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Boston isn't a city, it's a family

  April 16, 2013 10:56 AM

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One of the reasons that I love Boston dearly, one of the countless reasons that all seem so much more vivid and somber and relevant at this hour, is that the city never wavers from living by that certain big brother/little brother code:

We can mess with each other, and be damned sure that we will. But mess with us, just one of us, and our unified wrath will know no mercy.

No, we are not all related. But in times of trouble, you'd better believe we are all family.

The magnitude of Monday's bombings at the Boston Marathon only grows in the aftermath. With every turn of the newspaper page, every Twitter update delivering heartbreak in 140 characters or less, every new revealed detail about someone who lost life or limb, it becomes just a little more personal, a little more relatable, a little more devastating.

I see the picture of 8-year-old Martin Richard, the sweet-eyed Dorchester boy who just wanted to hug his dad at the finish line, and I think of my 9-year-old daughter begging to come to Boston Monday as a special treat during school vacation week, and the swirling sadness of all we lost brings the tears rushing back again.

The last thing on my mind is sports right now -- sure, it's true if trite that the games can help us heal, but, damn, let us mourn first. But it is comforting when the athletes that we cheer recognize that there's something special about their professional home.

They didn't grow up here. But they relate. They are a part of the family, too.

Solace, however small or fleeting, can be found in that unity and resolve. Bostonians have each others' backs, man. That the soulless monsters responsible for this chose the Marathon, as inclusive event imaginable when you consider how many people beyond the 23,000 participants it affects, on Patriots Day, a holiday/city-wide block party that is wholly ours, suggests they were aiming for maximum casualty and chaos. Vengeance will not be enough, but it will be had.

But the feeling of vulnerability will not be shaken for a while. The calm is gone, just as it was in September 2001.

A confession: I am always uneasy when attending major sporting events, At the Super Bowl in Indianapolis two years ago, security was an elaborate labyrinth through a tent filled with security scanners and detectors. It was as impressive as it was complex, and it still did not prevent me from thinking about "Black Sunday'' when I took my seat for kickoff.

Opening Day at Fenway jangles the same nerves. I wince in acknowledging that it does, but the symbolism of baseball as something quintessentially American makes it an inviting target for those who hate us.

What happened Monday was so easily executed, I cannot help but wonder what tragedies have been anonymously averted. Or what tragedy is next. I hate that I feel this way. But I have to, and I know I'm not alone.

Heroes like Carlos Arredondo and Joe Andruzzi and so many others began to emerge before the clock struck 3 o'clock Monday afternoon, and its reassuring that so many ran toward the explosions rather than away from them.

But is unity and family and brotherhood enough? Will it sustain to the degree it must? Or should I say, will our bond in the face of tragedy be sustained to this necessary, enhanced degree beyond a few months?

If the years beyond September 11 taught us anything, it's that our nerves will settle and calm will return and we'll all fall back into the pattern of griping about long lines at airport security and rolling our eyes while wondering if the security guy checking our bag at the ballpark gate could maybe speed up the process a little.

Our need for convenience will eventually trump our need for peace of mind. It will take years, but it will happen.

But please, hold it off as long as you can. Don't let the reminders, as awful as they are, escape this time.

Parade routes aren't meant to be 12-block crime scenes. Finish lines aren't supposed to be the scene of the gruesome and sinister. Vibrant neighborhoods aren't supposed to be eerily barren at nightfall.

And heaven help us, little boys aren't supposed to die after hugging their dads.

The scene from the Boston Marathon media center

  April 15, 2013 04:32 PM

It sounded like thunder, improbable in retrospect on what was such a spotless New England spring day.

But other explanations for the single burst of noise that briefly rattled the Boston Marathon media center at the Fairmont Copley Plaza hotel were plausible enough that fear of the worst was momentarily fleeting:

"That sounded like a bomb,'' I thought. Then, having filed my story on the elite race winners, I went to get a cup of coffee. It was 2:52 p.m.

