In August of 1984 I was standing on a footbridge in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Just over the water was a group of elderly gentlemen playing Bocce’ Ball. I knew nothing about the game, but was trying to pick it up just from observation. My wife tugged on my shirt a little and said, “Let’s go.” I said, “Hang on just a minute more. I want to watch this next guy’s roll.” She said, “You’ll watch anybody compete won’t you?”
She was right. As long as the competitors really care about the outcome, I’m there.
Fast forward to August of 2002. Fenway Park in Boston. Red Sox v. Orioles. I’m about 5 rows up from the Pesky Pole down the right field line. Top of the 5th inning, Gary Matthews Jr. gets knocked down on the first pitch and hit with the second. He charges the mound, the benches empty and away we go! This fight made Carlos Quentin and Zach Grienke look like patty cake. The combatants rolled around in the middle of the infield, and into short center field, fighting all the way! It was a rolling maelstrom of knees and fists!
All crowds get excited when a fight breaks out. A lot of the people who have historically attended hockey games were there for the fights. This was different, though. Two guys sitting in front of me tried to hurdle the barrier to get on the field when the fight on the field got into the outfield. Security manhandled them back into the seats! The crowd yelled at security! Security told the crowd to “SHADDUP!”
I loved every second of it.
After the game there was a guy selling tee-shirts and doing land-office business. The shirts said, “Yankees Suck!”
The back of the shirt said, “Jeter Swallows.”
On the way home from the game I was on a crowded subway car with my family and about 50 Red Sox fans. I couldn’t hear myself think. I talked to some of them about the Red Sox chances, Pedro Martinez, Derek Lowe, etc. I had never met these people before but we were poking one another in the chest when we disagreed and slapping one another on the back when we agreed.
Best public transportation ride of my life.
Boston, Massachusetts and Eugene, Oregon have little in common. Boston is a huge city with a powerful skyline, crammed into a small space. Eugene is a small city with almost no skyline, spread out over its valley. Bostonians go to Patriots games when its 0 degrees Fahrenheit, because that’s when the games are. Eugene closes its schools when the 2nd flake falls. Boston streets are intense. Eugene closes its street for Saturday Market.
But the two cities have one thing in common. Passion for their team!
Think about it! Almost 60,000 Duck fans scream their throats dry when individually they know that their voice alone doesn’t matter. They do it out of a sense of oneness. They do it as a part of the collective noise. They do it out of passion.
I have loved it since my first Duck game in 1977.
I’ve been watching what has transpired since the Marathon bombings just like you have. I’m horrified, of course, but I am also confident of one thing. That strong proud city will stand up stronger and prouder than ever. There will be, if possible, more runners in next year’s Boston Marathon than there ever have been. The crowds will be deeper and they will thunder their approval with a roar never before heard at a footrace on public streets.
For Boston is a city of passion…and Eugene recognizes passion, because she sees it in her mirror every day.