Sports

This game seemed like trivial pursuit

CLEVELAND — The whole Terry Francona-vs.-the Red Sox stuff seems so petty and unimportant now after the catastrophe at the Boston Marathon.

Did it really matter that Francona was facing his old team and that his best friend is John Farrell and that he had to oppose him for three straight nights?

Of course not.

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Playing a baseball game is a trivial matter on days like this, when we’re all having so much trouble coming to grips with what we witnessed Monday afternoon in our own backyard.

Of course, everyone deals with these things in their own way.

Does a baseball game really take the edge off what happened? Of course not. Reporters attempted to go there with the athletes they spoke to before Tuesday night’s 7-2 Red Sox win over the Indians. Sox players were asked if going about business normally could act as a diversion. Of course most said it could.

Just not buying it.

But for some, I suppose, it could.

As a reporter, it was hard even asking questions like that. When you think about the people who died, who were maimed, the bloodshed, the lives that were disrupted . . . how can you put a sporting event in proper perspective ever again?

Francona, the new Indians manager, was really good talking about this. He spent eight years in Boston. He probably woke up way too early for some of those Patriots Day games and likely fought through Marathon traffic to get to the ballpark. He made a good point about whether his Boston roots personalized this tragedy.

“I’m not sure you have to have roots in Boston to care about that,” Francona said. “Obviously I do, as you guys do, too. Just seems like when you turn the TV on and when you’re there, it’s hard for everybody, whether it’s personal or not. It seems like it gets personal.

“You turn on the TV and you hear ‘right wing’ and ‘left wing.’ I wish there were no wings. Just wish people would get along. I don’t understand it and I don’t pretend to. I hope there are people way smarter than me who are trying to somehow, someday try to figure this out so this stuff doesn’t happen.

“It’s hard enough to be an adult; can you imagine being a little kid growing up now?

“It’s hard. It just makes you feel bad.”

Playing a baseball game in Cleveland isn’t going to make any pain go away. It’s just continuing with life. You have to go to work the next day. This was the next day. That’s all it was.

Francona and Farrell could only agree with the premise that playing baseball could be a diversion.

“I hope so,” said Francona. “That would be terrific if it helps anybody at all. I do think that is the case.

“Again, just from being there the time I was, that day is so special to the people in Boston. They’re so proud of that day. You have the Marathon, the game, it’s a big deal. It’s a personal day for the city of Boston and New England.

“I don’t know how you quantify what happened. It’s unfair. Hope this game does help some people.”

Francona was at Progressive Field on an off-day Monday when his daughter texted him and tried calling him a few times. It was after he returned her call that he knew what had happened. And then it did become personal.

“In some of those views, I could see the church my daughter was married in,” he said. “So it’s very unsettling for everybody.”

One thing this does is bring people together. The Yankees and Red Sox were “united” for one day, with “Sweet Caroline” being played after the third inning in Yankee Stadium as a tribute to the victims. The front of Yankee Stadium displayed Red Sox and Yankees logos with the words, “United We Stand.” That part is wonderful.

It just stinks that we go from a horrific human event to discussing baseball matters within 24 hours. But, again, we had to go to work the next day.

So we asked Francona the questions we needed to ask.

How did it feel having to face the Red Sox?

“It’s OK,” he said. “We’re a year removed. And not being in Boston. I had a mostly really good eight years. I didn’t script it the way it ended and you move on. Sometimes it’s time to move on and I’m really happy where I am here.

“I think it would be unfair for the players for me to have like a nostalgia week. Our job is to beat them. And it is ‘them.’

“It doesn’t take away from people I’m close to there but I like where I’m at and they like where they’re at, so things are pretty good. I do think it will be harder when I go to Boston for me.”

He was asked what he thought would happen when the Red Sox return to Boston Friday and play before a crowd for the first time since the tragedy.

“I don’t know how anybody could answer that,” he said. “I imagine they will be very resilient. It wouldn’t surprise me at all.”

And would he ever have any fear about going to a sports venue?

“Fearful of going to the park, but not for those reasons,” he said. “Seen some of those Philadelphia pitchers out there? No, no. You kidding me? I can barely get to the ballpark as it is.”

(That was a reference to Francona getting lost on his way to the park on Opening Day in Cleveland.)

He said that taking a year off allowed him to deal with life after Boston so much better.

“A lot,” he said. “And the fact it’s in Cleveland helps me a lot, too. I’m sure going back to Fenway will bring back a lot of memories. It’s not just another series, but at the same time, it’s not that I woke up and that’s all I thought about. The idea is to beat them, and if we do, good.”

Francona kidded with Dustin Pedroia and Farrell before the game.

“The day [Farrell] got hired, I said the glass became half-full,” he said. “I hope for the next three days everything goes wrong for them, but he’s one of my best friends in baseball and in life, and they got a good hire.”

Yes, life goes on. Back to work the day after one of the worst things we’ve ever experienced in our lifetime. Sorry, neither a ballgame nor anything can erase the images we all saw Monday. They will live in all of us forever.

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