Year of tragedy and triumph

The scorecard that we would typically employ to review the year in Boston sports fails us in 2013. There are no columns for bombings and murder alongside the usual checklists of championships won and lost, feats of glory and acts of failure, departed stars and the fresh faces that replace them.

This was the year that we saw firsthand that a backpack, no different from the ones we routinely strap onto the backs of our children before they head off to school, can be an instrument of terror in the hands of those bent on inflicting evil in the heart of our city, striking at one of our most cherished traditions, rupturing that 26-mile woven thread of competition, community and celebration known as the Boston Marathon.

Everyone knew someone -- a friend, a daughter, a son, a co-worker, a parent -- who ran in the race or planned their day around it. We would all soon know the names and the faces of those who lost their lives, or a limb, on an afternoon that had no precedent in our city.

We shuddered. We wept. We mourned. And yes, we were afraid, as an entire city went into lockdown until those believed to have brought mayhem to our doorsteps could be apprehended.

Another seismic shock soon followed: the arrest on murder charges of a much-admired football player, Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, led out of his home in handcuffs.

And then one more: Jared Remy, the son of a beloved Red Sox broadcaster, Jerry Remy, was arrested, covered in blood and later charged with the murder of the mother of his 4-year-old daughter. Jerry Remy, the agreeable and witty companion to our many nights of watching the Red Sox, fell silent on the airwaves, consumed by grief, his son in a jail cell, awaiting trial.

In the face of such tragedies, our city's sports teams played their games. A trifle by definition -- "games." Seemingly rendered even more meaningless by the scale of suffering endured, both on a personal and collective level.

Except that the opposite came to pass: In the aftermath of the marathon bombings, we needed our teams more than ever, and they responded in kind. It was the same in New York after 9/11, and in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

Our teams, imbued with more civic responsibility than simply wearing the name of our city while on their fields of play, became willing instruments of our healing, offering comfort to those who had suffered and their admiration to those who had responded in the hour of need.

Their arenas and ballparks became our gathering places to mourn the victims and salute the first responders and our law-enforcement protectors who wore their heroism lightly.

These ceremonies, and the games that followed, became our touchstones of faith that we could and would endure.

It was one of our own, New Hampshire poet Robert Frost, who once said: "In three words I can sum up everything that I've learned about life: It goes on."

The message resonated first, two nights after the bombings, at a Bruins game in TD Garden, where the electronic scoreboard flashed "We are Boston. We are Strong'' and Rene Rancourt, the flamboyant anthem singer, dropped his microphone and his panache to allow a sellout crowd of 17,565 to carry the tune in voices loud and proud.

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