Living here is not easy. Sometimes it seems as though everything is a contest. It’s too expensive, traffic is unbearable, there’s no parking, and the interminable winter of 2013-14 makes every sane person wonder whether it’s really worth all the trouble.
And then we get a day like Friday and we are reminded why this is the greatest city in America. Even when the Red Sox lose.
Boston is a Hub of institutions, and a bunch of them intersected on the great green lawn at the corner of Yawkey Way and Brookline Ave. Friday.
Gathered in historic, heartfelt harmony, we had the Boston Fire Department, the Boston Marathon, Boston City Hall, the Boston Pops, the Boston Bruins, the Boston Celtics, the New England Patriots, the Dropkick Murphys, Irish stepdancers, the Boston Red Sox, and Fenway Park.
Oh, and we also had David Ortiz, a.k.a. Big Papi. The Man. The Myth. The Legend. Another Boston institution.
Ortiz, emerging as a Hub Babe Ruth of this 21st century, was everywhere in the one-hour pregame ceremony, which simultaneously honored Marathon bombing victims, families, and first responders, plus families of the two firefighters who lost their lives in the Back Bay last week, while celebrating Boston’s recent championships and the emotional and historic ride of the 2013 worst-to-first Red Sox.
“It was a ceremony for the ages,’’ said Sox CEO Larry Lucchino. “It was great to have all the teams come together. It was great to honor our mayors. The whole ceremony was very touching and, I hope, very fitting.’’
It was a tall order for Sox choreographers Dr. Charles Steinberg and Sarah McKenna. The Sox put together big-ring circuses after the 2004 and 2007 World Series victories, but the 2013 campaign involved additional layers of empathy and emotion.
“We wanted to feel the emotions the fans felt and see if we could come up with elements that would trigger those emotions,’’ said Steinberg, who has been organizing events of this nature since the Orioles closed old Memorial Stadium in 1991.
The Sox asked fans to be in their seats by 1 p.m. for the 2:05 home opener against the Brewers, and a majority of the 36,728 complied.
Under sunny skies with temperatures in the mid-40s, the ceremony kicked off with the playing of the “2001: A Space Odyssey’’ theme, while banners commemorating the Sox’ first five World Series championships (1903, 1912, 1915, 1916, 1918) unfurled from atop the Green Monster. After those five flags dropped, the Sox dropped Wall-sized banners for 2004, 2007, and 2013.
To the tune of “Lean On Me,’’ Sox owners John Henry, Tom Werner, and Lucchino came out of the home dugout and lined up at first base in front of a table set to hold the championship rings. With the trio in place, Marathon bombing victims, families, and first responders emerged from the left-field wall, carrying the rings. All wore Sox jerseys numbered 617.
Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington was first out of the dugout to collect his ring, and Cherington stayed with the Sox owners to hand out the hardware. After manager John Farrell came out to receive his ring, the public address system switched to the Who’s “Baba O’Riley,’’
triggering a procession of Sox players from the dugout.
Dustin Pedroia was first, Jon Lester second. There were no audio introductions. The videoboard in center told fans who was walking toward the owners to accept his ring.
When the sound system switched to Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds,’’ fans knew Shane Victorino was coming out to collect his ring. One of the loudest ovations was awarded to closer Koji Uehara.
Big Papi was last. It was Lindbergh-esque. While Keith Lockhart led the Pops in John Williams’s “Fanfare for Fenway,’’ the Sox gave Ortiz his World Series MVP ring, an extra bauble that added to his string of championship jewelry.
Ortiz was first in the tag team of Sox players pulling on the cords to raise the championship banner.
With all of the Sox players and coaches gathered in center field, Boston firefighters poured out of the large garage door in center. Players and fans saluted fallen firefighters Edward J. Walsh and Michael R. Kennedy while jakes from Engine 33, Ladder 15 walked into the outfield and lowered the flags to half-staff.
At 1:42 p.m., Dick Flavin and Don Orsillo introduced the Brewers and Red Sox lineups. The highlight/lowlight of the intros was the spectacular Jennifer Lawrence-esque face-plant by Brewers pitcher Wily Peralta.
With players lining the baselines, the Dropkick Murphys sang the national anthem, and a Coast Guard helicopter furnished the traditional flyover. Irish stepdancers performed in both fungo circles while the Dropkicks sang, “I’m Shipping Up to Boston.’’
Next was the sight of ex-Patriots, Red Sox, a Celtic, and a Bruin coming in from left field with their respective trophies. The Patriots sent Ty Law, Tedy Bruschi, and Troy Brown with their three Lombardi Trophies. The Sox had Jason Varitek, Mike Lowell, and Pedro Martinez carrying their three 21st-century trophies. The Celtics sent Leon Powe with the 2008 trophy. Mark Recchi represented the Bruins, driving former Mayor Thomas Menino in a golf cart.
New Mayor Marty Walsh delivered the ceremonial first pitch to — who else? — Ortiz.
Then it was time to play ball.
“It’s hard to play a game after that,’’ acknowledged Celtics owner Steve Pagliuca. “That was very emotional.’’
The Sox lost to the Brewers, 6-2. Nobody cared. This was a day to tip our caps to our city and its institutions.