I’ve lived in the Boston area for coming up on a decade now, and New England for more than two. So I’m familiar with Red Sox fans who, despite the jokes, are no better or worse than most sports fans. But since the Red Sox are headed to their first World Series in six years, it’s pretty much confirmed every stereotype of the meat-headed sports fan on social media.
Basically, every tweet about the World Series, which Boston played its way into this weekend, includes the hashtag “#BostonStrong.” If you need a quick reminder, “Boston Strong” also happens to be the rally phrase for the victims of Boston Marathon Bombings. In fact that’s how the phrase came into the Boston lexicon.
The commercialization, and thus trivialization, of tragedy is nothing new. Would you like a nice glass of 9/11 wine while you enjoy a 9/11 sandwich? Heck, it dates back centuries, like anything else that seemingly is new to get outraged about. We’ve been milking tragedy for a buck, as a species, since we invented tragedy and money.
So, in Boston, it’s pretty common to see shirts emblazoned with Boston Strong everywhere you go, likely from a vendor who won’t be donating to any charities. Really, it’s to be expected, and the solution to this problem is simple: Don’t buy the stupid shirt.
But what are we going to do about the tweets? This isn’t a comedian making a crappy joke or Rolling Stone subbing out a Kanye cover; it’s a massive group of people doing this relentlessly and seemingly without thought.
Look, I’m not throwing stones in the sense of bad taste here: I practically live in a glass doghouse. And I’m not singling out Boston sports fandom in this respect because any sports team has legions of fans with more ardor than tact. It’s not like 2001 didn’t see a dozen Never Forget signs at Yankees games. But there is something profoundly troubling about a phrase meant to symbolize the death and painful injury of nearly three hundred people being turned, in six months, into a meaningless slogan thrown at basic civic pride, and social media being a tool to do so. A couple of morons in the stands can be dismissed; thousands of people doing it means the phrase is sucked dry of all its meaning. It’s especially galling because Bostonians, sports fans and non-sports-fans alike, got up in arms over similar callous douchebaggery. So trivializing pain and death is only bad when the opposing team does it?
This isn’t the first time this has happened, nor the last, but it’s difficult not to wonder if that process getting faster is processing grief… or just callousness and denial. But on the bright side, at least nobody in Boston has a jerk like this rooting for their team:
So we’ve got that going for us, anyway.
(Image courtesy of Loriann DiSabato on Flickr)