The traumatic and tragic events of the 15th of April 2013 at the finishing line of the Boston Marathon is something that will live long in the memory for most, and is something that will live on forever in the memory and minds of those who call Boston, Massachusetts home. The bombings on Boylston Street saw terrorists attempt to tear the heart out of this historic and iconic American city.
As someone who has been fortunate enough to visit this great city on more than one occasion, I, like most others, watched on in horror and despair as a city that I have grown to know well was partially destroyed by Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s horrific actions.
Only two hours prior to the explosions, and just a couple of miles up the street from the finish line, the city’s beloved Red Sox had just completed an early season game at the team’s Fenway Park stadium. As it was a public holiday, like Boylston Street, the grand old ballpark had been filled with families and kids enjoying a day out.
At this early point of the season the Red Sox faithful were not at their most expectant. The team had finished the 2012 season with the worst record in baseball and were hoping just to improve following one of the worst years in the team’s history.
The 2012 season had seen the team conduct one of the largest ‘wage dumps’ in the sport’s history as high-profile flops and underperformers Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Beckett were traded to the LA Dodgers with the objective of clearing the wage bill and starting afresh this term. In the off-season the Red Sox used their newly acquired financial flexibility to adopt a different approach for 2013 - an approach more fitting with the Boston way.
Out went the superstars and their egos and in came a group of real old-fashioned dirtdogs. Players with no heirs and graces, players who would fight and hustle for their team, players more in tune with the great Boston teams of the past.
Whilst some of these players that were recruited over the winter were not quite the big-name replacements that some fans had wanted, the Red Sox hierarchy knew what they were buying. Players like Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes and Shane Victorino were all drafted in with the purpose of once again making the Red Sox into a real team as opposed to the group of over-paid egos they had previously been.
In Boston they adore their sports. They love their Celtics, they love their Bruins and they love their Patriots. However, given that the city of Boston is one of the great baseball cities, perhaps even more than these three teams, they love, and they cherish, their Red Sox.
It may have something to do with the fact that the team agonisingly, yet unintentionally, tortured them for so many years. For 86 long, hard, trophy-less seasons the Red Sox won absolutely nothing; grown men and life-long Boston fans went their whole lives without ever seeing their team win a thing, until finally, the great team of 2004 broke the infamous Curse of the Bambino.
In life, if you can't have something, it invariably makes you want it more. For 86 years the Red Sox faithful obsessed over their team’s inability to go all the way and their so-called curse. When at long last the curse was finally laid to rest, the people of this great city could finally celebrate the team that had caused them so many years of anguish.
The Boston Red Sox and their long and storied history are ingrained into the fabric of this city; even Fenway Park itself is one of Boston's most iconic landmarks. It is impossible to imagine Boston as a city without the Red Sox. In its hours and days of need, the team was there for its city.
The day after the marathon explosions, the bearded Red Sox (all players have spent the entire season growing full beards) were playing in Cleveland. That night the team decided to show their support for the people of their city that had been decimated just 24 hours earlier.
The team hung a jersey in their dugout with the number “617” and the words “Boston Strong” on its back. The significance of the number is that 617 is the area code for the downtown Boston area, with “Boston Strong” adopted as the city’s new mantra. The ‘B Strong’ logo itself (which uses the Red Sox ‘B’) has now become the symbol for the determination and the heart of the Boston people.
From that night on the jersey has travelled with the team and has been in every dugout night after night right up until the series clincher on Wednesday. Fittingly, in this year of all years, the Red Sox actually won the big one at Fenway Park for the first time in most fans’ lifetime.
That night in Cleveland the Red Sox decided that from that point forward they would carry the memory of their home town with them as a reminder of the people who they represent, and how they can bring happiness to those suffering, regardless of how small and insignificant it may seem.
The 2013 Boston Red Sox have taken the horrors and the tragedies of April 15th and used them as the supreme motivation for providing the city with something to cheer for and to celebrate in this most awful of years.
From these early spring beginnings, throughout the summer, and all the way through to the autumn climax, the Red Sox were the best team in the American League this year. In stark difference to last season the 2013 Red Sox have played in a style befitting their city; tough, determined, hard to beat and have followed their motto of “Find a way” to the letter.
Back in April, at the first game at Fenway following the attacks, Red Sox slugger and club house leader David ‘Big Papi’ Ortiz addressed the home crowd. In a stirring and emotional speech, Ortiz implored the people of Boston and the Red Sox nation to stay strong before then famously declaring Boston as “OUR F*****G CITY!!”
This World Series however, Big Papi has done his talking with his bat and was rightly awarded MVP of the Series. During this post-season against excellent Tampa Bay, Detroit and Cardinals teams, Ortiz was nothing short of sensational. In what seemed like every at-bat, Papi hit singles, doubles, homers and even grand slams. When his city and his team needed him most, their hero delivered.
In this city, the year of 2013 will now forever be remembered for the marathon bombings; but now if nothing else, this team has at least given something back to its people for them to cherish and for them to remember for the right reasons.
2013 was the year their city was brought to its knees by terrorists – but 2013 was also the year that their baseball team helped to bring them back to their feet.