The bombings that unfortunately accompanied the historic Boston Marathon – no doubt one of the most exciting days of the year in Eastern Massachusetts – hit rather close to home in my case, since I live only a short care ride away from downtown and my mother works only a handful of minutes away from the scenes of terror and chaos that we all struggled with on Monday afternoon. This wasn’t like September 11th, 2001 for me because my whole thought process back then was the naïve–and, looking back, downright foolish–“that would never happen in my city, close to my friends and my family.” That was some faraway place. My city would never be targeted like that. That just wouldn’t happen.
Well, it just happened.
What if my mother had decided to take that quick afternoon break from the monotonies of office work, and take in the scenes of excitement and heartwarming ecstasy that met onlookers at the finish line? Fortunately, that never happened. But, there’s not a whole lot scarier than the thought of “what if.”
What’s more, something as horrific as that wasn’t supposed to permeate the world of sports. Athletic competition and everything else leading up to it – the training
repetitions, the discipline during the offseason, and the desire to outperform your opponent – carries with it a sort of innocent charm that can’t be found in many other places. The sight of people using their sturdy legs to endure, overtake, and overcome has a sort of charming triviality about it. When you really think about it, the Boston Marathon is just a showcase for some of the best long-distance runners around to prove themselves and, in the end, they’re just a bunch of people running from one line to the other. We marvel at their grace and their stamina and their commitment to finishing the race, but it’s ultimately just a bunch of fatigued limbs pushing from Point A to Point B.
The Boston Marathon didn’t represent some controversial political ideology predicated upon repression and injustice. It’s not a figurehead of the Third Reich, or some provocative symbol of economic superiority that’s just asking to be made into a vicious example by terrorist organizations. Undoubtedly New England’s most popular sporting event, the Boston Marathon is just a collection of runners being watched by a collection of spectators being watched by the news helicopters in the sky above. The Boston Marathon is just the Boston Marathon.
And then this happened.
Monday, April 15th will forever represent the day when the youthful innocence of sports was stripped right before our eyes. When does it stop?
Innocent Bostonians can’t even gather in Copley Square anymore without witnessing the very darkest evils of humanity – the flight of severed limbs and mishmash of broken bodies gained a sickening stranglehold on a place of shopping, eating, and people-watching. It not only touched the world of sports; this was an act of brutal desecration, proving once more the fragility of human life and confirming the far-reaching arm of terror.
Something like this could happen in the realm of foreign policy debates or political protests or urban uprisings. These are all asking for tension and conflict, whether religious or racial or economically based. This could have happened during the Arab Spring. But, come on, this wasn’t supposed to happen in sports.
The LeBrons, Ronaldos, and Bolts of the world allow us to marvel, to appreciate the highest of peaks in athletic performance. And I always thought of them as sort of removed from everything else going on in the world.
They run with the best of the them and dominate their competition, sure, but they’re isolated from the more somber aspects of today’s world – they represent a reliable safety valve for all kinds of people, who can just step away from the struggles of daily life for a few moments and take in an athletic display unlike any other.
Explosions at a crowded event and competitive sports just shouldn’t go together.
The Boston Marathon is a blameless and unassuming event designed to draw people together in a less-than-serious setting. Until – as we watched in horror and disbelief – things become very, very serious very, very quickly.
How did a sporting event as historic and popular as this one come apart like this? Athletic competition is supposed to be a break from all the bad in this world and then some because of its ability to inspire in the simplest, most innocent of ways. But 4/15/13 changed all of that. The Boston Marathon isn’t just the Boston Marathon anymore. The world of sports doesn’t quite come across as impregnable anymore, like some looming fortress in the Scottish countryside.
Nothing – and nobody – is entirely safe anymore. Look no further than this past Monday.