Hope, resilience and adversity the hallmarks of Boston

Forever burned into my memory from the New York Jets game this past Sunday will be my good friend Rob Gallo leaning back at an almost impossible angle, silent joy gripping his face, his eyes wide, his happiness complete.

Hope, resilience and adversity the hallmarks of Boston

It was like that Trainspotting scene where Ewan McGregor sinks into the floor, soundtracked by Lou Reed’s Perfect Day but without the trip to the emergency room, of course.

The New England Patriots, the thing Rob hates most in this world, had just conceded a fatal penalty in overtime, a 15-yard advancement of the ball for an obscure rule no one knew existed.

I’d like to shake the hand of anyone at that Meadowlands Stadium who spotted or was aware of what was happening when the misconduct call was announced by the referee, but not a single one of the roughly 70,000 Jets fan cared. Not Rob, of course. Slow motion. Paralysis. Who cares? Get it done. Beat Boston.

As is the tendency of American football, inevitable victory became a steady procession from there. New England might have wanted to get out of New Jersey as quickly as possible but the Jets were compelled to toy with them for three downs and gain a few yards — only then did Nick Folk and his kicking team arrive in to put the Patriots out of their misery.

A little while after Rob snapped out of his trance and did the requisite high fives with the complete strangers around us, we hugged goodbye and I wished him luck. He’s getting married this weekend in Vermont and despite being a little unhinged when it comes to the New York Jets, his non-football life will run even smoother just as soon as he and Allison tie the knot.

Boston is doing okay too.

Tonight the World Series begins and the Red Sox are back where they think they always belong.

Although it is set to be a gripper between two evenly matched sides, what galls every baseball fan not fortunate enough to live in New England or the home of their opponents, St Louis, is that they and the Cardinals see this age old October pedestal as their birthright.

St Louis won two years ago and actually provided the opposition in 2004 when Boston made their historic breakthrough after years in the ‘Curse of the Bambino’ wilderness, the 86 years of misery since they last won the World Series, roughly coinciding with the contentious trade of Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees which dropped like a bomb just over a year after that 1918 victory.

That all got a little old of course and the nationwide resentment of Boston sport is almost as healthy as ever. But this year is the exception when Bostonians won’t be viewed as completely insufferable by anyone with a soul.

Just over six months have now passed since that sunny Monday afternoon when Sox fans left Fenway Park to join other revellers by the barriers lining the marathon route to watch the final mile or so leading east into Boylston Street.

The Red Sox had just beaten the Tampa Bay Rays. Expectations had been low before the season began after a dreadful 2012 and a historic collapse in 2011, but that was just baseball.

The injustice of those bombings brought the entire city down. A few days later, when the Sox returned to Boston after a trip to Cleveland, a scheduled Friday night game against Kansas City was postponed because of all the confusion in Watertown.

The odd sense of victory on the newly liberated streets that night seeped into Fenway Park the following afternoon when the Red Sox finally got to play again at home.

Someone put a mic in the hands of their veteran slugger David Ortiz, their team leader, and asked him to speak to the fans during the pre-game ceremony. Big Papi, as he is affectionately known by everyone, including himself, went gloriously rogue. “This is our fucking city,” he exclaimed in his unmistakable Dominican accent, drawing roars of approval from the stands.

It’s a simple line that has resonated throughout the summer, pushing Boston to the joint best win-loss record of the season, an honour shared with the National League’s St Louis Cardinals.

It doesn’t often happen that the best teams make it through the play-offs intact, but it’s come to pass this season and when everyone drops the petty rivalries and jealousies, this could end up being the most viewed Fall Classic of recent years.

But bigger than the baseball will be the incredible recovery of the city of Boston.

They rallied around their people and tonight at Fenway Park, Bostonians will be gripped by a renewed hope that nobody will resent.

* Email: john.w.riordan.@gmail.com Twitter: JohnWRiordan

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