I was two steps out of the ballroom that serves as the media nerve center when I ran into colleague Eric Wilbur. He had just been out on Boylston Street, talking to finishers for his assignment. Blood was absent from his face.

"Did you hear that? That was a bomb,'' he said. "Two of them. Seconds apart. This is serious [expletive]. It's chaos."

I ran back to my station to collect my phone and notepad, but it was already too late.

We were immediately put in lockdown. No one was allowed to leave the hotel. National Guardsmen soon took posts at the doors.

But those on the outside -- reporters, volunteers, runners and their families and friends -- entered in search of shelter from the scene, gradually filling the long hallways.

On a couch in the lobby, Joan Benoit Samuelson, who just a little more than an hour before had achieved her goal of finishing the race in 2 hours and 50 minutes, sat on a couch as a friend consoled her. "I'm shaken but OK,'' she said. "I just hope everyone outside is.''

The gravity of the situation became apparent from the fear on the faces of those who had come in from outside and the gruesome stories they brought with them.

A colleague who had been no more than 20 yards from the first explosion arrived in the media center, tears welling in his eyes as he spoke of witnessing a man lose a leg at the knee.

A volunteer said lanyards were being used by first responders as tourniquets.

The horrific anecdotes were soon accompanied by numbers. Two deaths. At least 28 injured. A strange incident at the JFK Library, and reports of other suspicious devices around the city.

Context may be within reach today for some, but damned if I can find it. We don't know who did this. We don't know if it was a sinister mastermind or a random lunatic.

We don't know if we're safe, or if there is more to come. We don't know.

What we do know is that he or she or they knew what precisely they were doing, their act of terror timed for significant chaos and casualties.

We do know that Patriots' Day will forever be accompanied by solemnity and sadness, a reminder that this happened in our city, on our uniquely Boston day.

And know this: That every clap of thunder will now bring unease and fear, leaving us to quickly pray and plead that we're not about to underestimate the devastation just outside the door.

Scattered thoughts from London

  August 11, 2012 03:28 PM

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LONDON -- Fleeting thoughts crossing my mind while waiting for Usain Bolt to cross the finish line one more time ...

The US basketball guys are still huge worldwide, and to a man they've done a remarkable job of being accessible and part of the Olympic experience; I half expect the ubiquitous Kobe Bryant to be walking around Olympic Park in one of the purple-and-red volunteer shirts, helping a puzzled family from the Netherlands find its way to the field hockey venue. But let's put it this way: If Usain Bolt and LeBron James walked into a pub at the same time, LeBron could go sit in a corner booth, enjoying his fish and chips and beverage of choice undisturbed and barely noticed. It's Bolt's world, and everyone else is a bystander.

London is exactly as I imagined it (OK, minus the imagined random acts of hooliganism and sightings of a blinking, stammering Hugh Grant), and by that I mean it is awesome. Spectacular architecture, a fun pub on every corner, and the people have a generally charming and witty way about them. The accent is so killer, it makes me not even want to talk. The myth about bad food in London is just that, too, unless you happen to be stranded at the Main Press Center with nothing but pork, mayonnaise and feta subs to choose from.

You don't have to watch it for long to recognize that it's a grueling, serious sport, but I just don't get racewalking at all. Every time one competitor is gaining ground on another, I have to suppress the urge to yell, "Run! Run! She's closing the gap! Forget heel-to-toe! RUN!"

Have not met an Olympic athlete yet who didn't seem genuine, engaging, and impossibly down-to-earth, and that includes Michael Phelps. (I should note I did not meet the apparently monosyllabic Ryan Lochte, though he seems decent enough in his Spicolian way. Jeah! ) Ashton Eaton, the decathlon gold medalist who is roughly the size of a Division I football safety, couldn't be a nicer guy. There are no Josh Becketts here.

