BOSTON – In the past week, we’ve been talking a lot about the role sports teams play in unifying a city.
With a week of terror and horror behind us in Boston, we look to the athletes who wear the name of our city on their chests to help lift us into some semblance of normalcy.
It’s a new normal. And as Bruce Cockburn once sang, the trouble with normal is it always gets worse.
For those of us who cover the games, a normal day at Fenway Park now includes standing in line to go through a hand-held metal detector and stepping aside in the press box for a bomb-sniffing dog to do his job.
But when the games are played we’re able to forget all of that, if only for a bit.
We’re able to stand as one as Daniel Nava circles the bases with an eighth-inning home run that helped extend a home team’s winning streak to seven games.
Or smile when Jacoby Ellsbury taps the “B Strong” emblem on his jersey as he crosses home plate.
At their best sporting events provide great theater. And great theater runs us through a wide range of emotions. So it was at Fenway Park this weekend.
We wiped away tears as Boston police officers — just hours removed from a manhunt that paralyzed a city — lined the field for the national anthem.
We laughed when David Ortiz grabbed the microphone and yelled “this is our (bleeping) city!”
And that was just one pre-game ceremony.
It was a good sign that by Sunday we were watching the games for the competition, not just for the diversion.
That we were actually holding our breath again as Ortiz legged out a sixth-inning double on Sunday, wondering if his Achilles tendon would flare up again.
And then we slumped back into our seats when Jarrod Saltalamacchia struck out later that inning, stranding Big Papi at third.
These are the emotions we are supposed to feel at a game. The thrill of victory and all of that. Not fear and sorrow.
It didn’t take long for Boston to get its swagger back.
By the time the second suspect was taken into custody Friday night the city was ready to exhale. It was able to breathe easier, and celebrated in the streets.
By Saturday afternoon, the sun was shining — a perfect day to head to the ballpark with the family.
Earlier in the week, the Bruins began the healing process with an emotional night at the Garden.
Lewiston’s Rene Rancourt set the tone perfectly when he handed the singing duties over to the crowd. Never had he been asked to sing so few words of the Star Spangled Banner, yet never had he been so perfectly in tune.
By the weekend it was time for the Red Sox to take center stage. Their celebration had a more victorious tone.
By the time Neil Diamond made an impromptu appearance to lead the stadium in a singing of “Sweet Caroline” it was clear that Boston was back on its feet.
Come Sunday night, with a workday ahead of us, the routine of a baseball season had returned.
We had a glimpse of the future in the back end of a doubleheader when 23-year old Alan Webster made his major league debut. Scouts believe Webster has the stuff to be a top-of-the-rotation starter down the road.
A bright future?
That was a nice topic to end the week with. A lot better than thinking about the recent past.
Tom Caron is the studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on the New England Sports Network. His column appears in the Press Herald on Tuesdays.