Monday, April 22, 2013

Bob Lobel: The Surreal Week that Was

By Bob Lobel

Did last week actually happen? 

Was it a bad dream, a bad movie, or some demonstration of our imagination? I can't be the only one saying this… But it was a blurr. 

I have no recollection of who won the 117th Boston Marathon. Actually, to be honest, I covered it for 3 decades and never could remember who won. But this was different. 

Dick Flavin and I were on some kind of television tour over a week ago about being two of the three new P A announcers at Fenway Park. This came after we competed in the P A equivalent of an American Idol competition. The schedule sent us to NECN twice, WGBH with Emily Rooney, NESN with Jamie Erdahl and then a solo for me on MSNBC less than a week ago. 

Of course, that last one had nothing to do with being a P A announcer. The subject changed dramatically, from dream job  to nightmare on Boylston.  If there was any doubt that last week actually happened, just visit the hospitals where amputees are recovering, and to funeral homes where the dead are being mourned.   

So, we've now become “Boston Strong." A slogan is born in the violence that shut down a city. The national outpouring of empathy for the area,  sympathy for the families and admiration of our bravery was, honestly, a little  unsettling. 

It was like we didn’t believe or know how to comprehend it here… We are not used to being  victims or thought of as being weak and vulnerable. 

“Sweet Caroline” in Yankee Stadium? Get out of town! The Chicago Celtics, or Bruins, or Red Sox, or Patriots? What are you smoking?! Cleveland, Detroit and Philly tributes to our citizens?  No Way! 


It all happened. All of it… In a nanosecond it seems. 

Sports and violence, usual companions in our culture, played opposite ends of the spectrum in this one. The  Boston Marathon, a sporting event without inherent violence, and other sporting events allowing public displays of affection, even if it was for Boston,  intersected in a strange way that won’t soon be forgotten. 

“Boston Strong.” 

Even the composer and singer of "Sweet Caroline” came to the home of that anthem to sing it in person. And yes, some Public Address announcer had the job of making that public. What a thrill introducing the great Neil Diamond was.

Some side stories should not go unnoticed.  The last time a politician was cheered at a sporting event? Never, I don't think, until Saturday.  Every pol and hack that ever had a fantasy about being loved publicly, should have been there. The Mayor saved the best speech of his life for a church service earlier in the week and my friend, the Reverend Liz Walker, was  awesome in her opening prayer.

That was the same event attended by the President, who was also cheered at Fenway. There was that brush with greatness thing when I actually had the chance to meet CNN anchors Erin Burnett and Brooke Baldwin, all as the nation descended on a city in shock. 

It all did happen. We are “Boston Strong.” 

I would like to know who came up with that phrase… If it was a Red Sox player, I would say either Pedroia or Middlebrooks.  Oh yeah, how could I forget David Ortiz surpassing the over 30-year reign of public vulgarity held by Larry Legend (When he talked about the diet of Moses Malone at a city hall title celebration). Larry held that record for a long time, but Big Papi blew by it Saturday at Fenway. 

We are way too close to do anything but make observations of who, what, where and how. Too close to not think about the families of the dead and those that were damaged in a way that will affect the rest of their lives. We know we are “Boston Strong”.

But those that truly need that strength are still in some hospital or are mourning at home. They are the ones we pray will be Boston Strong now.