Bob Davis: ‘Sweet’ relief to our grief
Apr 21, 2013 | 3439 views |  0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The New York Yankees held a moment of silence in honor of Boston bombing victims. Photo: Associated Press
The New York Yankees held a moment of silence in honor of Boston bombing victims. Photo: Associated Press
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“Hands, touchin’ hands. Reachin’ out, touchin’ me touchin’ you.” — “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond

In a week when the news from Boston was utterly heartbreaking, I found a small bit of solace in a pop song from the late 1960s. Who knew?

Here’s the background: Following Monday’s Boston Marathon bombings that killed three and injured 170, the rest of the nation reached out to the Boston area. We were looking for a way to let the city’s residents know we are hurting along with you. Boston was in our thoughts and prayers.

The sports world turned out to be a perfect messenger to convey solidarity.

That’s how it came about that Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium the crowd sang along to a recording of Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline.” A rendition of the song by fans in pinstripes is significant. The rivalry between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox is one of the greatest in all of sports. It’s a general mutual dislike that is at least on par with Alabama vs. Auburn.

One of the Red Sox’s traditions at home games is to play “Sweet Caroline” in the middle of the eighth inning. Yes, it’s one of those baseball quirks that defies logic. As a 2005 Boston Globe article pointed out, “The lyrics have nothing to do with baseball. The composer has no connection to the Red Sox. The song hit the charts more than 30 years ago.”

Nevertheless, for more than 10 years when a ballgame reaches the eighth inning at Fenway Park, the loudspeakers play the song while the crowd joins in, especially on the part that goes, “Sweet Caroline. Good times never seemed so good. Oh, oh, oh.”

By Wednesday morning, my social media feeds were filled with video clips of Yankees fans paying tribute to their rivals by singing “Sweet Caroline” during New York’s game with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Imagine Auburn fans singing “Yea Alabama” or Alabama fans belting out “War Eagle,” and you’d see the significance.

Actually, we can imagine it in our backyard. When some fool poisoned the Toomer’s Corner oaks in Auburn, Crimson Tiders voiced sympathy and support for their rivals. When the 2011 storms ripped apart sections of Tuscaloosa, Auburn fans donated money and effort to help rebuild.

That’s the power of sports. We feel so passionately about our favorite teams until something like the Boston Marathon bombings shocks us into realizing what really matters. Yet, in our grief over the loss of life and enormous suffering by the injured and countless family members, sports can show us a path to healing.

Last week, it came (to me at least) courtesy of a pop singer known for his middle-of-the-road classics.

“And when I hurt,” sings Diamond. “Hurting runs off my shoulders. How can I hurt when holding you?”

Just what we needed to hear.

Bob Davis is associate publisher/editor of The Anniston Star. Contact him at 256-235-3540 or bdavis@annistonstar.com. Twitter: @EditorBobDavis.

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