Wednesday’s game between the Boston Bruins and Buffalo Sabres began like any other night at the TD Garden.
Players from both teams lined up in unison as Rene Rancourt made his way onto the ice for his rendition of the National Anthem. At a moment’s notice, the sellout crowd stood at full attention. As Rancourt began, hands were placed over hearts and heads nodded down in respect.
No words could fully describe what happened next:
Needless to say, there was nothing ordinary about this night. It surely wouldn’t be forgotten anytime soon.
Not because the Bruins clinched a playoff berth, but because it gave a wounded community a chance to heal.
Boston needed this.
Monday’s cowardly bombings at the Boston Marathon successfully brought one of the nation’s strongest cities down to its knees. Three lives were lost and over 100 were injured. Some may never make a full recovery.
Although the dedication, haste and efficiency in the response by Boston’s service departments, medical staff and fellow citizens provided a ray of hope in a time of darkness, it doesn’t take away the suffering felt by many. Only the comfort of family, friends and time can attempt to do so.
But what about sports?
In its simplest form, sport is defined as the competition between an individual/team against another individual/team. From a fan’s standpoint, it allows many strangers to come together as a community in support of a shared belief.
Think about it. How many times have you walked into a foreign city, spotted someone donning the attire of your favorite team and instantly felt a connection to that person? Sometimes, it’s enough to strike up a conversation. The simple fact that you both share the same passion is enough to make you feel as if you know enough about this complete stranger.
Therein lies the beauty of sports.
Not only does it bring people together, but it also helps provide a much-needed distraction from the realities of life.
What job? What homework? What rent?
For three hours, nothing else matters.
Following Monday’s tragic events, there were thousands of people who were in search of a similar connection. They were people who were looking for an outlet for their emotions. But most importantly, they were looking for a sense of belonging.
Wednesday night’s game provided a venue for that.
But while Boston still heals, the rest of the sports world has been quick in rushing to the city’s aid.
First, the Chicago Tribune released a touching ad on the front page of their sports section, featuring the logos of all four major professional sports teams in Boston. It reads, “We are Chicago Red Sox, we are Chicago Celtics, we are Chicago Patriots, we are Chicago Revolution.”
Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Ben Revere took it even further.
However, the one tribute that stands out the most comes courtesy of one of Boston’s most-hated rivals: The New York Yankees.
Preceding their game on Tuesday, the Yankees tweeted a picture of a sign displayed outside of Yankee stadium. It included the logos of both the Yankees and Red Sox on either side of the text, “United We Stand.” Furthermore, “Sweet Carolina”—a Fenway Park staple—was played at the end of the third inning.
It just goes to show, in the bigger picture of things, this fierce rivalry can be better classified as nothing more than a sibling rivalry.
It’s sentiments like these that make me question the late David Halberstam’s post-9/11 piece, arguing the notion that sports can’t heal.
Tell that to the city of New York after Mike Piazza belted the game-winning home run only a little over a week after 9/11. Tell that to the state of Louisiana after the New Orleans Saints delivered the franchise’s first Super Bowl title four years after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the city. Tell that to the families of the Newtown shooting victims after Chris Johnson scribbled each victim’s name on his shoes before scrambling for a 94-yard touchdown.
Now, try telling that to the 17,565 in attendance during last night’s Bruins game.
The TD Garden was filled with people of all ages, races and religions. American flags and patriotic signs were in the hands of many. Children sung at the top of their lungs, while parents tried to hold back their emotions. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
But don’t mistake them as tears of sadness. These were tears of pride.
You see, when these cowards chose to attack our beautiful city with the eyes of the entire world firmly rested upon it, they had hoped to break our spirits. They looked to strike fear in the hearts of many and incite a sense of panic.
Instead, the city has responded in glorious fashion. Boston has never been more close-knit, more united or stronger than it is right now.
These people obviously had no clue just who they were messing with.
As President Barack Obama stated in his speech during the prayer service for the slain victims, “When the Red Sox, Celtics, Patriots or Bruins are champions again…the crowds will gather and watch a parade go down Boylston Street.”
The city may not be fully healed by that point.
But it’d be one hell of a start.