Baseball has always meant more to Boston than any other city in the world. I don’t know how or when or why that happened, but it did. It is. Growing up here, this is something I always knew, but it was an innate, unquestioned kind of knowledge. It’s one of those things that becomes part of you so organically and slowly that it’s impossible to pinpoint. As a result, I don’t think that I ever took the time to really understand what it all meant. When the sox won the World Series in 2004 and 2007, I cheered and watched and felt happy but maybe I just wasn’t old enough, hadn’t lived enough, hadn’t seen enough to truly understand why we love it so much. Ken Burns once said that most of all, the sport of baseball is about “imperishable hope.” This year, I think I know what that means.
Things looked pretty bleak back in April. Sadness hung over Boston in such a palpable way that it felt like if you reached out you could grab some of it, right out of the air. I go to school in Providence now, but I remember going home to visit my parents after the bombing and the streets I used to walk every day weren’t familiar anymore. There were new scars. There had been blood and ash and limbs on this ground and I felt like something had been taken from me.
I was angry in a way that I can’t describe or even fully understand. It was worse, I think, than it was being sad because I was mad at something as enormous and intangible as the universe, or God, even. When they released the first photos of the suspects there was a moment that I was certain that if they were standing in front of me I would tear them apart like a wild animal does prey. Bare hands, limb from limb. I have never felt less human.
It faded, slowly. In June I drank lemonade and sat on the Common and things almost felt familiar again. I still thought about the bloodstains on Boylston, but it wasn’t all I thought about. The Red Sox started winning. It was possible to hope again. This place felt human again.
Something beautiful happened in Fenway Park on Wednesday night, and it doesn’t erase the pain or tragedy or loss, but it reminded me of something I had forgotten, or never knew in the first place. Raw, un-tethered, unspeakable, incalculable emotion isn’t always scary and animal. It doesn’t have to be produced by trauma or violence or death. Sometimes it’s the stuff of love, of joy, of redemption—of being alive. And it can come to us through something so simple as the crack of a bat and the whistle of a ball hit far and true. It’s the closest thing to magic that I know.
In the moment when the Red Sox took the World Series and we punched our fists into the sky in triumph, no one even touched a molecule of sadness. I don’t think anyone from Boston could, even if they tried. That night we didn’t just win a baseball game. We reclaimed the Boston air.