Why Are People Trying to One-Up "Boston Strong"?

By Emma Harger
Greg M. Cooper – USA TODAY Sports

One-upping is a pretty common concept in our culture–anything someone can do, we can obviously do better, and if someone tells a really good or really sad story, we’ve certainly got one better or sadder–but now that idea of one-upping things is seeping so far into a place where it should not be that people are taking note and getting upset about it.

Specifically, I’m talking about Boston Strong, a phrase crafted just after the tragic Boston Marathon bombing as a phrase that a wounded city could all get behind together. It’s emblematic of another common concept in our culture: uniting under one banner in a time of need. Boston Strong became shorthand for rebuilding and healing. Boston’s sports teams also got behind this concept 100 percent, adorning themselves with blue and yellow ribbons, saluting the heroes who aided in rescue efforts and paying their respects to those who passed.

Let me make this clear: no one inside any of the Boston sports teams, to my knowledge, crafted the phrase and the intention of it is not to be just some sort of sports-only phrase. It’s inclusive of an entire city and its people, whether or not they love sports. Sure, the sports teams do use it, as seen above, but Boston Strong is not a sports phrase. It is not just for the Boston Bruins. It is not their phrase to live by in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Is this clear yet?

Not to a few bad elements in pretty much every city the Bruins have faced so far in this playoff run. It began with the person in Air Canada Centre, defiantly holding a “Toronto Stronger” sign as if he were making some daring political statement, so proud of his ridiculous work. Pittsburgh Stronger was bandied about on the internet during the Eastern Conference Final, along with at least one  Pittsburgh Penguins fan wishing that the scope of the bombing had been larger and a singer from some band getting fired because of some equally ridiculous thing he said.

Which team was missing here? The New York Rangers. Maybe that’s because their fans live in another city that has been scarred by acts of terror, so perhaps they actually can understand the concept. How awful that apparently the litmus test for everyone in a fanbase to understand Boston Stronger is ‘your city also suffered a terrorist attack,’ not ‘even if you live in a peaceful place, you can still have a heart and a little common sense.’

Now we come to Chicago and to a company that sells novelty sports shirts for the city’s teams. This is common and many of the shirts offered by such places are fun, but some cross the bounds of good taste. Then you have other shirts that fly completely and totally past good taste and plunge directly into the cesspool of You Have to Be Kidding Me.

Enter Cubby Tees and their Chicago Stronger shirt, which was available for a very brief time. It featured the Chicago Blackhawks‘ iconic multicolored feathers below that phrase. The product description attempted to explain it away as mocking how sports teams had adapted the slogan and apparently thought themselves invincible because of it. Again, missing the point.

Now, in hard times, people do tend to look for heroes and things to cheer for, which is why every other movie at the cinema right now is a superhero movie and sports can unite people. Slogans are easily united behind as well. But if you want to support your team, do you really have to even go near the raw, sore spot that is ‘how people feel about what happened that day,’ let alone jam a salt-covered hand in it and then blame people for hurting?

People took to action, lighting up Cubby’s inbox and social media presences, which is part of doing business in the 21st century: people hold you a lot more accountable and can find you easily. In response, Cubby pulled the shirt and posted a huge 1,304-word diatribe about what they meant by it. I will not link to it here as I find it the most absurd non-apology I’ve read in some time. You can find it if you really want.

It’s not a real apology. It’s a fauxpology, where people explain what they did wrong, but shift the blame for the response onto people who felt hurt by it, thereby still leaving the offender feeling blameless. In a fauxpology, the offender learned nothing.

Before the 1,304-word slog about the nature of terrorism, fear, healing, strength, mockery, intentions, the media, charity and more (seriously, was this person trying to write a college essay?), the first sentence of this fauxpology whines about how Cubby Tees suffered a “Twitter-lynching,” a reference to another real and awful terror in our past that really doesn’t apply to this situation at all.

In short, Cubby learned nothing, but they’d love to tell you more, lots more, about exactly why they feel they were in the wrong here.

Again, why on Earth must people like Cubby, the Toronto guy, the Pittsburgh “I wish the bombing had been bigger” guy and probably other people I’ve had the pleasure of not seeing–why must they feel this need to one-up people also applies to driving a salt-covered hand into the still-hurting wound of a city?

Might I suggest they take out their aggressions on the game Candy Crush Saga instead? It would certainly be more productive and less hurtful to anyone at all, plus it wouldn’t require any eventual fauxpologies.

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