April 6th I first saw a basketball hoop with the rim removed. The sight by itself was striking. I shared the image on social media. It got quite a reaction. For those of us who love the game of basketball, the game is so much more than tallying points between opposing sides. The game is collaboration, the game is improvisation, the game is rhythm, the game is harmony, the game is music. That backboard perched above cracked pavement with no rim meant that April 6th was the day the music died.
We’re all sheltering in place. We’re social distancing. I went to the grocery store yesterday and wore a mask and gloves. I wear a mask to walk my dog. I’m compliant with the orders. I go outside to get my exercise, which I do alone. I’d hoped that I could still go to the court and shoot alone. Anyone who’s put work into their game has put in a lot of hours alone on the court. You must practice your instrument in order to be ready to play with the band. I had heard reports of people still playing football or basketball games, which are obviously too social for the current standards, but couldn’t we still get some shots up? The sound of the ball going through the hoop would do a lot for me right now.
It’s April 20th. Two weeks since the basketball hoops were forcibly removed. If things had gone according to plan, my fair city would be teeming with people today. A lot of businesses would still be closed, but for a more joyous occasion. People would have traveled from around the world to complete a globally recognized physical task, the Boston Marathon.
For those uninterested in sports, cancelling the Boston Marathon can be easily lumped in with the cancellation of all major sporting events. I’ve been watching reruns of old Celtic games instead of gearing up for this year’s playoffs. Yesterday I saw some Wimbledon classics being played, with the classic tournament being canceled for the first time since World War Two. The overnight snow we experienced over this past weekend hit a little harder having not had Spring ushered in by the lush grasses of Augusta National’s the weekend before.
All of these cancellations hit hard for the fans who earmark their years based on passage of these annual events. It’s fall when football is played, it’s spring when golf and tennis return. Lovers of sport will even earmark their lives based on when sporting events happen. I may not be able to tell you the year the Red Sox won that curse breaking world series, but I can tell you the feeling on my college campus that was split between Red Sox and Yankees fans for two years. I don’t remember what year Vinatieri hit the field goal against the Raiders, but I remember driving my car home on snowy roads from a high school friend’s house.
Here’s the thing about the Boston Marathon, no one is really a fan of marathon running. There may be a few outliers, but that statement rang true for more readers than it offended. With that said, on Marathon Day, all of Boston and it’s million plus supporters play music together for the Boston Marathon. We all play the same song. If playing basketball is a band, the Boston Marathon is a live orchestra of the human spirit. We marvel at the top level athletes who run at superhuman paces for the duration, we are emboldened by bravery of those who run the marathon on prosthetics or pushing a wheelchair, we are inspired by the everyday athlete who put in the work over the cold, dark New England winter to get ready to run a four-hour marathon for charity.
In 2013, the marathon was bombed. A traumatizing attack that left the city reeling. I remember I had just crossed the route near my apartment to go get a sandwich when I heard that bombs had exploded. I remember the chilling act of going to my office blocks from the finish line the next day, the entire neighborhood blocked off with armed security everywhere. I remember sheltering in place during the manhunt of the bombers. I remember taking to the streets with a joyous city after the perpetrators had been apprehended.
We’ve been through trauma before, but the music resumed. The Boston Marathon is rescheduled currently for September 14th. Maybe it will happen then, maybe it won’t. I hope the basketball rims are put back on the backboard before then. Whenever we are able to play the music again, I can’t wait to dance.