Being over here for the past 20 days, the depth of my knowledge regarding NBC's coverage boils down to what I read and hear from those back home. (Boo tape-delay, yay Michelle Beadle, more or less, which sounds about right to me.) I'll catch up with that on the DVR when I get home. But while I've been in London, I've been absorbing BBC's coverage, and it has been exceptional. No treacly melodrama, no teasers to features that run two commercial breaks later, no Seacrest, just smart, spirited coverage and analysis. And I'd wager that two of BBC's primary studio analysts -- Olympic legends Michael Johnson and Ian Thorpe -- are as insightful, articulate and in Thorpe's case, sharp-witted -- as anyone NBC is using in a similar role, save for perhaps Doc Rivers.

Joe Posnanski absolutely nails it here on what it's like to cover the Olympics. I found this passage particularly true:

I don’t think anyone cares — or should care — about the various inconveniences of being a sportswriter. It is a dream job, and when you are sitting in the stadium watching Usain Bolt run, or you are at the beach volleyball gold-medal match and can check the time by turning to Big Ben, or you are interviewing athletes after a team handball match and suddenly find yourself talking to the irrepressibly cool Ólafur Stefánsson, well, who really cares about any of that other stuff anyway?

So true. It's exhilarating and exhausting, often within the same hour, but you never let yourself forget the privilege of being here. But it's also true -- and this is something Joe elaborates on with his usual perfect aim -- that the thrills are sometimes surrounded by tedium, that as the days go on home feels farther and farther away, especially when you miss a meaningful moment or milestone. (Happy 6th birthday, bud. Hope you got the R2-D2 and "Three-Creepy-Oh" you wanted.) This is my second Olympics, but the inevitable juxtaposition is already familiar: In the final days of the Olympics, you can't wait to get home. And once you're home, the magnitude of what you got to do sinks in, and you wonder why it had to end so soon and hope you'll get another chance again.

The agony of 1/100th of a second, and other things you learn at the Olympics

  August 6, 2012 02:44 PM

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LONDON -- When you're the slumbering pack of slugs known as the 2012 Red Sox, fourth place is a brief reprieve from being in fifth place. When you're an Olympian, fourth place is somewhere between disappointing and devastating, and usually much closer to the latter. That was hammered home again Monday night while watching Tyson Gay sob uncontrollably after he finished fourth in the men's 100-meter sprint. Imagine: Four years of training, four years of dedicating everything you do to that one 9-point-something-second race, and you miss a medal by 1/100th of a second. Cruel might not be a strong enough word to properly describe it.

I've been in London for 15 days now, with another week ahead. The look on Gay's face as he realized was no spot on the podium for him will stay with me long after the Summer Olympics are in the past tense. Here are six other things I've learned during the Olympics.

Roger Federer really is a good sport: Sure, it's probably easier to be gracious in defeat when you've won 17 Grand Slam titles, are the world's No. 1 ranked player at age 30, and are widely regarded as the best to ever pick up a racquet. But Federer, who almost unfathomably had never won a singles medal in three previous Olympics, genuinely wanted the men's singles gold medal. Instead, he was helpless against local hero Andy Murray, who finally gave Britain a victory to celebrate on the Wimbledon lawn. Watching Federer smile, with just a hint of bemusement, through Murray's celebration and his fans' celebration of him made me appreciate one of our greatest contemporary sportsmen just a little bit more.

nehemiahrenaldo86.jpg.JPGUsain Bolt must run at least one fly pattern in his life: No, of course he shouldn't play football -- his 6-foot-5-inch, 170-something-pound frame would be snapped in half by the first frothing-at-the-mouth safety to get to him. Besides, he's Jamaican -- mention football to him and he'll probably think you mean that thing we call soccer. And there's the whole catching-the-ball thing. But ... wouldn't you love to see him run just one fly pattern, just to see how fast he'd look on a football field? We're not asking him to pull a Renaldo Nehemiah. Just show up at a Patriots practice some day and see whether Brady can overthrow him. Just one time. Just to hear the "whooooosh'' as he runs by.

