By Tim Baffoe-
(CBS) I was tired and my legs hurt. This wasn’t atypical. Being born with flat feet and odd ankles that made me walk like a duck as a kid had caused a childhood of leg pain that even after corrective surgery and special shoe inserts still made a day of hoofing around fairly unpleasant come evening. The thick Atlanta heat, even late at night, didn’t help.
When my family and I got back to the house we were living in during our trip, I galumphed into my surrogate bedroom and winced myself to sleep. The following morning the TV told me about a bomb that went off in Centennial Olympic Park.
I remember an odd sort of excitement within me, a sense of importance that I had been where the explosion occurred not long before it happened. I wanted to call my friends back home who were already jealous that I was at the Olympics and brag, “I was where that bomb blew up and you weren’t, losers!” It was a youthful disconnect, a lack of empathy kids can have when tragedy doesn’t affect their lives directly and a failure to grasp the gravity of a situation. Having my picture taken with my brothers and cousins in the park a few hours before detonation was the coolest thing that ever happened to 14-year-old me. Way cooler than Mike North introducing himself to me five different times at a charity sports auction I attended about a year before.
I think back on that morning shamefully.
My parents and my aunt and uncle grasped the gravity, though. They didn’t share my happiness to have been even remotely sort of connected to a piece of history. “Aw, they’re going to cancel the rest of our fun here, aren’t they?” was my selfish worry as I read the all-too-familiar apprehensive looks on adult faces. Lucky for me, Olympic officials and athletes decided to go on with the games as planned, and I was allowed to take in the rest of the experience of the games.
Later in life, as I became gradually crustier, I grew to be really disinterested in the Olympics, but at 14, I enjoyed taking in the whole experience of the games—comingling with people from other countries slightly more exotic than the native Irish of my neighborhood, seeing sports in person that I to this day haven’t otherwise, ignoring more days of leg pain in favor of an education, being amid a genuinely positive vibe—and I was very glad then that an incident of hate and cowardice didn’t force that to be taken away from me. My aversion toward the corruption masquerading as pageantry today does not squash a truly beneficial childhood experience.
As we now immerse ourselves back into sports after the most recent act of ignorant spinelessness to try to disrupt the joy that defines the competitions we watch, I sincerely hope that our greatest fears of what can happen at a celebration (because, really, that’s what any race or game or match is—even at Wrigley Field these days) do not cause us to temper ourselves in future celebrations.
We must continue to be fans. Even bitter, smarmy ones like me. We must defy those that would try to deny us this common respite we sports lovers share. While I may not care for the Olympics or even be interested in marathons, I certainly wouldn’t have those who do love either have to compromise that love. I would rather be able to have my love/hate relationship with Chicago teams than no relationship. And a relationship composed of fear is no relationship at all.
Because that’s what the person or persons responsible for the horror in Boston on Monday want. The deaths of three people at the marathon pain my heart greatly, but in the sickest of ways neither they nor Alice Hawthorne in the Atlanta bombing are the end game of terrorists. It’s the aftermath involving fear that such despicable subhumans hope for. It’s an attempt to make up for the lack of control they have internally by trying to control us. We must be in control of our own fanhoods.
We can face fear. And for the sake of the greatest outlet for joy, anger, humor, and sadness that all consumes us for a day and resets when the clock is rewound, I hope that none of us allows a game or a match or a race to suffer. Things are going to change. Again. Security will be stricter. Spectators at all events will be inconvenienced, if you consider it an inconvenience to do all that can be done to try to prevent something so awful. That is just the reality of the world we live in today. But we have sports to give us a break from reality, thankfully.
Since I heard of the bombs going off in Boston, I’ve run the gamut of emotions. Shock, then anger. I’ve wept, both from contemplating the evil in humanity and from having my faith in humanity’s greatness affirmed watching the First Responders and runners and spectators and random everyday people be actual human beings. I’ve laughed as people I turn to for humor no matter the social climate eased their way back into providing an outlet to exhale.
Now, I’m tired and my heart hurts. I bet such is true for a lot of us. But this is atypical (and I hope we appreciate how rarely we have to go through an event like this). Now let’s be typical. Let’s show the resolve that started with people running toward the explosion area, devoid of fear, and continue to not let fear dictate our joy. Get in line. Buy a ticket. Celebrate.
Tim Baffoe attended the University of Iowa before earning his degree from Governors State University and began blogging at The Score after winning the 2011 Pepsi Max Score Search. He enjoys writing things about stuff, but not so much stuff about things. When not writing for 670TheScore.com, Tim corrupts America’s youth as a high school English teacher and provides a great service to his South Side community delivering pizzas (please tip him and his colleagues well). You can follow Tim’s inappropriate brain droppings on Twitter @TimBaffoe , but please don’t follow him in real life. He grew up in Chicago’s Beverly To read more of Tim’s blogs click here.