Eventually, life will return to normal, though it may not seem like that now. Not at all. But things will lighten up. The bad guys will be identified, they will be chased, and, hopefully, however urgently, brought to justice. And we'll go back to worrying about trivial things like Jay Leno's monologue jokes, or something equally as unimportant. But now, in the immediate and very strange aftermath, Boston is coping with tragedy, and America with it, however it can. We are watching our favorite movies. We are meeting the heroes. Happy distractions and relatively good news. And, eventually, blessedly, not soon enough, that happiest distraction of all will return: the light touch and emotional balance of sports. Because sports are important. We are waiting for the games to begin again.
Monday night, the Boston Bruins were to play the Ottawa Senators in a hockey match until the game was rightfully postponed. The Boston Celtics were supposed to play the Indiana Pacers Tuesday night at the TD Garden, but they cancelled that game completely, which was a historic first for basketball's modern era. (Don't worry, it doesn't affect either team's playoff standing.) Those types of massive spectator events would have been too much right now — a strain on security, and Boston's notorious sports lovers. But eventually the games will be back, because that's what sports are: reliable. "It won't change the way we act, the way we cheer, the way we gather together," writes Sports on Earth's Will Leitch. "We will remain defiant simply by being ourselves, whether we're screaming at the idiot pitcher while guzzling huge overpriced beers or quietly keeping score with our child in the upper deck. We'll return to normal quicker than we think, before we even realize it. We will always be who we are." He's right. Sports are there for us exactly when we need them. Sports help us escape from the real world worries, trivial and tragic, that make your head tighten; sports make sad heads unfurl in familiar calm, in crazy bliss. You want evidence? Here's the New York Mets's Mike Piazza hitting a home run in Shea Stadium in the first game after September 11:
Watch that video closely. Ten days after the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history, thousands of fans are going absolutely apeshit insane over a man hitting a small, white ball over a fence. No one in that video has a single care in the world. Everyone just got married, or won a new car. Sports Illustrated's Michael Rosenburg tried to get to the bottom of why sports became so important to us after 9/11: It's because, when we're in the sports world, nothing else can bother us and the consequences, at the end of the day, in the bottom of the ninth, well, they don't matter a lick. "And I think when it comes to sports, we now take comfort in the bickering, knowing that in this artificial world we can argue and nobody will die because of it," Rosenburg wrote. "With so much at stake everywhere else, we have elevated the importance of games where we have so little to lose."
In the normal run of a normal day, a certain kind of Yankee fan wouldn't think twice about spitting in the direction of a passing Red Sox fan. But the usual local rivalry between Boston and New York — normally one of the most contentious rivalries in North American sport — has almost completely been abandoned, at least for now. New York sports fans have been showing their support for their chief rivals turned brethren, on Facebook, on Instagram, in person. Perhaps the most poignant show of support came from New York Daily News editorial cartoonist Bill Bramhall:
Elsewhere, fans have been chiming in on Twitter and showing their support. The rivalry will be back on soon enough: The Celtics will start a playoff series against the Knicks this weekend. "But for now, at least, everyone seems to understand how little the rivalry bullshit really matters," writes New York Magazine's Dan Amira.
The first sports in Boston after the blasts won't be a Celtics or a Red Sox game, the two teams still playing most Americans and Bostonians would immediately identify with. The Red Sox are on an extended road trip in Cleveland until Friday, and the Celtics play in Toronto on Thursday. Instead, it will be the black and yellow bruising of the Boston Bruins taking to the ice against the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday evening. Deadspin's Barry Petchesky put it best: "It'll be cathartic and tearful and memorable in the way that sporting events following tragedies always are." Usually, sports are a release from the world weariness that stresses us out, that depresses the hell out of us. In times like these, the games put the heaven back.
Update 4:41 p.m.: Under no other circumstance would we ever say this, but the Yankees are not sucking for a change, as one Massachusetts native put it, and really impressing us with their gestures for Boston. They announced they're going to hold a moment of silence and play Fenway's favorite song, "Sweet Caroline," during the third inning of tonight's game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. This is what it looked like at Yankee Stadium right now, too:
Meanwhile, on the road in Cleveland, the Red Sox will wear black arm bands tonight to honor the victims of yesterday's attacks.