You bet Gabby Douglas should be America's sweetheart: The individual all-around champ is a bundle of electric athleticism and effortless charisma, and it was thrilling to see the 16-year-old's performance pay off in gold. The controversy around her hair is absurd, but she's handled it with grace that belies her age. She hasn't had much disappointment here, but if she did, you get the sense she'd put a better face on it than certain teammates.

hoops86swim.jpgThe NBA's best need to be here: If there's a perception at home that the whole "Dream Team'' concept is tired or played out 20 years after Magic, Michael, Larry reigned in Barcelona, well, it's not shared around the world. Team USA's first game here, against Florent Pietrus and France, was such a big deal that dozens of international media had to be turned away at the door or seated in the stands. Most were there just to catch a glimpse of the greatest players in a sport that has captivated the world. And the players are embracing this. Chris Paul hops from one event to the next. Kevin Durant and LeBron James were regulars at swimming. Kobe Bryant was at Wimbledon, toting his camera like a tourist. This is working in every regard, and it will be a shame if the NBA messes with it for no other reason but greed.

Handball is awesome: It reminds me of something your eighth-grade gym teacher might have made up when he got tired of everyone goofing off during floor hockey. It's a quirky combination of lacrosse and basketball, though the poor goalies, who might as well wear "hit me" signs pinned to their jerseys, would probably suggest it has a pretty heavy element of schoolyard dodgeball. Here's hoping it catches on in the US enough that it has a team good enough to qualify for Rio in four years. Also pretty cool: men's field hockey, and badminton (non-tanking division).

Michael Phelps has a winning personality: I recognize that it's strange to suggest that someone who arrived in London with 16 career Olympic medals has been a revelation here, but that's how I feel about Phelps. During his various interactions with the media, he has been anecdotal, self-deprecating, candid and reflective. I'm sure he's added polish over the years, but his appreciation of the moment and his willingness to articulate it was more than I expected from someone who pitches Subway sandwiches with Jay Glazer. It was a surprising contrast to teammate Ryan Lochte, who gives off the vibe of someone who is going to blow all his money hiring Van Halen (or his probable preference, Li'l Wayne) to play his birthday party.

Passed out in my hammock

  July 1, 2009 07:24 PM

Nope, not slacking even more than usual -- I'm on vacation. Due back at my post Tuesday, July 7, but I'll probably crank out a column or two before then given that Maine has apparently switched climates with Seattle.


Charlie's Angels

  February 7, 2009 04:10 PM

This may come as breaking news to certain newbie fans, but Jerry Remy hasn't always been affiliated with the Red Sox.

While today it seems like the Massachusetts native, ex-player, and ubiquitous broadcaster is positioned to be the successor to Johnny Pesky as Mr. Red Sox -- meaning, I suppose, that he'll be freezing his RemDawg biscuits off for a silly photo op come Truck Day 2035 -- he actually spent the first three years of his major-league life as an Angel (1975-77).

I suppose it's easy to overlook, since the Angels were historically inept when Remy was there, and he didn't stick around long, coming to the Sox in a trade for pitcher Don Aase in December 1977.

Maybe it's a case of fiction mimicking reality, but Remy didn't last long with my inept Angels, either. Let me explain.

(Here's where I put the disclaimer: If no one wants to hear a way-too-long tale about the team I'm running -- and ruining -- in a simulated baseball game, no worries. Check back in Monday for the obligatory A-Rod hatchet job.)

The back story: A few months ago, Mike Lynch, an author and the founder of Seamheads.com, invited a group of baseball writers, broadcasters, bloggers, and even a certain computer-savvy ex-pitcher to participate in his Historical Simulation Baseball League.

The list of "owners" includes Bill James (Red Sox), Joe Posnanski (Indians), Jonah Keri (Les Expos), Roy Firestone (Orioles), and Curt Schilling (Pirates). Oh, and me -- I've got the California/Anaheim/Los Angeles Angels. I'm not sure how I ended up among this formidable and famous crew, though I suspect it might have to do with Lynch being a Red Sox fan. Frankly, I'm just hoping to get through the season without Firestone making me cry.

