The gradual sense that something terrible had happened was a peculiar feeling at TSL offices on April 15. Initially, we watched reports of an “explosion” at the Boston Marathon (the most storied marathon in the world), the aerial shots – at the time – not necessarily depicting horror. Then injury numbers started coming in, then "explosion" turned into “bomb,” then a reported fatality and, finally, Boston Globe raw footage of the coordinated bomb blasts in real-time and images of terrorized crowds shrieking and racing in mayhem.
This, unfortunately, was another one of "those" events. The feelings of unease, sorrow-drenched empathy and a persistent disappointment in degraded humanity drowned everything else out. At the time of this writing, three deaths and over 170 injuries have been reported. One of the deaths was an eight-year-old boy, Martin Richard; his sister was there with him at the finish line…she lost a leg.
“Surgeons at Boston hospitals told televised news conferences on Tuesday that the devices contained small pellets and sharp ‘nail-like’ objects that were designed to maim their victims.”
The White House labeled this as an act of terror.
Other news started trickling in. The Newtown families, for goodness sake, were reportedly stationed near one of the blasts (the last leg of the marathon was dedicated to them) and many runners – a significant portion of which use the marathon for life-affirming reasons – didn’t even finish the race. The marathon, known to be the happiest day of the year in Boston, was forever marred.
Over the last 24 hours, though, my thoughts, among many things, turned to how the staff and I plan to continue covering sports and culture amid a tragedy that pushes things like the Lakers’ playoff chase or the Bey-Z Cuba controversy to the level of contextual trifles.
The knee-jerk is to go straight to the "sports as the great escape" trope that, even sadder, has become somewhat of a trite cliché these days. This is sad because it seems that we are dealing with tragedy with what feels like increased frequency. Just in the past 18 months, we had the unearthing of a deranged sex predator raping kids on an idyllic college campus in Pennsylvania, and another madman bucking down school age children in Newtown, and now this. And we can start counting back from there: Virginia Tech, Katrina, the D.C. sniper, 9-11, Columbine, the Oklahoma City bombing. I harken back to 1990 – with my Buffalo Bills approaching Super Bowl XXV against the backdrop of the Persian Gulf war – as the first instance I acknowledged the unique and peculiar way sports exists in sobering times.
There are inevitably times, in the aftermath of these tragedies, when a game or a song or culture crosses the line of entertainment and truly matters on a real level (Giants/Yankees fans in 2001 and Saints fans in 2007 will tell you that).
But you have to compartmentalize these things.
Personally, I turn inward: mull my relationship with my God and cherish my relationships and the health of my loved ones. That’s how most of us process tragedy – at least some version of it. Prayers and fellow-feeling go to our neighbors in Boston. It’s a “global city” full of resilient citizens. I’ve spent enough time in Boston to house a healthy crush on it, marveling at the unique way that it's home to hardscrabble, working-class heroes and high-falutin academia. It’s deeply unsettling, though, that some of America’s greatest centers seem to be under siege – whether it’s international terror that struck world-class NYC, the mix of natural disaster and human negligence that crippled America’s domestic jewel New Orleans, or the almost anarchic violence that’s currently raging through the great city of Chicago.
In the office, the crew and I joke about “first world problems” – like a certain restaurant not being on Seamless or your bodega closing too early. Hovering-terror/violence, however, is no longer the province of the third world (or the ‘hood). Frighteningly, it’s clear that frequent tragedies are becoming a part of our lives and it’s almost as important to focus on recuperative measures as much as preventative. It’s the new reality.
When it comes to our content in these somber times, here at The Shadow League, we’ll seek to be as mindful as we possibly can when it comes to gauging the general mood of the country, taking cues from our neighbors in New England. Circling back to sports, as trite and cliché as it might sound, I can say knowingly that few things carry the civic weight to band folks together like ballgames. The Bruins and Red Sox have home games this week; the Celtics have a couple playoff tilts against the rival Knicks in the near future. Bostonians (and the nation, really) will use that as an engine for the healing process.
Life goes on, because it has to.