COMMENTARY | It was a strange but heartwarming sound Tuesday, April 16 at Yankee Stadium. The sounds of Neal Diamond's "Sweet Caroline," a staple at Boston's Fenway Park for almost two decades, were cascading around the ballpark in the Bronx as Yankees fans sang and danced along.
Outside on the stadium marquee, a sign bearing the logos of the Yankees and Red Sox read simply "United We Stand."
After the horrific explosions that rocked Boston on Monday, April 15 near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, it was only appropriate that the nation reach out to a city trying to make sense of it all -- not only grieving the loss of the three people killed in the blasts but also shaken by an attack on Patriots' Day and the city's biggest spring event.
And it was very appropriate for the Yankees to reach out to Boston. After all, in the days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that rocked Manhattan, as well as Washington and Pennsylvania, Boston poured its heart out to New York.
Fans at Fenway Park sang "New York, New York," setting aside the game's most storied rivalry to show their support for those suffering down the Atlantic seaboard.
As the Yankees played on in 2001, eventually reaching the World Series, they had a uniting effect not just for New Yorkers but also for the nation as a whole.
For once, everyone was rooting for New York and the Yankees symbolized that as they played on into October and, because of the week's delay after the attacks, November.
The biggest impact the Yankees had for New York and the nation was a return to some semblance of normalcy. As Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said at the time (per MLB.com), "If anything, playing again will give people an option to watch something else on TV."
So what can the Red Sox do to have that same unifying effect for their community?
1. Soldier On: The Red Sox can just keep playing, as they did Tuesday, April 16 in Cleveland. The team hung a jersey in its dugout at Progressive Field that read "Boston Strong" and bore the number 617, the area code for Boston, and wore black armbands (as did the Indians) to symbolize the lost lives.
Outfielder Jonny Gomes told ESPNBoston.com, "This situation is a lifer. You're not putting it behind you. At the same time, if we can get some people's hopes up, give people a breath of fresh air, we're in the entertainment business. That's what we can do to help the area."
2. Reach Out: The Red Sox can reach out to their community in a number of ways and can have a tremendous effect on relief efforts for those affected by the attack. Simply by promoting and supporting charitable causes related to the tragedy, the team can make a difference for its community.
3. Remember: The team can honor the heroes of the event, the first responders and other law enforcement and emergency services personnel who made such a difference in the moments after the bombs detonated. Recognize that service, honor those who performed it, and make sure that the city knows that the worst of times can bring out the best in a community.
4. Know Your Role: Players and team personnel need to be prepared to be even more available to the public than ever. However trivial a sporting contest may be when compared to an event such as a terrorist attack, the Red Sox can be, at worst, a diversion, but at best the team can remind us all of how the city and the nation has the ability to move forward.
The team can do this by playing an active, out-front role in recovery efforts, in much the same way members of the Yankees and New York Giants and Jets and other franchises in the New York area became part of the initial outreach efforts in the days after the Sept. 11 attacks. Whether it is as simple as merely meeting with people or as involved as donating time and money to relief efforts, the Red Sox shouldn't be shy about getting involved.
5. Do Something Grand: Perhaps the gate receipts from a game could be donated to charities set up to help in the aftermath of the attacks. The team could organize a blood drive or food drive at the ballpark on an off day or the day of a night game. Be a catalyst for the spirit of community that has engulfed Boston in the wake of these attacks to continue for as long as it can.
Phil Watson is a freelance journalist and commentator based in upper Michigan who covers the New York Yankees for the Yahoo! Contributor Network.
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