Seven years ago today, I was sitting in my basement with my brother, watching the Boston Red Sox pre-game presentation. The Sox were playing the Kansas City Royals at Fenway that afternoon, but there was something unique about this game that caused it to come up in the news every year on this day.
On April 15, just five days prior to the game seven years ago, two bombs detonated at the finish line at the Boston Marathon, killing three and injuring many. A city struck by tragedy went under lockdown until the culprits were found, and the Red Sox game on the 19th was resultantly postponed.
Both men found responsible for the bombings were in custody by the end of the night, so the Red Sox home game against the Royals on the 20th was on schedule to commence. The pre-game ceremony honored those affected by the Marathon tragedy and paid tribute to Boston’s first responders. My brother, my mom who had eventually come down and I watched as David “Big Papi” Ortiz took the mic, sporting his white home uniform that said “Boston” across the chest, as opposed to “Red Sox.”
He took the mic and waited for the roaring applause to die down. “Alright, alright Boston,” he said. “This jersey that we wear today, it doesn’t say Red Sox. It says Boston. We want to thank you Mayor Menino, Governor Patrick and the whole Police Department for the great job they did this past week.”
Everyone watching was hanging on to every word, watching as one of Boston’s heroes spoke on the recent tragedy. And that was when he said it.
“This is our f**king city, and nobody gonna dictate our freedom. Stay strong, thank you.”
I don’t remember exactly what she said, but my mom voiced what everyone was likely thinking: “Did he say what I thought he said?” Of course, because NESN was showing the pre-game ceremony live, the word was not censored. Who could have guessed he would say that? Certainly not my 13-year-old self.
At the time, there was probably some backlash against Ortiz’s use of the word, but I would defend Oritz’s decision to use it. I think within the scenario, those five words united a city that was so in need of unity. After going through that kind of tragedy, it was likely refreshing and uplifting for the people of Boston to hear one of its heroes speak so powerfully in the way Big Papi did.
When looking at the posts of Ortiz inside the diamond with the American flag over the Green Monster in the background, I’m reminded of the feeling I had after that pre-game ceremony seven years ago. The Sox went on to win the game that day, as well as the franchise’s tenth World Series championship at the end of the 2013 season. I think the argument could be made that “Boston Strong” pushed the Red Sox and their fans to truly believe in the team, which resulted in a championship. My mom said today that Ortiz’s speech contained the “most justified F-bomb” she’d ever heard, and I’d have to agree.