Boston bombings will not destroy healing power of sports

Federal agents zeroed in Tuesday on how the Boston Marathon bombing was carried out -- with kitchen pressure cookers packed with explosives, nails and other lethal shrapnel. (April 17)

Memo to the Pond Scum Terrorists, or whatever you are calling yourselves these days:

You don't win. Prepare for payback.

Baseball bats. Hockey pucks. Bouncing basketballs. Footballs flying in the air. Boxing gloves going tap-tap-tap.

Pick any sport in America, and it will be there, right in your face, waving flags in the air, singing our National Anthem, kicking you in the gut.

America is bruised and battered, but not broken.

"I think you're going to see this tragedy make us stronger," said Patrick Lyons, a noted restaurateur from Boston. "People are not going to lay down, certainly not Bostonians. These are fighting words for Bostonians."

The Boston Marathon bombings are highly personal for Lyons. It happened in his city. The city where he is friends with a number of sports celebrities. The city of victim Krystle Campbell, 29, one of his employees. She was general manager and catering manager for the Jasper White's Summer Shack restaurants, a partnership White shares with Lyons.

Lyons knows good food. Witness the lavish spread of sushi, crab legs and oysters at a fundraiser Tuesday night at his new establishment, Kings Bowl in Orlando, featuring an eclectic mix of dining, bowling and entertainment.

But like many Bostonians, he's a sports guy trying to get past the initial heartbreak of so much bloodshed and carnage on Monday afternoon. Sports has always been a soothing salve in times of tragedy. Witness the rally cries of patriotism in NFL stadiums and other venues after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Witness American athletes carrying a tattered flag from 9/11 during the Opening Ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

At first blush, I was overwhelmed by all those graphic images from Boston and questions ringing in my head -- like what does an 8-year-old-child have to do with your agenda? Evil had triumphed. The healing power of sports was now stained with the blood of three victims and 176 injuries.

Terrorism has forever changed the dynamics of sports in this country, but it only alters the landscape. Lyons and good men like his friend, Celtics coach Doc Rivers, convinced me that we aren't going to cower any time soon.

"They won't take our spirit away," Rivers said. "We'll all be more cautious but at the end of the day and I'm sure of it, you will see it in the spirit of people. They are going to get their lives back. They are not going to tell us how to live.

"Sports is one of vehicles you need in times like these. Sports, family, religion. All of those allow you to get through and be who you are."

It's not just the good folks in Boston. More than 15,000 runners and walkers will gather at Lake Eola Thursday for the IOA Corporate 5K. It's a quick jaunt (for most) though the streets of downtown Orlando, and not a 26.2-mile odyssey, but every step will be marked by perseverance.

The event did not get canceled. Central Florida runners did not cower under their beds.

Look all around you folks. The New York Yankees, Hatfields to Boston's McCoys, honored the city by playing the Fenway Park standard "Sweet Caroline," following the third inning of Tuesday night's game at Yankee Stadium. The front of the Chicago Tribune's sports page Tuesday had images that read "We are Chicago Red Sox," "We are Chicago Celtics", and so forth. Noted New Yorker Jon Stewart placed Bruins and Celtic coffee cups on his desk for his nightly show.

Symbolic gestures. But not trivial. Not at all.

Collectively, they bind friends and enemies. The forces of evil will not prevail.

"As time goes on, what you will see is that the role of sports is not diminished," Lyons said. "The world of sports, the resiliency of the human spirit, you will see it accelerate."

And next year, Lyons said he expects the numbers of participants in the Boston Marathon to double in size from 27,000, assuming runners meet qualifying standards and logistics allow.

"It's an expression unlike many others," he said.

That will include a few unprintable expletives to anyone with bad intentions.

Read George Diaz's blog at OrlandoSentinel.com/enfuego or e-mail him at gdiaz@orlandosentinel.com

CHICAGO

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