Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Keep On running, and jumping, and throwing, and cheering

Like all of us, I will need much time to digest the events of Patriots Day.

I believe my perspective is unique for several reasons that I would like to share here, and from my perspective, this tragedy should make us all stop and think, but NOT about the dangers of being at a big sporting event, but the unmatched joys.

I spent half my life as a runner, until a stroke took that pleasure away.  Although I never even considered running a marathon, I have always been fascinated by this particular obsession.  When I lived in Boston in the 70's and early 80's, I loved seeing the Marathon; some years I was lucky enough to see the runners from my apartment, and sometimes I went downtown to watch.

Although I always felt a little like an alien in the city, having grown up in the Berkshires (where's that?) and attending Boston University with mostly New Yorkers,  the Race was probably the only truly inclusive sporting event in town.  I never saw any evidence of the racism made infamous in the school busing days, even when African runners started winning the big medals, surely an opening for bad behavior.  Not that the crowd was much less rowdy than on St. Patrick's Day, just that jingoism did not enter into it.  It has always been a true celebration of the beauty and power of the human body and the magnificence of the human spirit, from the first sinewy champion to the last sweaty wheelchair-bound hero carried through by hard work and plain old stubbornness.  It always seemed that every spectator knew someone running.  What a lesson in the shared joy of human celebration of an event together, in a crowd, in a city, possibly the most important city in the birth of this nation.  What beauty!  What love!  One could almost hear Walt Whitman singing praises over the P.A. system.

Eventually I moved on, to New York, to find work and love, which I did, but still celebrated Patriots Day, even though my New York, and later, New Jersey, friends had no idea it was even a holiday, and thought the Marathon was that one that went through Staten Island.

I became a Mets fan -- even after '86,  the Mets were okay; my dad would have disowned me if I became a Yankees fan.

Yesterday brought me back to 9/11.  Thankfully for my family and me it was not as threatening, not the same sense of imminent apocalypse.  But we have many friends and relations in the Boston area and shared that sense of terror and vulnerability. 

There is one thing that I remember from 2001 that provided the greatest comfort, sense of normalcy, and hope: sports, and in particular large sporting events.  That first Yankees game in September 2001 was a celebration and a statement.

A celebration of the gift of life and the joy of shared experience in the world.  Although I had never been a big sports fan as a child, after having children and then especially after 9/11 I realized this power and the healing potential of competition in the arena, in the park, and on the road.  
Mike Barnicle, my favorite columnist from my Boston days and now my favorite TV commentator, put it best this morning on "Morning Joe" when he quoted another Bostonian using a classic local expression when asked about looking forward to the Marathon next year: "f-ing A".

Bruce Gionet
Teaneck, NJ
April 16, 2013

1 comment:

  1. Indeed.

    We had faith after 9/11. We bought stock and were glad we did. We went to NYC for New Years Eve and 90% of our Boston friends thought we were crazy. The best of a bunch of NYC NYEs for me. Jubilation on the streets.

    On mid October we flew - went to Florida. Scurried pat the men with machine gun at he airports and were rewarded with a wonderful 1/2 price vacation in Florida. The day we flew back was Game 3 of the Series. At about 7 P)M our plane flew over Lower Manhattan wi9th the pilot making the requisite announcement - we were passing over ground zero. The plane grew silent. The extent of the damage was extensive. There was a giant hole in Lower Manhattan - a really big one.
    1 minute later my spirits were lifted from desolation to inspiration as we flew over the Bronx and Yankee Stadium stood as a shining beacon of light. Exhilarating.
    Our plane made the turn east. We were on the ground at 7:45, into a car at the airport, home to the TV by 8:25. The strike that Dubya threw that night. That was probably the best act of his presidency. Brazenly standing in front of 60,000 ppl.

    I expect next year's marathon to be full of the same jubilation as that NYE. Think I will watch this one from the finish line.