I'm a Phillies fan, by heritage. There's a picture of two-year-old me at the old Veterans Stadium, nearly drowning in red paraphernalia and totally psyched. But this summer I wore red a little differently. I bought a blue hat with a stiched red "B" and fit it onto my head without the slightest pang of guilt. This summer, I was a Red Sox fan.
Maybe it's because the Phillies had a terrible season, or that the number of Boston bars playing out-of-town games on TV is about equal to the city's ratio of Starbucks to Dunkin Donuts. But the truth is, I know Boston better than I've ever known Philly. Sure, I've climbed the Rocky stairs at the Art Museum. I've seen the Liberty Bell and the Declaration of Independence. I've tried all the famous cheesesteaks — and yeah, they're that good. I lived an hour outside of Philly for most of my life, but I couldn't tell you what makes Philly tick. Because being near a city just isn't the same as being in one, and for the past five years, I've been in Boston.
Outsiders like to throw around stereotypes about Boston. Like how the people aren't friendly. That our city is small and it's lame and New York is much better. They may have a point.
What I've learned from my time here is that Boston's flaws create its culture. Boston is a city of collective suffering, and you have to live here to understand.
You don't know Boston until you're trapped in a Comm. Ave. wind tunnel while icy gusts slap you in the face. You don't know Boston until your head has been squished into someone's armpit on a Green Line trolley for over an hour when your ride should have taken 20 minutes. You don't know Boston until you've gotten hopelessly lost by foolishly assuming that our roads are grids. Until you've been thwarted by pedestrians with a death wish and shamed by drivers who lay on the horn as if the sound alone will propel your vehicle forward. You don't know Boston until you've waited 86 years for a curse to be lifted — or heard stories from the fans who did.
Here, there's no partying 'til the sun comes up and no cheap ride home if you try. Here, there's no happy hour — and let's face it, half-priced apps just aren't the same as dollar beers. Sure, pot is decriminalized, but we're no Denver. We might have Tom Brady, but we still have to share him with the rest of New England. As for gay marriage and healthcare — well, those are just truths we hold to be self-evident.
Bostonians commiserate. The little inconveniences, the headaches, the upsets — we've all been there. Trivial suffering peppers our daily life, and in this, we are united.
April 15 was a different kind of suffering. We thought Boston was the underdog who had it tough already. We were so used to being the little guy no one noticed. We didn't see it coming.
We did our best to get back to normal, but it's hard to keep sweating the small stuff when your city is broken. We were no longer connected by our complaints, but rather by our shock and our grief.
So we banded together and stood strong in our shared sadness. The Bruins gave us a glimmer of hope in July, but in truth, a win would have been too soon for our city. There were people still recovering in the hospital. The infamous trial had yet to begin.
And then, all of a sudden, something magical was happening Fenway Park. In true Boston fashion, we took that first-place standing with a grain of salt and watched it with a wary eye. We were all waiitng for that too-good-to-be-true moment that has long defined the Boston sports fan's experience. It never came.
So I wore my Red Sox hat. I rose for a standing ovation in my hat to honor David Ortiz's 2,000th career hit. I jumped up and down like a crazy woman in my hat after Victorino's grand slam. Hat on, I threw back my head in dismay over Middlebrooks' obstruction call. And I wore it when Boston found faith again. When the little guy, the underdog, the one no one saw coming, won the World Series.
Boston is still healing. It's impossible to walk down Boylston Street without an eerie feeling, lost in a moment of pause and sadness. When a city is forever changed, it takes more than sports to mend it.
But this was bigger than baseball. The players knew it and the city knew it. When the fans came pouring out into the streets of Fenway last Wednesday night, Boston was reborn, our fiery spirit reignited. When the crowds gathered Saturday along the very same marathon route, Boston was happy. And for the first time in a long time, we were unafraid.
My history is in Philly, but my heart is in Boston. It bleeds blue and yellow and red and blue, and I wouldn't want it any different. My mayor mumbles and my players rock beards. There's a shortage of "R's" and a surplus of Guinness. It's bitterly cold and breathtakingly beautiful, and it's my home.
Besides — as my father the die-hard Philadelphia fan was gracious enough to note — even the Phillies wear red socks.