Said Julien: “There’s a rivalry here and we don’t like each other because it’s a rivalry. And at the same time, the pounding of the chest — the people who have been here, have seen us do that all year, because it’s related to Boston Strong. Our guys take some pride in what’s happened in Boston Strong and, unfortunately, everything we did seemed to be seen as disrespectful in Montreal.”
Comments like this are why I’m always dead set against sports teams intertwining real-life events and tragedies with what happens on the playing field. For one, Julien’s explanation is garbage. No one mentioned the bombings at all when Milan Lucic and Torey Krug pounded their chests after scoring goals in Game 2, nor did anyone on Boston’s bench take offense, or reference the bombings, when Montreal’s Dale Weise did it to mock the Bruins after scoring in Game 3.
Even if there’s some merit to Julien’s claim, the Marathon bombings, devastating and incomprehensible as they were, occurred more than a year ago. Time has passed and as families try to heal, teams in this region need to cling to something else as a form of motivation, if for no other reason than to quit providing the families and individuals who were actually affected by the bombings with a constant reminder of how their lives have forever changed.
I guarantee you Jerome Iginla or Brad Marchand aren’t thinking about 8-year-old Martin Richard, who died in the blast, every time they score a goal and start thumping their chests. To equate schoolyard, in-your-face, “Look at me!” exhibitionism to some sort of tribute to those affected by the tragedy is an insult to everyone involved and exploitative in nature, whether intended or not. The Bruins did what they did to assert their dominance and intimidate the Canadiens — an opponent unilaterally considered soft, spineless and melodramatic in this market — not to honor victims of a tragedy.
I cringed when Red Sox slugger David Ortiz screamed “DEEEEEEIS IS OUR FAWKIN’ CITY!” into the microphone in front of a ballpark packed with thousands of 8- and 9-year-olds and I cringe every time a professional athlete tries to pass off showboating as memorialization.
This isn’t to say teams can’t pay their proper respects. Major League Baseball postponed games for a week following the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks, and most teams and cities paid tribute in their own way once play resumed. It’s the right thing to do. What Julien said borders on exploitation, as if he wanted those comments to get back to the Canadiens’ locker room in an attempt to make them feel bad about what they said, as if their opposition was in some strange way an indirect knock on “Boston Strong” and everything its supposed to mean (not what we interpret it to mean).
The fundamental problem with linking the real world to the vapid, inescapable bubble in which sports franchises live is there is no correlation whatsoever between the two. Professional athletes live in a world devoid of consequences, boundaries and restraints, unless they go as far as to kill someone, in which case they could still escape prosecution at the hands of the real-world justice system depending on how much they spend on attorneys. Assaulting an opposing pitcher in baseball might, at worst, result in a four-game suspension. Assaulting your mailman might put you behind bars. It’s a different set of rules on an uneven playing field.
Their adversity is not our adversity. The Bruins’ adversity was falling behind by two goals in the second period of a do-or-die Game 7 Wednesday night. Bombing survivor Heather Abbott’s adversity is trying to function with one leg after her left one was blown off at last year’s Marathon.
Survivors and families of victims have no doubt bought into “Boston Strong” as a rallying cry and enjoyed the outpouring from celebrities and athletes in the aftermath of last year’s tragedy. Abbot herself wears a “Boston Strong” sticker on her prosthetic leg. We’re told sports help us heal. They do. There’s also a line that shouldn’t be crossed in this symbiotic relationship between the actual victims and the athletes using their pain as motivation. It’s not a visible line, rather an unwritten rule, but you notice it when it’s crossed, and Julien absolutely crossed it following Boston’s Game 7 loss to Montreal. It’s a shame no one else is outraged.
We should honor and encourage the victims, survivors and everyone else affected by the Marathon bombings as often as we can, but we shouldn’t use their adversity as an excuse to explain boorish, crude behavior during a sporting event. The flexing, chest-thumping, etc., borders on taunting, and, in some weird, indirect shift of karma, might’ve actually motivated the Canadiens in their come-from-behind win. That’s not what “Boston Strong” is about, and the lame attempt at linking the two came off as cheap and disingenuous.
Julien seems like a reasonable, well-mannered, well-respected guy, but his explanation missed the mark. No explanation at all would’ve been better.
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