Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Boston/Patriots Day/fans

My friend Kenny annually travels from his home in Hyde Park, New York to Boston for Patriots Day. Even for those from Boston, the day is almost always refreshingly exciting, but for those outside of the area it is difficult to describe the energy in the city--and how it reflects the pervasive interest in sport in contemporary society.

We drove to Fenway Park for the 11 a.m. Red Sox game via a circuitous route because the normal route to the ball park is blocked off. The normal route was blocked off because at the same time the Red Sox play their annual Patriots Day morning game, thousands of marathon runners begin the 26.2 mile journey from Hopkinton to Boston. We arrived at the game and were up in what are called "the monster seats"--seats apparently built into the left field wall at the park. There, despite the 40 degree weather--Red Sox zealots discussed the plight of the team, the slump of David Ortiz, the injuries to "Dice-K" and all sorts of other travails as the Red Sox pummelled the Orioles 12-1. Down from the stands we wanted to stop into a restaurant for lunch. The lines to get into the several establishments near the park were enormous with potential patrons shivering in an array of Red Sox jackets, caps, knit hats, sweatshirts, and all sorts of fandom paraphernalia. We discovered a place about a mile away with no waiting, but soon were crammed in with Red Sox fans discussing the victory. Outside, less than a hundred yards away, the marathoners are streaming down Boylston street finishing the last half mile of the journey. Inside the restaurant is a woman draped in an aluminum blanket. She is with her clan and tells us that she finished the race in 2 hours and 38 minutes--an outstanding time--and now is in the tavern to, as she put it, "hydrate".

We travel downtown by subway and see two women in the car wearing Celtics jerseys. They are going to the Boston Garden to watch the Celtics play in their first round playoff game against the Chicago Bulls. A rider gets on and discusses the nuances of the series with the women. He gets off one stop later and wishes the fans well. At another stop, a gentleman wearing a Bruins jacket hops on the train. I asked if the Bruins are playing tonight. He tells me that they are. They're up in Montreal he tells me. And then proceeds as he holds onto the strap above my head to explain how a Bruins player has been suspended for the contest. He shakes his head and makes a face to say, "Tough to win when your star is out." He is worried. I wish him well and he says, earnestly, "thanks" like someone grateful for the good wishes toward a speedy recovery of some illness.

We walk into a tavern called The Black Rose. There we meet a runner who claims to have completed his twentieth consecutive marathon today. I congratulate him on this feat and then he offers as modestly as one can about such a thing, that one year he ran the marathon twice in one day. In response to my astonishment he tells me that on the eventful day he began in the early morning at the finish line, ran out to the starting line, and then returned back with the thousands during the race. He explains that he is an "ultra marathoner".

Later on, we have dinner in a place called the Union Oyster House. We sit at the bar for our meal. To our right is a family from Chicago who has come to root on a son who finished the race in the top twenty. The kid looks fresh as a daisy, the parents are beaming. At the same time they discuss the son's race they are looking at the tv screen watching the Celtics/Chicago Bulls playoff game that the subway riders had been off to. On another screen members of the family are watching the Bruins hockey game. During our dinner several marathoners come and go telling us their tales of the race. The last of the group is a trio--two from Minneapolis one from Washington State. The three met in college in California. One of the three--the woman, a teacher from Washington, has just completed the race and the other two--now wed--have come to root her on. The runner is all smiles and looks like she could run another mile or two. All three talk of the sports energy in the city.

When the Celtics beat the Bulls on a last second shot the Union Oyster House explodes.

Red Sox win. Celtics win. Bruins win despite the suspension. Marathon runners are beaming.

A baseball game, marathon race, hockey and basketball game--the city shut down one day for the joy of sport.

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