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Over the Rainbow with Brian Burns: Knock Me Out of the Park

Photo: Juliette Luchini

Photo: Juliette Luchini

My parents decided to sign me up for tee ball when I was four years old. It may have been because I had the lyrics to “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?” by Paula Cole impressively committed to memory. It may have been because my impression of Ginger Spice was scarily spot-on. Really, they just wanted me to spend more time with boys and less time with VH1. Long story short: I won an award at the end of the season for never catching a single ball.

I don’t like sports. I swim, I down-dog, I take the stairs but, beyond that, I only watch ESPN for the spelling bee. I do have my moments: I worshipped Michelle Kwan as a child like every other red-blooded boy, I regularly watch tennis to estimate the net worth of the spectators sitting in the front row and I can appreciate football players as ballerinas with bigger quads and smaller egos. But for the most part, I’d rather watch paint dry. In Iraq.

Considering this athletic aversion—not to mention how much I hate cold weather and entitled white people—I don’t always understand how I ended up going to college in Boston. Factor in my inability to differentiate a Bruin from a BU fraternity brother and I’m surprised an angry Irish dude hasn’t personally evicted me from the city. I like clam chowder and being an emotional drunk as much as any other Bostonite but there’s something that’s always kept me from feeling completely at home here. In an effort to get acclimated, I made the decision to sit down and watch game one of the World Series.

By the bottom of the first inning, I was already scrolling through my phone (no app went unturned—I’m talking “stocks” and “world clocks” levels of desperation). At the top of the third, I had chewed each of my fingernails down to the quick and was mentally mapping the distance between my mouth and toes. By the time the Red Sox were winning seven to nothing, I had already plotted seven ways to make my own death look like an accident.

“Aren’t they going to stretch at some point?” I wondered aloud when someone started singing “God Bless America” during the seventh inning.

Following the Red Sox Game One win, hundreds of fans poured into Kenmore Square and the Fenway neighborhood. I, meanwhile, poured a stiff drink of Zzzquil and sat down to think about what I had watched. I realize that baseball, along with apple pie and megalomania, forms the holy trifecta of what it means to be American. But I now understand, to an even better degree, that the game is basically a nine inning-long circle-jerk. Plenty of stuff is going on but is any of it all that gratifying?

I was ready to put baseball firmly in my past until I saw several interesting fan reactions to the initial win. “Red Sox Nation! #BostonStrong”; “Ortiz just made it to second base. So did I. #BOSTONSTRONG”; “Mayonnaise is great #BOSTON #STRONG”. Boston Strong, a phrase that once commemorated those gravely impacted by the Marathon bombing, was suddenly being associated with the success of a bunch of guys who swat at balls for millions of dollars a year. Irony not included.

Are the “Boston Strong” victims and survivors of the bombing still being honored when the term has been distorted, reduced and commodified by countless brands and bros? Isn’t the gravity of the tragedy lost when its vow of resilience is branded across a t-shirt and baseball field? It reminds me of last spring, after Tsarnaev’s capture, when countless college students clogged Brookline Avenue chanting “U.S.A.!”: the sense of pride was coming from the right place but the ‘Murica-approach only sentimentalized—and cheapened—the impact of the violence.

I could just be bitter that my connection with Boston isn’t powerful enough to equate overcoming a terrorist attack with clinching a World Series. I’ve never been one to quickly plant my roots and maybe that’s not a bad thing. But there’s something really beautiful in the ability to establish an identity so intimately linked with wherever you’re living. I guess it’s just a matter of time. Until then, I’ll be walking down Yawkey Way and looking for home.

Posted by on October 30, 2013. Filed under Around Campus,Around the Hub,Opinions & Editorials,Over the Rainbow with Brian Burns. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.