Can A World Series Win Help Boston's Healing?

Sports commentators linked Boston's victory to the recovery from the Boston Marathon bombing. NPR's Mike Pesca is skeptical. He joins host Rachel Martin to talk about what the Red Sox game did and did not achieve for Boston.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Time now for sports.

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MARTIN: Well, if you didn't see it live, you've probably heard it 100 times from all of the displaced Bostonians in your life - the Red Sox won the World Series last week. NPR's Mike Pesca was in Boston for the Series. He joins us now to talk about what the game did and didn't achieve for the great city of Boston. Good morning, Mike.

MIKE PESCA, BYLINE: Hello.

MARTIN: So, you were there at Fenway for the win and all the ensuing celebrations. And everywhere you turned in the aftermath, you heard people ascribing some bigger significance to this story and to the city of Boston.

PESCA: Right. And that's usual. Every time I've been to a championship game, a coach, the players, someone will make an assertion that this was more than the team that won the most games or the team that won the last games. We stand for something more. And usually that thing is a concept like teamwork or brotherhood or togetherness. And that's all true. I don't think that that's a lie. You can't really be at each other's throats and win a championship.

But in the Boston case, with the slogan Boston Strong, the team was said to have contributed to the healing of the city after the Boston Marathon. And, you know, I will say that the Red Sox, certainly they're a civic institution, they know that they have an important part to play in the city, the day of the marathon is Patriot's Day, the day of the Red Sox game. However, I just think it was too facile. I went home after the game, turned on the TV and they do sort of rolling coverage of the celebrations. The phrase over and over again, how much they helped the city heal and how important they were to the healing process. It was just presented so uncritically and without question, and I think that bears some scrutiny.

MARTIN: So, maybe healing isn't the right word, but can't something like this genuinely lift a city's spirits? I mean, it is just baseball but why not try to make it about something bigger? It seems like a worthy intention.

PESCA: It does. It does. I tweeted this and someone on Twitter said, you know, in 1968, there was a newspaper strike in Detroit and things were bad and the Tigers won and that made everyone feel good. I think that sports can definitely transcend sport and it could combat a general feeling of malaise. And certainly for the Bostonians who were two or three steps removed from victims, if they felt sympathy for the victims, or if they felt perhaps afraid in their lives, the Red Sox could provide something. Maybe it's just joy. Maybe it's taking your mind off it. I'm not questioning that.

But you have to think about the actual victims. I talked to a friend of me, Dr. Matt Sachs, who does two things. The first thing he does is he's a sports psychologist, so he can help you putt better. But the other thing he does, his main job, is he works with soldiers and airmen and Marines who are dealing with PTSD. And he says, you know, the trap that we fall into is that we generalize about what happens with victims. So, to say that they are healed is not always true. And then there is another effect. It is quite likely that just as the news is done, many stories on the person who was a victim of the Boston bombing and maybe they're going through therapy now, and, man, they love the Red Sox and the Red Sox give them hope or inspiration. But, you know, it's really quite likely that there are many people out there who are not going to do a news story on who feel terrible and they're struggling through this as, of course, they are. And maybe they don't care about the Red Sox, you know. And when they hear things like this, it makes them feel why am I not in the process that I'm told I should be? Why am I a couple of steps behind this supposedly healed city?

I would just think about the use of that word, as we media think about a lot of phrases, and really try not to overuse it and to prescribe magical qualities to a team that did great on the field and is a great team off the field too.

MARTIN: If not healing, do you have an alternative? What else would you say?

PESCA: Yeah. I think we could say the Red Sox gave the city joy. The Red Sox brought the city - helped bring the city through a hard time. The Red Sox helped us remember the victims. You know, my friend, Dr. Sachs, says that's really important. Victims don't want to be forgotten. And the Boston Red Sox certainly reminded everyone what happened. And that was all to the good and those were all actually tangible things that we could document that the Red Sox did.

MARTIN: OK. With that, do you have a curveball for us?

PESCA: I do. The Mexican national soccer team, they have to win two games against New Zealand or at least score more than New Zealand to get to the World Cup. So, what the coach of the team has decided to do is just not bring his best players back to play, because the best players are in Europe and the first game's going to be in Mexico City and he's worried about jetlag. A lot of people in the international community are saying aren't the best players still the best? But he's saying, ah, but jetlag, I think this is the idea of local sourcing gone haywire.

MARTIN: Jetlag is brutal.

PESCA: Apparently, yeah.

MARTIN: NPR's Mike Pesca. Thanks, Mike.

PESCA: You're welcome.

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MARTIN: You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News.

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