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If you’re not a native of Boston or haven’t lived there at some point in your lifetime, it’s tough to grasp exactly what Patriots’ Day means to the city.
I’m one of those people. I’ve never lived in Boston, although I would consider it a second home given how much time I’ve spent there in my life. It’s the city I most associate with, one that I love and care about. While I can’t officially call myself a Bostonian, plenty of my friends are from the city, and certainly plenty live there now. My visions of Patriots’ Day are created through them. Stories upon stories of how great a day it is. How an entire city, an entire state, an entire community comes together for one day to celebrate.
Patriots’ Day was first enacted to commemorate the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the first battles that started the Revolutionary War, fought in towns just outside of Boston. While it’s true meaning often gets forgotten, the big picture of celebrating American freedom, specifically within the city, is prevalent every year.
It’s the Fourth of July, but concentrated into one state, then crammed into one city. Residents have the day off from work. Kids have the day off from school. The city shuts down to focus solely on its two main events: The Boston Marathon and the Red Sox game. Thousands cram into Fenway Park, decked out in their Boston gear, to cheer on their favorite team. When the game ends, fans flood the streets and join nearly half a million spectators, encouraging the 25,000+ runners giving their all for not only themselves, but for charities and in the remembrance of loved ones, on a grueling 26.2 mile course through the heart of the city. Whether you’re from Boston, or Massachusetts, or somewhere in America, or somewhere outside of America, everyone comes together as one. American flags, comradery, patriotism, sports, a day off from work and school, and lots of beer. Doesn’t get much better than that.
I always knew growing up that I wanted to be involved in sports with my career. I can remember as a young boy lying on my living room floor watching guys like Clemens, Vaughn, Garciaparra. I would listen to the broadcasters calling the game, thinking how great it would be to have a job talking about baseball. Fast-forward a decade and I’m working in sports talk radio, a dream job.
As I took a look around me though, I noticed so many people choosing careers that directly had positive impacts on the world. Some of my closest friends from college went to school to become nurses and teachers, my best friend from home became a police officer in the NYPD. It made me reevaluate the path I chose. However much I loved it, I felt a void that wasn’t being fulfilled.
As the local show I was on here in Connecticut started to pick up, we received a great deal of feedback. Some positive, some negative as expected. However, one e-mail stood out to me and forever changed my way of thinking when it came to what I did.
A man had written in and said he had been battling cancer, going through chemotherapy frequently. He used listening to our show (and I would hope others) as an escape from the every day pain and suffering of his illness and treatment. It was short, but it stuck with me. It was then that I realized that sports, as a whole, however meaningless in the grand scheme of things, can have a tremendous impact on people’s lives. It’s an escape from reality. Something to forget about the real world. Something to cheer for. Something to give you hope. I was finally proud that I could be a medium between society and sports.
The bombings at the Boston Marathon last year were nothing short of horrific. Not only was it an act of terrorism, but it was an act of terrorism on the most American day in the most American city in the country. It left a city devastated. Physically, emotionally, mentally. While the events at the Marathon knocked down an entire city, the Red Sox picked them back up.
The team became a rallying cry. They became that medium to help us forget about the real world, about the travesty the city endured. They gave us something to cheer for, to hope for. It was sports in the form of this baseball team that reunited a community and helped them to bounce back stronger than ever.
And it was ironically a Dominican we like to call Big Papi, who is as Boston as Boston gets, who so eloquently proclaimed “This is our f***ing city.”
And he was right. It was our city. Everyone at the game, everyone in the Marathon, everyone attending the events, everyone in the state, everyone in the country. Boston is the city that belongs to America and everyone who loves her. And this team, and the people who rallied around them, proved that nobody could take it from them.
The Red Sox had their 9th inning rally fall short this afternoon, losing to the Orioles 7-6. But you know what? The outcome of the game is completely insignificant. What matters is that this city is exponentially stronger than it was one year ago today. The people of the city have become bonded so closely by tragedy it’s impossible to tear them apart, and the team was part of that glue. Today 36,000 people ran in the Boston Marathon, the second-most in its history. A record-setting number of spectators expected to line the streets.
You’re going to have to do a lot better than kill innocent people to break the spirits of this city, especially on Patriots’ Day.
Boston Strong, indeed.