By Mark Freie
It was a Wednesday night in April; just a few days removed from a bomb that blew open the heart of Boston and changed countless lives forever. Thousands of Boston Bruin fans filled in TD Garden as their beloved Bruins returned to the ice to provide a source of escape, unity, and perseverance for a city facing the aftermath of such a heartless act.
And then as one, athletes and fans in attendance stood up as one city to the evil that reared its ugly head earlier in the week. As the Star Spangled Banner began, as tradition in American sporting events, the citizens of Boston proved that a sports team isn’t just a business looking to profit off of fans, win championships, or make national news day in and day out. The team is a member of the city. And so are the fans. As those 17,000+ fans in TD Garden sang in unity, the song neared its end, and those famous words “that our flag was still there” were sung, a realization dawned upon me: Boston is still there.
As a lifelong Iowan, I have never been able to feel that ultimate connection to a professional sports team. Sure, I may root for my beloved Iowa Hawkeyes year in and year out, but as a kid growing up on a farm in North Iowa, you had to figure out who you wanted to be a fan of. Today, cheering as a Dallas Cowboys fan, or cheering from thousands of miles away for the Boston Red Sox and Boston Celtics, there is still that connection missing that links my home to my team.
As fans, we may often feel that we are simply patrons to the game and team we love, but this week has proven that it is so much more than that. Whether you are that Cubs fan, thinking it is your year only to end up saying “well, there is always next year”, or that 2004 Boston Red Sox fan feeling the years of struggle, pain, and misfortune finally hearing Joe Buck utter those words “Back to Foulke. Red Sox fans have longed to hear it: the Boston Red Sox are World Champions!” Every fan feels that they are in fact, a part of the team.
Regardless of whom you cheer for, the pains, joys, or the mass of confusion that one may endure, fans stay true to their team, for the game, and this week most of all, for their city.
As those few minutes passed by Wednesday, April 17, 2013, Boston knew that they were together. They knew that although the game would be over in a few hours, they would get through this time of hell. They knew that whether you are an athlete, fan, or did not even care about sports in general, if you were a member of that city, you stood as an equal. In that moment, 17,565 people came together, as one.