06
Dec
13

SI should name Boston its Sportsman of the Year

An email popped in last night that got me thinking – without ever reading it. The title: “My Sportsman: Boston’s David Ortiz.” It is another installment/nominee from Sports Illustrated as the magazine closes in on its choice for Sportsman of the Year, which will be announced Dec. 16.

Ortiz is a good choice. A better one, however, is the city of Boston itself.

There are other worthy nominees: Jimmie Johnson, Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal. But they didn’t capture the sports world like Boston did in 2013.

And yes, I’m biased.

Not just because I live near Boston or because I was a few blocks away when the bombs went off during the Marathon. It just seemed like Boston was the sun – while sports’ other stars were just that: stars.

The week of the bombings was unforgettable. Not just the terror that blanketed the city, but the much-needed sporting events that took that feeling away, if only temporary. The Bruins may have lost the city’s first post-tragedy game, but hearing the Garden crowd take over for Rene Rancourt at “what so proudly we hailed…” during the National Anthem was a unifying, tear-inducing moment.

The games had returned. The same couldn’t be said for normalcy. It was the Wednesday after the blasts – the bombers were still on the loose, Sean Collier was still alive, and “Dic” Donohue’s life had yet to be altered.

The day after the remaining alleged bomber was captured, the Red Sox returned to Fenway for the first time. It was a sunny Saturday afternoon, not long after Friday night’s game was postponed due to the hunt for said bomber. Ortiz stood defiant before a pitch was even thrown, passionately – if not profanely – declaring whose city it was.

It hardly mattered that the Sox won that day, using Daniel Nava’s late-inning homer (one he urged to “stretch” as it towered toward the bullpens in right field) to beat Kansas City. There was something to cheer for. All while funerals were being planned – and prosthetics ordered – for the bombing victims.

A few weeks later, the Bruins captured our attention again. They trailed by three goals with 10 minutes left in what looked like their final game of the season, yet won the first-round playoff game, and the series, in overtime.

For a season that started with a lockout and was interupted by a lockdown, the run to the Stanley Cup finals was a joy to witness.  There were many late nights. After knocking off work at midnight, I routinely sped past the speed limit on my commute home. Thank goodness for double, even triple, OT. Upon returning to my street, the only light emanating from living rooms was colored blue – my neighbors were glued to the tube. Or were they asleep?

The true heroes of Boston are guys named Collier, Donohue, Arrendondo (the guy in the cowboy hat), Andruzzi, and anyone associated with the words “first responder.”

But we can still admire someone like Bruin Patrice Bergeron, who played Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals with, let’s see, a cracked rib, torn cartilage, a separated shoulder and a punctured lung, then later shrugging it off, saying “I wasn’t the only one going through pain.” (See Campbell, Gregory).

Back to Ortiz. He not only hit 30 home runs this season and knocked in another hundred, he not only hit  .688 in the World Series before donning his ski goggles, he did something you might see in T-ball or college, but not the pros. He brought the team – his team – together for a pep talk in Game 4 of the Series not long before Jonny Gomes hit a game-deciding three-run homer.

You just don’t see that in the macho sport of baseball. The encouraging “chatter” that echoes across Little League diamonds dies in the majors. To see what Ortiz did humanized a sport that can seem robotic at times.

Yes, Boston had its share of infamy in 2013. The death of Odin Lloyd, allegedly at the hands of now ex-Patriot Aaron Hernandez being the frontrunner.

But no athlete, no team, no city captured the sports world this year like Boston.

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