affected by that pregame ceremony. I know that’s a horrible thing to say, but I’m just being honest.
 
Starting with the long opening montage on the scoreboard, with the string of marathon photos set to Jeff Buckley's Hallelujah. As I sat there watching (and maybe this is more of a personal issue than something they did wrong), all I could think about was someone in the Sox marketing department sitting at a computer screen the night before, flipping through hours of Getty Images, saying things like, “Nah, that one’s a little blurry” or “Yeah! That’s perfect. Put that photo of the crying girl in there.” And then the big meeting over what song they should use; basically, how they wanted to make us feel. The best way to pull at all our heartstrings and leave fans walking away thinking: “Man, that was beautiful. The Sox sure did a great job.”
 
But honestly, who are the Red Sox?
 
They’re a baseball team. Naturally, they needed to do something to honor what happened. They do play a big role within the fabric of this city, and did have a responsibility to shine a light on the tragedy, to be both realistic and uplifting. But the idea of taking the events of last week, and trying to perfectly craft them into a beautiful heartfelt package, to become an unforgettable part of this narrative, the same way the Bruins did on Wednesday, seemed a little ambitious and not what we needed. Not from them. We just needed a distraction. For the Sox to go out and play and give us a few hours to think about something other than children being blown up and cops being shot dead. Which they eventually and thankfully did.
 
It’s funny because for all the time and effort that went into constructing that perfect pregame ceremony, there’s one moment that we’ll remember above anything else.
 
It’s the one moment that flew in the face of everything that tribute set out to be. The rawest, least scripted and most honest moment of the entire day. The entire weekend. The moment that, even in broken English, represented everything the city was feeling on Saturday, and everything we’ll continue to feel in our attempt to make sense of this new normal.
 
“All right, Boston . . . this jersey that we wear today, it doesn't say Red Sox. It says BOSTON. We want to thank you Mayor Menino, Governor Patrick, the whole police department for the great job that they did this past week . . . This is our F*CKING city . . . and nobody gonna dictate our freedom. Stay strong!”
 
Thank you, Big Papi.
 
Thank you, law enforcement.
 
To the victims of this tragedy, we’re so sorry. And as we all start to move on with this new normal, we promise to never forget what really happened on that day, because we know that you don’t have a choice.