PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 April, 2013, 6:29am

A little distraction can help healing

The terrorist attack in Boston will weigh on us for a long time to come, but sports can at least ease some of the pain


Tim Noonan has been crafting uniquely provocative columns for the SCMP and SMP for more than a decade. A native of Canada, he has over 20 years’ experience in Asia and has been a regular contributor to a number of prominent publications, including Time magazine, Forbes, The New York Times, The International Herald Tribune and The Independent.

A man is not feeling well so his doctor tells him to take antibiotics for two weeks, painkillers for three weeks and watch 15 baseball games over the next four weeks and he will be healed. Of course, it is a myth. Sports does not heal, it only distracts. But I have to remind myself of this all the time, particularly when a dose of heavy perspective is served up like the events in Boston.

A city is under siege with millions in lockdown mode after three innocent people have been killed and 260 wounded in a senseless bombing and spree of violence. One suspect is killed in a shoot-out, the other had been heavily armed and was considered extremely dangerous before his capture. I got all this information from the most popular website for American sports, because everything stems from a bombing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

For some, the presence of hard news is a callous intrusion in the otherwise whimsical world of sports. But when reality intrudes on the games we play, it is impossible to ignore. With Boston living in terror, the Celtics, Red Sox and Bruins were forced to cancel games.

When the suspect was apprehended, the games were back on with tributes to the victims, not just in Boston, but also in arenas and stadiums all over the country. While the athletes and their families in Boston were every bit as unnerved and fearful as the fans, they were told they needed to play again to begin to heal and get things back to normal. But normal will probably never be normal again in Boston.

It may not be the greatest sporting town in the US but it is most certainly in the discussion. There is only one American city that has played host to a championship parade in all four major team sports over the past eight years and that is Boston. The Patriots have won the Super Bowl, the Red Sox the World Series, the Celtics the NBA championship and the Bruins the Stanley Cup. That sure is an enviable haul and folks around New England are understandably a bit full of themselves about it.

But things have not always been so heady for Beantown backers. The Red Sox went 86 years between titles before winning in 2004, while the Bruins' glory days were in the early 1970s. The Patriots were largely insignificant before 2001 and even the mighty Celtics, the NBA gold standard with 17 championships, endured a 22-year title drought before winning again in 2008. The futility became a badge and perverse proof that Boston fans were not front runners. They were hardcore and loyal. Over the years they venerated and lionised the names: Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski, Bill Russell and Larry Bird, Bobby Orr and Tom Brady.

But there was one other name in the local sporting firmament that was every bit as iconic and beloved as those sports heroes and teams and that was the Boston Marathon. Anyone who has ever laced up a pair of running shoes and gone for a jog knows of the Boston Marathon, the world's oldest annual marathon held on the third Monday of April. Although Kenyans have dominated it for the past 25 years, some of the greatest names in track have won there. And while some marathons are now bigger and more lucrative, this is still the premier road race in the world.

Maybe I am attaching logic in places where it does not belong, but I wonder if the bombing suspects took all this into account when they decided to alter the glorious history of this event. This was not just any race, it was the Boston Marathon and when you think of this race it will be impossible not to think of the bombings in 2013.

If the goal of terrorists is to impart terror, then sadly it may have been achieved. The great innocence and sense of false security at a sporting event has been forever shattered. Vigilance will be paramount, security omnipresent.

In Boston, they have a hellacious communal vibe and pride. They will rally around this event and make a bold statement of their courage. They will continue to honour the victims and their families at Celtics and Red Sox games and at Bruins and Patriots games as well to let them know they will never be forgotten. And while it can certainly numb the pain, it won't heal the loss. Only time and faith can do that. But a little something for the pain can certainly go a long way.


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