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I don’t typically follow sports very closely, but I got really into the World Series during the past couple weeks. Watching the Red Sox win it all in the end was thrilling. The games were fun to watch, and I felt those Sox tugging on my lingering emotional ties to Boston. Ultimately, though, I think that what got me was the excitement of being able to celebrate with a city that just six months ago endured the tragedy of the marathon bombings. I know that was on the minds of many onlookers near and far—we were glad to send congratulations this time, instead of condolences. There is something cathartic about that.
I’m lingering on a couple images that heighten the contrast between the scenes from April and those from last week. Mostly having to do with men in boats. I think about that wild manhunt a couple days after the bombings, when the entire city of Boston slowed to a halt in order to end the escapades of the Tsarnaev brothers. After the older one perished under the wheels of the car they’d stolen, the younger one was eventually found in a backyard boat in Watertown. Hiding, hurting, hated. On a boat to nowhere, dry-docked and useless, a stationary place of respite from public scorn before exposure and capture.
And then, this past Saturday, a parade in Boston for the team of baseball champions. Rolling along on the famed duck boats, some boats even decked with big beards in honor of the hairy players. Boats on the streets, and boats afloat on the Charles River, teeming with young men, victorious and proud, whose passion and conviction had led them not to maim and destroy but to demonstrate their skill and determination. Game after game, they doggedly pursued a goal, with no guarantee of success or public adulation.
In April, Boston’s public transit was halted and residents sheltered in place while destructive young men wreaked havoc. Last week, a couple million people boarded trains and buses to get as close as they could to the men who gave their all, tried their best, played as a team, and played by the rules. I don’t mean to glorify athletics, but perhaps I am consoled by this year’s Red Sox team because I crave an example of courage to counteract the cowardice of other young men who receive so much attention for their violent deeds. In this day where we brace ourselves for the next news story of young disgruntled men who take up arms in movie theaters, campuses, elementary schools, airports, offices, malls, and city streets, we do not and cannot take for granted the opportunity to lift up the deeds of young men who are given over to teamwork and sportsmanship. I think it should leave us with the weighty wondering: just what does it take to nurture the young men all around us who are struggling to find their way, who are searching out a path that will launch them into lives that are seaworthy and not shipwrecked?