The ground rules: The league is made up of 28 teams, with the fledgling Rockies and Diamondbacks merged into one franchise, as are the Marlins and Rays. Each participant put together a 40-man roster from the entire history of the team they chose to oversee. A computer game then simulates a 162-game season (plus playoffs and World Series), with each team's owner (or general manager or whatever you want to call it) making the appropriate personnel and lineup moves along the way.

Performance is based only on what the players did for that franchise -- so my Angels have the creaky but still useful late-career Frank Robinson, not the Triple-Crown-in-'66 F-Robby. Also, players' stats are put in a historically neutral context -- meaning, say, 'roided-up sluggers who put up sick numbers in 1998 are actually human -- which is why I strongly considered adjusted ERA and OPS+ in determining the roster.

FULL ENTRY

Mail it in

  January 14, 2009 12:46 AM

With my head hanging in mock shame, I apologize for the lack of wild blogging action in this space the past few days. The wonderful (and to me, somewhat unexpected) news about Mr. Rice, a superhero of my youth, kept me crazy-busy Monday. Tuesday is the day I peck out my weekly "OT" piece (only 50 cents at a newsstand near you!), and I'm mysteriously out of the office today. (TMZ is reporting I'm being treated for "exhaustion" at Betty Ford, but it's really just another step in my ongoing recovery from eating too much Elmer's Glue as a child. Okay, and Play-Doh. And the occasional No. 2 pencil. We all have our vices, people.)

Anyway, either tonight or tomorrow I'm going to try to pull together my first mailbag since . . . well, I'm not sure how long it's been, but it's definitely the first one since I left the old Blogger neighborhood and settled in to Boston.com in April. I've got a decent amount of questions queued up already, but I'd love to have more, so send them via my e-mail address in the right column, post them in the comments here, or even drop me a note on Facebook, and I'll answer the best of the lot. And probably a few of the worst as well.

Dave Bourque

  December 5, 2008 03:27 PM

The bylines of many of the sportswriters I admired long before I was fortunate enough to make this my career surely are familiar to you. Fitzgerald and Montville, Gammons and Ryan -- in New England and beyond, their surnames are nearly as recognizable as those of the athletes they covered.

Today, I want to take a moment to pay tribute to another wonderful sportswriter, one you probably do not know unless you are from a certain corner of Maine, but one who had a more profound impact on my life and career than any of those more famous men.

Dave Bourque, a sportswriter and editor at the Times Record newspaper in Maine for nearly 40 years, died last Friday at age 70. The cause was congestive heart failure, a particularly cruel irony given that, by all accounts, his heart never failed anyone else.

Every small town has someone like Dave, and if it doesn't, well, it damn well should. In the little coastal community of Bath where I grew up, local sports were a community social event, and the games mattered. Dave was the documenter of record, the institutional memory and one-man archive of local sports knowledge. He seemed to know everyone and everyone certainly knew him, and I'd bet a good majority of them would agree he was among the genuinely funniest people they ever met, quick, sarcastic, and gruff in that endearing way. (A friend remembers him greeting a coach immediately after a less-than-aesthetically-classic game with this opening line: "I've been watching these Morse-Brunswick games for years, and I can say that was the worst half of basketball I have ever seen.")

He fit the stereotypes of an old-school newspaperman, with ink on his hands, worn soles on his shoes, and a wisecrack always at the ready. I always thought he looked like an obscure character from the comic strip "Shoe." He would have fit in with that cigar-chomping Chicago crew from "Sportswriters on TV." Yeah, you could say he looked the part.

But my personal admiration of him comes from more than his ability to write a game story, craft a feature, or pry a decent quote from a self-important coach, for Dave was a kind and generous friend to my family, playing a supporting role in my earliest memories, and in some of my best ones.

When I was a toddler, the local Babe Ruth League ball field was just a long fly ball from my family's front door, and a few seasons before I fell for the Red Sox, I can remember watching his teams play. He coached in the Bath Babe Ruth league for 25 years, and the legend is that he never had a losing season, though I'm not sure I buy it. After all, you'd think someone who had built a local dynasty of that proportion would have alienated someone along the way. If he did, it's front-page news to me.

