Playing the Field: Boston, Papelbon play the ‘what-if’ and ‘why’ game

Jonathan Papelbon lived in close proximity to where the second bomb went off on Boylston Street in Boston during his tenure with the Red Sox. (Getty Images)
Jonathan Papelbon lived in close proximity to where the second bomb went off on Boylston Street in Boston during his tenure with the Red Sox. (Getty Images)

It’s nearly impossible to cover marathons or any type of road race as a sports writer. There are thousands upon thousands of men and women barreling in, one after the other after the other after the other, across the finish line. Trying to find that certain runner who has a local tie, that certain someone who would make for a great local story in a sea of humanity or trying to fight off a big wig, contractually-tied TV reporter for an interview with the actual winners of the race for just one, out-of-breath and usually incoherent quote is typically a venture doomed for failure.

That was my reasoning for staying away from the Boston Marathon finish line Monday. Today, I’m thanking God that I’m so damn cynical (and/or lazy).

When a tragedy occurs like the one that hit Boston Monday, a million “what-ifs” and “whys” race through your head. One of the whys that I struggled with was, “why does sports even matter on a day like this?”

Yes, we will read and hear a million stories over the next few weeks about how sports is a “nice release” for everyone in Boston. That’s true. At its best, sports truly is the greatest form of escapism. If you’ve never seen HBO’s Nine Innings from Ground Zero, a documentary about how baseball lifted the city of New York after 9/11 attacks, do yourself a favor and cue it up on Netflix. It will convince you that the cliche is so.

Nonetheless, all these Boston sporting events will feel entirely different going forward. You’ll wonder if it’s really that important to catch Game 3 of the Celtics-Knicks first round series next week live and in person at TD Garden when you could just watch it on TV at your home instead … away from a place where another tragedy could hit.

My cynical radar made quite a bit of noise again early in the evening on Monday when I read the headline, “Former Red Sox closer Papelbon’s thoughts are with Boston.”

Why would this guy, who bolted the Red Sox after their tumultuous September of 2011, care? He’s in Philly now. He willingly left Boston. He’s a fraud.

But then I read that as Papelbon and Phillies teammate Cliff Lee were watching coverage of the Marathon bombings on a TV in the team clubhouse, Papelbon was immediately spooked by the fact that he used to live “right above” where the second bomb went off.

Sure, Papelbon is a multi-millionaire. And yeah, he plays a child’s game as his occupation. But Monday, he was as human as it gets. He was frightened. Playing that horrible game of “what-ifs” and “whys,” just like you and me.


Follow Metro Boston sports editor and columnist Matt Burke on Twitter
@BurkeMetroBOS


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Memorial held for Sean Collier, MIT police officer…

More than 1,600 people gathered at MIT on Friday for a memorial service for Sean Collier, the police officer shot to death a year ago in the aftermath of the…

National

Florida man charged with murdering son to play…

A Florida man annoyed that his 16-month-old crying son was preventing him from playing video games suffocated the toddler, police said on Friday.

International

Powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake rattles Mexico

A powerful earthquake struck Mexico Friday, shaking buildings and sending people running into the street, although there were no reports of major damage.

News

OMG! Exercise can make skin (and butt) look…

A moderate exercise regime can turn back time and actually reverse the skin's aging process, according to new research. The study showed that a minimum…

Entertainment

Whoopi Goldberg makes her debut as marijuana columnist

"It helps my head stop hurting, and with glaucoma your eyes ache, and she takes the ache out. It's wonderful," she said.

The Word

Kate Middleton made fun of Prince William's bald…

Kate Middleton and Prince William are in Sydney, Australia, right now, and it sounds like that brash Aussie sense of humor might be rubbing off.

The Word

Is Tom Cruise dating Laura Prepon?

"Mission: Impossible" star Cruise is said to be dating Laura Prepon, star of "Orange is the New Black."

Television

'Scandal' recap: Season 3, Episode 18, 'The Price…

Sally is Jesus, Olivia caused global warming, and Mellie's still drunk. Let's recap the Scandal finale. A church full of Washington insiders is about to…

NHL

NHL video highlights & analysis: Red Wings dump…

NHL video highlights & analysis: Red Wings dump Bruins in Game 1

MLB

MLB video highlights: Orioles top Red Sox, 8-4…

John Lackey roughed up for second straight outing

MLB

MLB video highlights: Red Sox score two in…

Lester shines in Red Sox win over White Sox

Sports

2014 Boston Marathon preview: Elite American, International runners…

2014 Boston Marathon: Elite American, International runners to watch

Tech

VIDEO: 'Vein-scanning' may become the future of paying

Designed to make transactions quicker and easier, the technology works by scanning the unique vein patterns in each person's palm.

Tech

#FollowFriday: 10 of the smartest Twitter accounts

Spending lots of time on Twitter? You might as well learn something. Here are some of the smartest accounts to follow.

Style

Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.

Wellbeing

Why is dance cardio taking off in NYC?

Instructors at some of the city's hottest classes explain why.