Buckley: John Farrell cancer news brings sports fans together – Boston Herald
Today’s sports fans live in a world of smash-mouth talk shows, scorched-earth Twitter wars and so-called “fantasy leagues” that make it possible for everybody’s laptop to be transformed into the old-fashioned corner bookie.
In the end, though, sports are still about escapism.
It’s not really the end of the world if our team doesn’t win. It’s just the end of the day. Deep down, we know this to be true. Better to spend time complaining about the Red Sox and hating the Yankees than to be complaining about our jobs and hating the boss.
And as if we needed this important reminder about the meaning of escapism in sports, it was delivered to us Friday afternoon when Red Sox manager John Farrell told reporters he is stepping away from the team for the remainder of the season to battle Stage 1 lymphoma.
Just like that, the real world crashed our escapism party.
And just like that, we all dutifully stepped away from the party and looked upon John Farrell not as a manager, but as a man.
He’s a husband, a father, a son. He’s somebody’s old college roommate, somebody’s former student. He’s a guy, a dude, a golfing buddy.
He’s one of us.
He has cancer.
And now we’re at his side, cheering for him, praying for him. He has the biggest, loudest, most-locked-in support group imaginable: Sports fans.
The outpourings from fans via talk shows and various social-media platforms have been plentiful and they’ve been sincere. Consider, for instance, the fan response after Toronto Blue Jays pitcher David Price, who has had a few dustups with the Red Sox over the years, tweeted the following: “Prayers go out to John Farrell and his family . . . everyone please include them in your prayers or prayer chains!! He can beat this. . .”
Among the many responses to Price’s tweet:
• “Competitor on the field. Class act off of it. Very nice.”
• “This is awesome. Pretty sure a lot of Red Sox Nation is pulling for you and the Jays this year. Go get ’em.”
• “Class act, David. Since the Sox are out of it-Go Jays!”
• “Straight class move. Now keep runnin’ away from the yanks in the standings.”
For this exercise I chose only posters whose avatars and/or previous tweets reveal themselves to be Red Sox fans. They had put aside the fact that Price is a Toronto Blue Jay, or that he was a Detroit Tiger, and before that a Tampa Bay Ray. They were thanking the guy who was rooting for their guy.
The no-second-thoughts ability of people to cast aside the trappings of their sports fandom is not a new phenomenon. Go back to May 18, 1999, at Fenway Park, as the Red Sox were about to begin a series against the Yankees. Joe Torre decided it was time to return to the field following two months of treatment for prostate surgery, and the Yankees manager was greeted with a two-minute ovation when he stepped out to home plate with the lineup card.
“It was moving,” Torre told reporters after the game. “I didn’t want to take the lineup card out, but I asked my bench coach (Don Zimmer) and he told me I should take it out there.”
So he did, and that’s when a packed Fenway house stood as one to cheer for a guy wearing a New York Yankees uniform.
I’m not naive. There were probably a couple of leather lungs in the Fenway grandstand that night who booed Torre . . . just because. And I absolutely know that Price’s supportive tweet was not met with approval by everybody. A couple of tweets were rather nasty, in fact. Just . . . because.
That’s not a reflection on sports fans, other than to point out the obvious: Sports fans are people, and there are crazy, mean, disordered people out there. Whatever.
But most sports fans get it. Peel away the team gear — the Tom Brady shirts, the Cam Neely sweaters, the Sox caps, the Celtics T-shirts with all the banners on the back — and everybody’s in the same ballpark, so to speak.
John Farrell has a fight on his hands.
And sports fans across the continent and beyond are rooting for him.