In the grand scheme of things, sports mean nothing. They are games. If your team wins the Super Bowl or goes winless, it doesn’t change what’s happening in the real world. And after the events of Monday at the Boston Marathon, the games have taken a backseat to the realities of life.
But, as meaningless as the games themselves are right now, they do provide a way for people, organizations, and the country to band together and show their support in a time of such pain. Where else on an average weeknight will thousands and thousands of people congregate in one place and demonstrate solidarity? On nights like these, people in the stands are less fans of their team and more Americans standing together.
Already, we have seen numerous displays of unity and selflessness from teams around the country. In MLB, teams across the league found different ways to let Boston know they are thinking of the city. In Cleveland, where the Red Sox were taking on the Indians, the stadium held a moment of silence, put its flags at half-mast, and displayed a “B Strong” message on its video board.
The Milwaukee Brewers added a video tribute to the theme song from Cheers, the popular sitcom set in Boston. The rest of the league added a playing of Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline, a classic 8th inning sing-along during games at Fenway Park. The significance may not have been known to the fans in the stands across the country, but to those in Boston, it meant a lot.
Even in New York, the Red Sox’ biggest rivals showed how little that rivalry means right now. The Yankees, too, played Sweet Caroline, but also added a touching sign outside of their stadium that said “United We Stand” and included both teams’ logos.
Baseball wasn’t alone in its tributes. In the NHL, teams across the league honored Boston with moments of silence and video tributes. One of the more moving moments came from Chicago. In a city known for its incredible National Anthems, they added another one on Monday night. The words were belted out with strength and pride and Chicagoans in the stands joined in to show their American spirit.
And, tonight, Boston gets its turn. The Red Sox left town after their early Patriots Day game which ended before the bombings. The Bruins game scheduled for that night against the Ottawa Senators was rightfully postponed. Tonight will be the first big event to take place in Boston since Monday when the Bruins host the Buffalo Sabres.
Expect nothing less than an emotional and spirited night. Bostonians have come together this week to help each other through what has been some of the worst few days the city has ever experienced.
And that’s why, tonight, you are going to see a TD Garden that is as loud as it’s ever been. Tonight, the Bruins represent much more than a hockey team. They represent a city that is wounded. They are playing for a country that has been violated.
Going back to the September 11th attacks, sports helped the healing. It was incredibly powerful when the Mets’ Mike Piazza hit a home run 10 days after the attacks in the first sporting event in New York City since that gave the Mets the win. The image of President George W. Bush standing stoically on the Yankee Stadium mound before Game 3 of the World Series, giving a thumbs up, then confidently throwing out a first pitch strike was strengthening and immediately prompted a “USA” chant from the crowd. It seemed appropriate that Patriots, with their red, white, and blue colors, won the Super Bowl while the country was still hurting.
Tonight is Boston’s night. It is time to begin the healing and restore some sense of normalcy. The Bruins can help. They will include a moment of silence and video tribute before the game while the players will wear a “Boston Strong” decal on their helmets. And you can bet 17,565 proud Bostonians in the Garden will be singing along when Rene Rancourt delivers his National Anthem tonight. Everyone in the arena or watching live on TV will be fist-pumping with him as they try to help Boston through this.
Boston is a small city with a strong sense of community. The Black and Gold brought Bostonians even closer together in 2011 to embrace a magical run to a Stanley Cup. Imagine what it can do for something that actually matters.