Patriot’s Dayby David Gassko
April 16, 2013
I grew up in the Fens, a Boston neighborhood located not far from yesterday’s events, bordering, as you might imagine, Fenway Park. My childhood was imperfect, but my memories are idyllic.
I remember my uncle sometimes calling out of the blue, maybe because it was a nice day outside, maybe because Pedro was pitching, and asking if I wanted to go see a Red Sox game. This was before the sellout streak, and getting tickets was neither so difficult nor so expensive. We would scalp a couple grandstand seats, move up between innings to be closer to home plate and watch.
The ballpark always seemed a perfect sanctuary to me: 30,000 people getting together to cheer on a single cause, basking in the warm summer weather, with hot dogs and Cracker Jacks limited only by the amount of money in your pocket. It’s no surprise I grew up a baseball fan.
As I got older, my love for baseball only grew stronger. I got into sabermetrics, I started writing, I started working with major leagues teams, but always, always, my first love was the Red Sox. Even when I moved away from Boston, I always made sure to catch at least one game a season at Fenway. The other 161 games, I watched on TV or online or, worst case scenario, I read the game summary and imagined how it all must have happened.
The Red Sox won a World Series, then another one, and some people complained that it changed their relationship with the team, but for me it was always the same: I marked my calendar with the start of spring training and ended it whenever the Red Sox were finished.
In 2011, I graduated from college and started work at a demanding job. I was still plugged into the Red Sox season until the bitter end, but as 2012 rolled around and neither the Red Sox nor work got any better, one thing finally had to go, and it was the Red Sox. They were too unlikeable, too overpaid, too flawed for me to care. For the first time I can remember, I did not attend a single game at Fenway Park.
This offseason, I re-kindled my love for the team. Albatross contracts were shed, shrewd free agent signings were made, and though the roster was not as talented as it seemed to be going into most every year over the past decade, it had something else going for it: There was hope. Not expectations, but hope, the same hope I felt when I watched Roger Clemens’ last start as a Red Sox and hoped he would come back, the same hope I felt every time Pedro took the mound and I wondered how any team could beat us when he was wearing a Red Sox uniform.
So, though work was still demanding, I re-dedicated myself. I learned the upcoming schedule by heart and committed to following every game. Yesterday at work, I was following Gamecast, pumping my fist with every Ryan Dempster strikeout, agonizing as the Rays kept tying the game up, and doing cartwheels when Mike Napoli hit a walkoff double to end it. That idyllic feeling of my childhood—two thousand miles away from Boston, I could feel it. It’s an imperfect team, but how can anyone beat us when we have Mike Napoli?
An hour later, two blasts rocked Copley Square, killing three and injuring many more. When I first saw the headlines, I figured it must have been an accident, some ancient Boston pipes unable to withstand the demands of Marathon Monday. Then I read on, and it felt like 9/11 all over again, when I was convinced, convinced, that the first plane must have been some sort of horrid accident. And then the second plane hit. And then I saw there had been a second blast. There was no innocent explanation, just a far too imperfect world.
All morning, I had jealously been reading Facebook statuses from my friends in Boston, who were posting pictures of mimosas, food, and the marathon. Patriot’s Day is a uniquely perfect holiday, a day where Massachusetts and Massachusetts only takes the day off to enjoy baseball, the marathon, and perhaps most importantly, plenty of food and drink. Two thousand miles away, it still felt like a great day, until of course it wasn’t.
There is this void in me today, a hollowness I can’t fully explain. The Red Sox won on a walkoff on Patriot’s Day, and yet this will be a day I remember with sadness, with anger, with fear. It just doesn’t make any sense. This is just so far from idyllic.
And yet, yesterday, besides the Red Sox, besides the marathon, besides the blasts, there was another thing that happened in my life. In the grand scheme of things, this occasion has almost no significance, but in my calculation it does: Yesterday, I booked a hotel room. To be more specific, I booked a hotel room for the weekend of my friends’ wedding.
These are the first of my friends to get married, and I can’t tell you how excited I am for them: They are very much in-love, and truth be told, I’m a sap for that kind of thing. I can’t wait to be there to witness the first step of their new life together, to see them commit to living, having children, growing old, all together. Maybe that’s an idyllic picture, maybe things won’t be so perfect—I already told you I’m a sap. But you have to keep some innocence, you know?
David Gassko is a former consultant to a major league team. He welcomes comments via e-mail.
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