By Dave Wischnowsky-
(CBS) I went for a run this morning.
Thought about the Boston Marathon with every step.
And throughout the much shorter course that I covered through Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood, it saddened me to think how sports aren’t an escape from Monday’s despicable act of terrorism at the finish line of Boston’s iconic race. Rather, in this instance, they’re a reminder of it – as well as a disconcerting example of just how vulnerable we are when gathering together to enjoy a sporting event.
On Monday morning, one of my Facebook friends who studied at Boston College – which is my fiancee’s alma mater – posted a status that read, “Today is one of my favorite days in Boston. Wish I could be there cheering on the runners and enjoying the festivities.”
A few hours later, she was sending her online love to the city for entirely different reasons. And I couldn’t help but wonder if the Boston Marathon bombings might impact the way we experience sports as significantly as 9/11 impacted the way we travel at airports.
Late Monday night, the Chicago Tribune reported that shortly after the explosions in Boston, Illinois officials already were looking for clues on how to better protect the public at ballparks, races and festivals.
“The attack at the Boston Marathon comes as a stark reminder,” read the Tribune story, “that this is an age when every public gathering or event – no matter how festive – can be considered a target for terror.”
Unfortunately, that’s true. Although, until Monday in Boston’s Back Bay, sporting events had managed to be a haven from our terrorism-related fears, rather than somewhere to build upon them.
Twelve years ago, for example, after the Tuesday morning of 9/11, I recall finding my first measure of peace the following Friday evening when I covered a high school football game in the tiny north central Illinois town of LaMoille. On that night, LaMoille felt like Smallville, U.S.A., and a million miles away from the chaos of the week in New York City and Washington D.C. It was idyllic and just the escape that both me and my father, who attended the game with me, needed from the chaotic week.
More recently, I remember sports serving as a way for America to vent such as in May 2011 when word of Osama bin Laden’s death at the hands the Navy SEALs transformed a Mets-Phillies game at Citizens Bank Park from a sporting event into a patriotic rally. Fans began chanting “U-S-A! U-S-A!” once they caught wind of the momentous news during the ninth inning.
“I heard the chants and they were great,” Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey said after the game. “It was a pretty neat thing. It was emotional. Hopefully this brings some closure but it’s still not over.”
And no, it isn’t. Whoever was behind Monday’s attack in Boston, terror – and terrorists – remain a constant threat to Americans and to people around the world. Now they’ve also become a tangible concern for our nation’s sporting events, which already have taken multiple measures to protect visitors and surely will take even more as we go forward.
It makes me angry how even more of our innocence was lost this week. But as USA Today columnist Mike Lopresti wrote in a sad truth on Monday evening, “We knew this day was coming. It was always just a matter of when, and where, and by whom. You want to see blood in America, you want to turn joy and smiles and life into carnage and screams and death, what do you target? You target a sports event.”
In his column, Lopresti went on to soberly add, “Sport is not immune. Will never, ever be immune. Sport is where the people are. Sport is where the joy is. Sport is where real life comes to take a break.”
After Monday’s real-life events, I feel like I could use a break myself.
I only wish I could say today that attending a sporting event would be what provides it. What a damn shame that I can’t say that right now.
If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com. Follow him on Twitter @wischlist and read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.