Walfish: Sports is chicken soup for Boston’s soul


Josh Walfish, Sports Editor

Monday was supposed to be the best sports day all year in Boston.

When I lived in the Boston area, the annual Patriots’ Day tradition, which included the running of the Boston Marathon and the Boston Red Sox playing at 11 a.m., was my favorite day of the year. In my five years living in the area, I attended at least three of these days, soaking up a Red Sox game before watching the real runners of the marathon, the people like you and me, finish up. It is the type of day a child never forgets.

The atrocity of Monday won’t be forgotten for a while, but there is one thing that can make it better – the puck drop at TD Garden at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.

The Boston Bruins will host the Buffalo Sabres in the first sporting event in Boston since the tragedy. I can guarantee you the arena will be rocking as Rene Rancourt belts out the National Anthem. I can almost guarantee you Rancourt will slip in an extra fist pump at the end of serenading the crowd. But most importantly, I can guarantee you the game will be a welcome distraction for those sitting in the crowd and those watching at home.

When tragedy strikes a community, sports is the chicken soup that eases the collective soul.

After 9/11, New York rallied around the Mets and Yankees as they closed out the regular season and began their trek through the playoffs. After Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans got behind the Saints and every Sunday, the devastation was the secondary story to how the team played on the field.

When things get rough, people look for things to take their mind off the issues at hand. Sports is the perfect vehicle to accomplish that goal, and that is why it plays such an important role in our society.

As Claude Julien, the head coach of the Bruins, told the media during his pregame news conference, “We have the ability to maybe help people heal and find some reason to smile again, by giving them that, by representing our city properly. … We have an opportunity here to make our city proud. I think we’re all in for it, and hopefully we can do that for this city right now.”

When professional sports organizations accept the burden of playing for a city, it can be an awe-inspiring thing. The Yankees advanced to their fourth straight World Series behind the city’s support. The Saints rode the energy of their fan base to the franchise’s first Super Bowl title in 2010. The Bruins aspire to use the passion of Boston to catapult them into second place in the Eastern Conference — and hopefully a second Stanley Cup ceremony — in the past three years.

We as a society can focus on the heartbreak and pity Boston for what happened, or we can pull ourselves up and show that two improvised weapons won’t demoralize an entire city and maybe an entire nation.

As someone who feels like a Bostonian despite having not lived there for 15 years, I feel for the city, and I hope it will recover swiftly. However, regardless of whether you’ve ever been to the city and lived there your entire life, we are all #BostonStrong today.