Attention, Boston: It’s just baseball

As I wrote a week or so, the problem with the Red Sox being in the World Series is the extent to which their fans can be an insufferable, superior lot, what with their continued sense of entitlement to success, their love of feeling deprived of it (the latest was the lament that they hadn’t won a World Series at home since 1918), and their professed exceptionalism.

Baseball’s ability to be both a game and a metaphor is both its charm and its curse.

First, at its core, a baseball championship is just a baseball championship. Period. Everything else is just a sportswriter who needs a catchy lede.

“The team’s worst to first transformation in a trying time might give us clues on how to rebuild our economy and democracy into something that again makes us stand tall and proud as one,” Thomas Kochan, the co-director of the Institute for Work & Employment Research at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, writes today.

He lists distributed leadership, teamwork, and solidarity as the cornerstones of the team and, thus, should be the cornerstones of how we face our nation’s woes. A fair point, indeed. But he couldn’t stop there:

“This is for you Boston,” said Ortiz when given the MVP trophy. And Johnny Gomes said, “We got more from Boston than we gave,” referring to how the team and city healed together since the Marathon tragedy. Red Sox Nation has shown the American nation how to pull together and gain strength from each other in and after a crisis.

As Eileen McNamara pointed out in her excellent essay on “the man in the cowboy hat” at the Boston Marathon bombing site, “cities are not resilient, people are. And, sometimes, they are not.”

That’s not something that just started last April.

True, as Ian Crouch of the New Yorker points out today in fact-checking the Red Sox’ win, the team is a cultural icon in the city and not just a sports team. And, true, the franchise worked hard to raise money for the bombing victims.

But people pulled together on 9/11. They pulled together in Joplin, Mo. They pulled together when the Interstate 35W bridge collapsed. They pulled together in Newtown, Conn., and Brookfield, Wis.,  and Aurora, Colo.

And, yes, they pulled together after the Boston Marathon. But that wasn’t just your tragedy, Boston. And it wasn’t just you pulling together and if you want proof, just check the return address on the checks that people sent to help. What you learned from the Marathon is that you can pull together… too.

Boston, your team won a baseball championship. That’s swell. Congratulations. Wish it was us. Also, you’re welcome for that whole David Ortiz thing.

The lesson of the 2013 World Series? The Red Sox are better than 29 other teams and they got that way by getting rid of bad players and opening up a checkbook to hire good ones. Sometimes teams win. Sometimes they don’t.

Same as it ever was.