When I played for my high school's powerhouse basketball team -- and by "played," I mean clapped for my superior teammates at all the appropriate times -- he was there just about every Tuesday and Friday game night, holding his notepad and and camera at his usual spot near the baseline, covering the latest Morse High victory and taking photos for the newspaper. On occasion -- or perhaps more often than that -- my mom would ask him if he had snapped any pictures of her son, and his standard bone-dry reply went something like this: "I would, Pat, if I could just get one of him shooting with his eyes open."

Dave always could make my mom laugh -- they had worked together at the newspaper decades before, and even in recent years, when his health deteriorated, every now and again he'd take a moment to call her just to check in and catch up. Often, he'd tell her he'd heard from his son Matt, now an associate commissioner of America East, that I was doing well. I wish I'd taken a moment to tell him how much I appreciated that.

I had intended to write about Dave when I got the sad news a week ago, but as usual, the clock refused to cooperate. It's been a hectic week here at the office, chasing news about contract extensions for adored MVPs and trying to get the story straight about the ancient linebacker's unlikely comeback. They are wildly enjoyable days, though sometimes it's frustrating when the never-ending news cycle leaves you with little opportunity for reflection. I take solace in knowing that a lifer like Dave would understand -- though I suspect he'd also give me hell for missing deadline.

Amidst the sadness, the thought keeps coming to me that his must have been a remarkably rewarding and fulfulling life. The luckiest among us find their calling early, and Dave certainly fit in that category. I too have been so fortunate, having wanted to be a sportswriter from the moment it dawned on me that I probably was not going to replace Danny Ainge in the Celtics starting lineup. In high school, Dave was the only sportswriter I knew personally, and so I watched and observed how he approached his job. It was one of the smartest things I've ever done.

Dave was not a particularly flashy writer, and his copy never read like he was auditioning for "Around The Horn: Midcoast Maine Edition." He worked with a more honest purpose -- to be fair and accurate, to tell a worthwhile story.

For nearly 40 years, Dave Bourque wrote about good and unsung people who deserved recognition, but didn't seek it.

Today, I'm proud to do the same.

Daddy's girl

  June 15, 2008 03:10 AM

When you're a father, especially of a little girl, you change as a man. It's true. You become softer, more sentimental. Maybe you even start listening to Coldplay.

In those whirlwind first moments as a parent, you recognize your wife - the entire gender, actually - as impossibly heroic and strong. That is, unless you happen to be A-Rod. Then you black out and go all fetal until a less-than-impressed nurse meets your demands of a cold compress, some lip gloss, and a glass of Sunny Delight.

When you're a father, you fret more about the ominous condition of the world and its maelstrom of a future. You worry about failing those who depend on you, in ways both small and significant. The blunt humor in Chris Rock's famous "A father's only duty is to keep his daughter off the pole!" routine suddenly applies you, and you shiver when you realize your darling and innocent 4-year-old is but a decade away from being hit on by Roger Clemens.

When you're a father, you realize how crucial it is to cement those lifelong bonds early - you show me tonight's featured performer at the Golden Banana, and I'll show you someone with a long and heartbreaking history of daddy issues. But I must admit, there's also an air of selfishness to my intentions: I desperately want my daughter to love the same things I do. Which, you might have suspected, pretty much begins with the Red Sox.

My complex and intensive program of brainwashing began in October, '04, when Leah was eight months old and plucked out of a rare deep sleep in her crib just so her daddy could someday tell her she was "watching" as Edgar Renteria grounded to Keith Foulke and all heaven broke loose in New England. To this day, it remains the only time I've held her since her day of birth where I was the one with welling eyes.

I'm sure similar scenes played out in living rooms all over New England that glorious night (man, how I regret not honoring her on SoSH's legendary "Win It For . . ." thread) but I must report that, 3 1/2 years later, she's not yet a candidate for the Red Sox Nation early admissions program.

