One Boston

Boston Red Sox v Cleveland Indians

By KOLBY PAXTON

I found out about the bombing at the Boston Marathon the way I find out about everything anymore: Twitter. Killing time, scrolling up my timeline, clicking links that I deemed to be potentially funny, interesting or thought-provoking; just another average, run of the mill, unproductive Monday afternoon.

The news wasn’t really delivered as such. It was a question from the friend of a friend: “Uh, did the Boston Marathon just get bombed?”

It didn’t even push me back in my seat, to be honest. I figured it was meant as a joke, a satirical attempt at garnering a few retweets. Something happened with the course or with a few of the runners, something insignificant. He saw it. I didn’t. He made a funny. I didn’t get it.

I was unspeakably incorrect in my assumption.

They say the bombs were remarkably crude, nothing more than shrapnel – nails, pellets and metal – packed tightly inside of pressure cookers, hidden within duffel bags. As for a motive? Who the hell knows. The act, itself, is remarkably similar to the bombing at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, one supposedly fueled by trigger man with an anti-gay, pro-life agenda.

How, exactly, murdering two people and injuring an additional hundred is in any way indicative of an individual overly concerned with the value of life is unclear. But, that’s kind of the point, here.

My initial reaction, upon finally accepting that these images I was seeing were real, was one of utter disgust in humanity as a whole. Where are we as human beings when you cannot even allow your children to watch you run a race without jeopardizing their lives? How sick are we that we can’t even celebrate Patriots’ Day in Boston without fear and mayhem ruling the day?

How screwed up are we? We.

Then I watched the video again. And again. And suddenly, something stood out to me, something other than the explosion and the terror. A sea of yellow jackets – Boston police and event staffers – ran toward the explosions. Without regard for their own safety, brave men and women immediately raced to the aid of the fallen, knowing not what was waiting to greet them. Who runs into the smoke of an explosion?

We do.

Hours later, reports began to surface of race participants crossing the finish line and continuing on to Mass General to donate blood. Who has the presence of mind, on the tail end of a 26 mile run, to sprint 1.4 miles beyond the carnage to give their blood to replace that which soaks the streets?

We do.

Similarly, doctors and nurses running in the marathon, people like Dr. Natalie Stavas, a pediatric resident at Boston Children’s Hospital, rushed to Copley Square to care for the victims. Who has the wherewithal, the energy, and the desire to think of anyone other than themselves four hours after beginning a marathon seven towns over?

We do.

The motive of the bomber, no matter how elementary or fantastical, hateful or misguided, will never be relevant. The bomber, his or herself, will never be more than a tragic outlier, imbalanced chemicals, crossed wires; anything but a sampling of Western civilization – let alone the country that we, as Americans, call home. We are not defined by terrorists, foreign or domestic, nor are we defined by their actions. It is in how we respond to being attacked, to being unfairly flooded with tragedy and adversity – how we always respond – that truly exemplifies who we are.

As was the case in Oklahoma City, Atlanta and New York, this was not an attack on a group of individuals, a city, or an activity. It was an attack on the psyche of those of us who call the home of the brave our own – not necessarily in the mind of the assailants, but always in the minds of the rest of us. Boston responded just the way that any American city would have, and it will recover – likely with a little extra gusto and authenticity, because it’s freakin’ Boston. The rest of the country will support its fallen comrades because it’s the freakin’ United States of America.

It’s easy to forget about the “United” part these days, what with such social and political division being displayed on our televisions. Yet, it is the very moments when our faith in humanity is tried, that it is ultimately restored. We are not so different from one another. We are not void of compassion for our neighbors, nor abundant valor in times of great need.

I cannot articulate the overwhelming sorrow that I feel for those affected by the blast, for the mothers and fathers, sons and daughters whose lives will never be the same. I’m not even sure those words exist.

Instead, all we’re left with is faith and prayer; prayer for their comfort, and prayer that the good, “Boston strong” as we are, always outnumber evil.

Baseball’s birthday

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By KOLBY PAXTON

Sunday night, at approximately 7 p.m. local time, Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt fired an impressive fastball into the mitt of Astros outfielder J.D. Martinez, and the 2013 Major League Baseball season was born.

It was an interesting dynamic, the Watt first pitch. The 6-5, 295-pound “Swatt” is the biggest star in town, both literally and figuratively. He is the wrecking ball off the edge for one of the premier teams of the most popular league in the country. Many in Minute Maid Park would have failed to name even one Astro without first glancing at a program, yet seemingly everyone was very much in tune to the identity of the mountainous man in the bright orange jersey.

Until Justin Maxwell plated two runs with a fourth inning triple, the biggest moment of our national past time’s biggest night was a 73 MPH fast ball, wide of the strike zone. In essence, the scenario served as a microcosm of the current state of American sports: Football swallows everything whole, at all times, always.

The season is long, removing the sensation of significance from months upon months of 5-2 final scores. And our collective attention span is short, further reducing the likelihood of constant engagement at any point prior to September. Still, the game will forever have its place. No sport is quite so romantic as baseball.

Baseball is John and Ray Kinsella having a toss beside a cornfield in Iowa. Baseball is four days in October when the Bambino’s curse was finally lifted from Boston. Baseball is spellbinding and magical. More so than any place else, those awe-inspiring diamonds are the birthplace of our childhood heroes.

For me, those heroes were Frank Thomas and Greg Maddux, David Justice and Pudge Rodriguez, Ryne Sandberg and, of course, Ken Griffey Jr.

I named my dog for the latter, wore No. 24 every chance I got, mimicked his cocksure batting stance, and attempted to master the art of the outfield as he had. I wore his cleats and his gloves and his wristbands. I flipped my hat backwards, painted on the eye black, and tried to remember to strut – or at least jog – out of the batter’s box when I knew the ballpark wouldn’t hold my tee shot. Junior was my guy, my all-time favorite professional ballplayer, and it’s not close.

Having said that, the distance between he and my favorite amateur athlete is no closer. Far surpassing “The Kid” was a diminutive second baseman, who also wore No. 24, for the Fort Cobb-Broxton Mustangs from 1996-’99: One Jenny Ridenour.

I didn’t have an older sibling, but I didn’t need one. I had Jenny, an older cousin in title, but a sister in practice. As far back as I can remember, I have revered her, imitating the appearance of her jumpshot – though, rarely the result, mind you – her work ethic, and her outward disdain for losing. She taught me how to compete, made me want to be a ballplayer, and supported me when I attempted to provide the encore to her multi-sport exploits.

Only recently was I fortunate enough to experience a baseball/softball game – the Dominicans 3-1 win over the U.S. in the World Baseball Classic – that surpassed the thrill that I associated with watching Fort Cobb win the Sterling (Okla.) Softball Tournament 15 years ago.

It’s fitting, then, that Jenny turned 32 years old just a few hours after Watt threw out the first pitch of the season, and on the same day as the rest of the league begins play. Millions of children all over the globe will surely hold players like Bryce Harper and Mike Trout to the same youthful esteem with which I once regarded Griffey. But, if they’re lucky, they already have a sibling that far surpasses Harper, Trout, and the like.

Our athletic careers are over, save for competitive running (another sport that she led me to) and pick-up basketball, but Jenny’s influence on me as it relates to sports is far from finished. You see, she has a daughter, McKenna Rian, who will soon be a cheerleader or a tennis player, a point guard or a second baseman, and I will again look to her for guidance and inspiration in hopes that I will one day equal her aptitude as the parent of an athlete.

Happy Birthday, Jen.