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

Mayor pledges lower greenhouse gas emissions from New…

Just hours before the start of the People’s Climate March on Sunday, and two days ahead of the United Nations Climate Summit, Mayor Bill de…

Local

More than 310,000 attend People's Climate March

More than 310,000 people flooded midtown Manhattan Sunday with one main message ahead of the United Nation’s Climate Summit: do something about climate change. Activists…

National

The best places to see the Northern Lights…

A large solar storm hit the Earth's atmosphere and will tonight illuminate the skies with aurora borealis -- also known as the Northern Lights.

Local

Police officer killed Sunday morning Bronx crash, 8…

One NYPD police officer was killed and eight other officers were injured early Sunday morning when the van they were traveling in crashed  in the…

Television

'How to Get Away with' mischaracterizing Shondra Rhimes

Shonda Rhimes read Alessandra Stanley's New York Times piece about her being "an angry black woman" and "a romance writer" and it did not sit well with her.

Gossip

New nude celebrity selfies leak … and Clay…

A new batch of nude selfies of Rihanna, Kim Kardashian, Vanessa Hudgens, Lake Bell and Avril Lavigne hit the web and Clay Aiken has something to say!

Television

James Spader's route to villainy on "The Blacklist"

In honor of the second season premiere of "The Blacklist" tonight, where James Spader plays good guy/bad guy Raymond “Red” Reddington, it’s a good time to look back at Spader’s…

Television

True Detective

NFL

Oday Aboushi ready for increased role, and to…

Oday Aboushi might feel comfortable enough to engage in some trash talk the next time he is on the field.

NFL

Giants vs. Texans: 3 things to watch

The Giants host the surprising Texans (2-0) in what may already be a must-win game for Big Blue.

NFL

Eric Decker misses practice again, could miss Monday

Jets wide receiver Eric Decker missed practice Thursday as he continues to rehab a hamstring injury suffered last Sunday.

MLB

Derek Jeter still focused on baseball as final…

Derek Jeter has effectively hid his emotions for 20 years in the Bronx.

Career

Here's how to make the most of visit…

You’re primped, you’re looking polished, you’re prepared with a stack of resumes. Job fair hunters, unite! There are a few things to keep in mind…

Education

Learn how to study effectively and stop cramming…

Picture this: It’s midterm week, and college students everywhere are trying to frantically memorize all of the math formulas, political theories and historical facts that…

Parenting

How motherhood inspired Bethenny Frankel's new book

Bethenny Frankel's new children's book is about how her daughter and dog didn't always get alone.

Parenting

A sneaky way to serve kids fruits and…

"My First Juices and Smoothies" gives smoothie recipes for kids.