Oh, she'll watch with me from time to time, mostly to avoid being sentenced to an early bedtime, and she'll gleefully identify Manny and Papi, though I think she looks at them as cartoon characters, daddy's personal versions of Max and Ruby. (Which, in a sense, is exactly what they are.) But mostly, the Red Sox remain my thing; she sees herself as a big girl, and she has her own business to keep herself occupied.

Leah never fails to amaze and amuse us with her uncommon independence; she was born with a mind of her own, and she sure is determined to use it. She enjoys being a girly-girl, loves wearing dresses and mothering her dollies, but she's not all sugar and spice; her daily to-do list includes digging for worms in the backyard, and just yesterday she informed me that her new pink bike really could use an oil change. If she's going to care about the Red Sox, she will do it in her own time. Right now, she has worms to accidentally dismember.

Maybe the notion of taking her to a Red Sox game was a season or two premature. Sure it was. But dammit, I just couldn't wait. My parents first brought me to Fenway at age 8 in 1978, and you longtime readers are well aware of my sepia-toned odes to that enduring memory from my childhood; hell, I still remember thinking, "Holy crap! That's Butch Hobson!" as he took his position not too far in front of us at third base. For some reason, I also remember that his neck looked really red. In retrospect, I suppose that was an oddly appropriate impression of 'Bama Butch.

As it worked out, a homestand or two ago, I came into some tickets, and we decided it would be the right time for Leah's big-league debut. When the night arrived, I hoped all the usual cliches would apply, the same ones that applied to me 30 years ago and still linger today. I wanted her to be awed by the sprawling emerald grass and the enormity of the Green Monster, to marvel at the Prudential building in the distance and the players so close that they can hear your cheers. I wanted her to fall in love with Fenway, baseball, the Red Sox, and I wanted it to happen for her the exact same way it happened for me.

As strolled up the ramp and the Fenway scene unfurled before us, her jaw dropped ever so slightly and her eyes widened like Manny's when he spies a fat slider coming his way. But she was not overwhelmed, or even especially awed. She was almost immediately comfortable, whether it was chattering at our companions for the game, my good friend Yuri and his sweet and lovely almost-7-year-old daughter, Grace, or yelling "GOPAPI! GOPAPI! GOPAPI! as he chugged into third base, or angling for position to high-five Wally the Green Monster, or systematically devouring one of the great inventions of modern times, an ice-cream sundae in a mini batting helmet.

It was wonderful and sweet and easy, though that's not to suggest we were without a tense moment. Sometime in the middle innings, she turned to me with a concerned look on her face and uttered those words every dad in a public place with his daughter dreads hearing: "Daddy . . . I gotta pee. Bad." I'll tell you that I did cover her eyes as I guided her to a stall in the gruesome men's room, though I can't help but wonder what the occupant in the neighboring stall thought when he heard a little girl's voice blurt, "Daddy, I think there's a guy poopin' in the next one over." We washed up and zipped out of there before she could find out for sure. I only wish I could have hosed her down with Lysol afterward.

Our foursome made it through seven innings, one fewer than Josh Beckett threw in victory that night, and I'm pretty sure she could have gone the distance had we not decided it was prudent to be back in our beds in Maine before mommy broke out the Worry-O-Meter.

As we made our way home, with Leah fighting a losing battle to stay awake in her car seat, I realized that for her, the fun was in the adventure - getting to stay up much later than her little brother (who you know is pre-booked for his first Fenway trek in two years), riding in the car to go to faraway Boston where daddy works, seeing those twin shrines to tackiness on Rt. 1, soaring high into the city on the Tobin ("the biggest bridge EVER!"), and getting to feel like a big girl in the big city.

I hope the details stay with her as she grows older and up . . . well, except for that one about the rancid potty. If they don't, I'll be there to retell the tales.

Because when you're a father, your sentimental heart doesn't let you forget.

About Touching All The Bases

Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.

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