Attention, Boston: It’s just baseball

As I wrote a week or so, the problem with the Red Sox being in the World Series is the extent to which their fans can be an insufferable, superior lot, what with their continued sense of entitlement to success, their love of feeling deprived of it (the latest was the lament that they hadn’t won a World Series at home since 1918), and their professed exceptionalism.

Baseball’s ability to be both a game and a metaphor is both its charm and its curse.

First, at its core, a baseball championship is just a baseball championship. Period. Everything else is just a sportswriter who needs a catchy lede.

“The team’s worst to first transformation in a trying time might give us clues on how to rebuild our economy and democracy into something that again makes us stand tall and proud as one,” Thomas Kochan, the co-director of the Institute for Work & Employment Research at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, writes today.

He lists distributed leadership, teamwork, and solidarity as the cornerstones of the team and, thus, should be the cornerstones of how we face our nation’s woes. A fair point, indeed. But he couldn’t stop there:

“This is for you Boston,” said Ortiz when given the MVP trophy. And Johnny Gomes said, “We got more from Boston than we gave,” referring to how the team and city healed together since the Marathon tragedy. Red Sox Nation has shown the American nation how to pull together and gain strength from each other in and after a crisis.

As Eileen McNamara pointed out in her excellent essay on “the man in the cowboy hat” at the Boston Marathon bombing site, “cities are not resilient, people are. And, sometimes, they are not.”

That’s not something that just started last April.

True, as Ian Crouch of the New Yorker points out today in fact-checking the Red Sox’ win, the team is a cultural icon in the city and not just a sports team. And, true, the franchise worked hard to raise money for the bombing victims.

But people pulled together on 9/11. They pulled together in Joplin, Mo. They pulled together when the Interstate 35W bridge collapsed. They pulled together in Newtown, Conn., and Brookfield, Wis.,  and Aurora, Colo.

And, yes, they pulled together after the Boston Marathon. But that wasn’t just your tragedy, Boston. And it wasn’t just you pulling together and if you want proof, just check the return address on the checks that people sent to help. What you learned from the Marathon is that you can pull together… too.

Boston, your team won a baseball championship. That’s swell. Congratulations. Wish it was us. Also, you’re welcome for that whole David Ortiz thing.

The lesson of the 2013 World Series? The Red Sox are better than 29 other teams and they got that way by getting rid of bad players and opening up a checkbook to hire good ones. Sometimes teams win. Sometimes they don’t.

Same as it ever was.

  • Noelle Bakken

    Yes. THANK YOU.

  • Starquest

    Yeah, people drawing connections to the marathon bombing just makes me groan. Your city bounced back. So what? As Bob noted, every city bounces back. You have no choice. What would another city have done, closed up shop?

    I rooted for the Sox in 2004 because of the curse thing; it was cool to see them win it. But by their next world series, they had simply become another Yankees-like bully team outspending everyone else. I was sad to see Detroit get beat, but they had no hope in hell against Boston. St Louis obviously didn’t either.

  • Bostonion

    I am a resident of Boston. I live a half a mile away from the finish line of the
    marathon. For 3 days I walked to and from class and work in a place that no
    longer looked or felt like the Boston I once knew and loved. I was forced into
    lockdown mode for almost 24 hours while Watertown MA went through hell. I also stood in Fenway Park the following day, where Boston started to feel like home again. I shed tears as I watched members of the Boston and Watertown police department, first responders, doctors, nurses and victims walk onto the field. Fenway Park with the Boston Red Sox, that is where the healing for our city began. We are well aware this was not only our tragedy, and the support from the rest of the country was incredible. The tragedies that other cities and towns have had to endure are unimaginable and they all were able to pull together and recover in their own way, becoming stronger because of it. So why do you have the right to criticize Boston for recovering in our own way? Yes the Red Sox went from worst to first, yes the Red Sox were the best team in baseball and yes the Red Sox won the world series, but their biggest accomplishment was giving this city something to celebrate. Put aside the fact that they paid large sums of money for a better team, and put aside the fact that you think as sports fans we are too entitled. Who are you to tell us how happy we should be about our team winning the biggest game of the year just 6 months after one of the worst days in the cities history. Yes, maybe it is “just baseball” but it is a game that brought happiness to people who suffered tragedy, and to try and take that away is an absolute shame. Never in my life have I been so proud as I am today to say not only am I from Boston, but I am a Red Sox fan.

    • Bob Collins


      Because of the patriarchal and condescending attitude of how you’ve “taught” us how to pull together in times of tragedy.

      Be happy for your team. Be happy for your city. Be proud of your city . Nobody’s is saying you shouldn’t be. It’s a great city that I still consider home.

      But, for gawd’s sake — as we like to say — get off your high horse
      about where it places you in the context of the rest of the nation. In my day, being a Bostonian meant not acting like a New Yorker. You’re all acting like New Yorkers.

      I’ll be standing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon next Patriot’s Day to respond to the people who planted the bomb. Because that’s *my* city, too. People will come from all over the world to run it for the same reason. That’s what we do.

      Because cities aren’t resilient. People are.

      • Bostononion

        I’d like you to please point out where in my post I indicated that Boston was teaching the rest of the country anything. I NEVER said Boston was better than any other city. The only time I ever said we were better than anyone else was when I referred to the amount of wins we had as a baseball team. I agree with what you say for the most part, but please point out where I ever said or indicated Boston was better than the rest of the country.

        • Bob Collins

          I didn’t mean YOU you. I mean you as directed in the original post, which included the good professor from MIT, but not — because I can’t find the link at this moment — the story — I think it was in the Globe — about all the non-baseball reason Boston is better than St. Louis.

          I don’t think Bostonians actually get how they’re viewed in the rest of America. As was pointed out below, the nation rooted for the Red Sox in ’04 for obvious reasons. They’re not rooting for them anymore. Why? For the same reasons you hate the Yankees so much.

  • Bob Collins

    Also, this:

  • Bob Collins

    Also, this:

  • jon

    I’m tired of the “We haven’t won a world series at home since 1918!” whine.

    Some of us in the midwest are from Chicago… Cubs haven’t won a world series in 105 years…. but you can complain about not winning one at home when you’ve won 2 in the last 10 years? New Flash Chicago hasn’t won a world series at home since 1906, granted it was pretty much a lock that year…

    And sure the white sox managed to win in 2005 (their first since 1917 which for those keeping score is a longer run than the red sox 1918-2004 streak)… and that was great… but when you say you came from “worst to first” and you have had a world series in the last century… it’s hard to convince those of us who are from chicago that you were ever the worst…

  • John Peschken

    I am always slightly amused by the way sports fans talk about their home team. WE beat the Packers or WE scored 10 runs as if THEY personally fielded a hot grounder to short, put one over the fence or threw the winning touchdown. You did not do that, David Ortiz did. The fact he has a “B” on his cap does not mean you get credit. Making sports into anything more than entertainment is deeply flawed.