Tonawanda News

Columns

April 19, 2013

ADAMCZYK: Running in the street

Tonawanda News — It did not take long after the bombs or pressure cookers or whatever they were went off at the Boston Marathon this week that the message rang out across the nations, the blogosphere and the tweet world: they messed with the wrong city.

Boston, from my own experience, is not the sort of place that freaks out or rolls over when a tragedy befalls it. It did not take long for that sentiment to circle the globe, either.

So what kind of city does collapse in a heap of remorse, panic or bathos after an incident such as that of this past week? If it happened in Buffalo, how would we handle it, and would we handle it differently from Boston?

They’re giving the great city of Boston a little too much credit for staying strong. New York, Jerusalem, Paris, Tokyo, even Buffalo would not crack under such circumstances, and neither will Boston.

Indeed, stay strong, Boston. And stay strong, Tel Aviv, Ramallah, Belfast and Aleppo.

It was only a generation ago Howard Cosell described sport as life’s toy department, but it is actually an experimental social cauldron for society. Sometimes it’s blindingly ahead of the curve, as in Jackie Robinson’s entry into major league baseball (there’s a movie out on the topic, and yes, kids, that’s more-or-less how it really happened); other times it is as slow as the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, but equally impactful. (The current buzz is that, any day now, one or more prominent athletes in professional team sport will declare themselves gay, and I am among those eager to observe how the world handles it.)

Beyond the dead and maimed at the Boston Marathon, I think about the marathon itself, a remarkable example of how America relates to sport. Several hundred professionals, several tens of thousands of amateurs, a field of play that is a series of city streets, an audience on the sidewalk and not in skyboxes, a place for everyone interested in involvement. Oh, and a colorful history that involves, among other things, a wisecrack from broadcast journalist Heywood Hale Broun: two doctors, friends, encouraging each other to participate in the Boston Marathon with taunts like “I bet you throw up before Mile 20, before I do.”

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