In a year during which the city of Boston experienced unspeakable tragedy, the Boston Red Sox gave its citizens reason to cheer by winning the 2013 World Series. If they were ever going to clinch a title in Fenway Park again, this was definitely the year to do it. Though the bearded boys of Beantown no doubt inspired the city with their October heroics, it bothers me when someone claims the Red Sox “deserved” to win the World Series this year because of what the city went through with the bombings last April.
Tragedies do not make professional sports teams more deserving of winning championships. Do you think Boston was the only city that experienced hardship this year? Hurricane Sandy killed more people in Queens than the marathon bombings killed in Boston. Does that mean the New York Mets were more “deserving” of winning the 2013 World Series than the Red Sox?
There is no relationship between a city and professional sports team in which the suffering of the former entitles the success of the latter. Rather, the success of the latter has the power to inspire the former, unite its citizens and help them heal.
Believe me, I can empathize with Boston fans with how much this Red Sox team means to them. I remember being 10 years old when I had to walk through metal detectors before entering Yankee Stadium for Game 5 of the 2001 World Series. I was one of the 56,018 people in attendance who chanted Paul O’Neill’s name for the entire ninth inning, and I was in the left field bleachers when Scott Brosius raised an entire city with one swing of his bat. I’ll remember that night for the rest of my life and the pure joy that team gave me during a catastrophic time.
I would have loved to see the New York Yankees win a championship that year, but the fact that they lost in seven games takes absolutely nothing away from what I experienced at Game 5, or what tens of thousands of other Yankees fans experienced at Games 3 and 4. The 2001 Yankees may have lost the World Series, but they were no less an inspiration to New York after the most horrific tragedy the city has ever experienced.
Unfortunately, this is not a new phenomenon and the Yankees and Red Sox are by no means the only sports teams which have given people something to cheer about after a disaster. There was the Saints returning to the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina and winning the Super Bowl a few years later. And the Japan women’s national soccer team which defeated the United States to win the 2011 World Cup after the most powerful earthquake ever to hit Japan.
It was wonderful that these teams could spur happiness amidst overwhelming sorrow. But regardless of whether those teams won or lost, the effect on their fans would have been the same. If the 2013 Red Sox hadn’t won the series, can you honestly tell me they would have meant any less to the people of Boston? Would Bostonians have branded the team as failures and let-downs and thought of the past 162 games and three rounds of playoffs as a waste of time? I don’t think so.
The moment they set the Commissioner’s Trophy down at the Boston Marathon finish line with the 617 jersey draped over it was the perfect culmination of the previous six months. But it would have been just as powerful had it only been the jersey. The Boston Red Sox deserved to win the 2013 World Series because they had great pitching and timely hitting. But defeat would not have caused the Boston Strong logo to fade off the Green Monster out in left field.
Hardship can be incredibly sobering and make you realize that sports don’t really matter in the greater scheme of things. But the beauty of sports is that it allows us camaraderie during times that we feel the most alone. It gives us something to put our faith in when everything else seems lost. Professional sports teams mean absolutely nothing and everything to their fans after tragedies – regardless if they win or lose.