I was born in Boston, raised there, schooled there, and now live there. I’ve worked there my entire professional life and consider myself extremely fortunate to have done so. And I still get extremely frustrated whenever some complete donkey taunts someone like Adam Jones, as was the case Monday night, because the entire incident exposes wounds from which the city will never heal and, frankly, never really should.
Do I believe Jones? You bet I do, and I did from the start. Not because I think Boston is a racist city, at least not like it was (or was perceived) for some time, but because I understand that racism will never really go away, here or anywhere else. In Boston’s case, the reputation was forged over decades, from the experiences of former Celtics great Bill Russell to actions of former Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey to the busing crisis of the 1970s. Many of us who live here now had nothing to do with those things, but that is hardly the point. You live here, you take the bad with the good. Try to think of it as societal genetics. You just can’t control what gets passed on from one generation to the next.
But that hardly means you are incapable of improving upon it, learning from it, advancing and making it better for the next wave of people that passes through.
Of course, far too many Bostonians get absurdly defensive about this, irony in its purest form. They don’t like being called racist purely because they are white, which means they don’t like to be judged by the color of their skin. And yet, instead of feeling compassion for someone like Adam Jones, they get their backs up, ask for proof, choose to ignore the existence of a problem that will always be there, no matter how much you want it to go away.
Don’t you see how downright hypocritical you are?
So you don’t like being judged based purely on how you look.
Well now you get to walk a mile in another man’s shoes.
Look, I’m not into preaching, despite what I do for a living, which certainly makes it look like I am. But I do believe in what is right. And I do believe in taking pride in work, my city, my family, my world. Ultimately, that really doesn’t make me different from most anyone else. The majority of us generally adhere to the rules and believe in the greater good, be it in Boston or anywhere else. The world will never be perfect. But the response to any sort of racial incident like the one that took place at Fenway Park during Monday’s game between the Red Sox and Orioles has to be one of zero tolerance, not some childish, finger-pointing resulting from old wounds.
All of that said, give the Red Sox credit for how they handled Monday’s incident, from owners John Henry and Tom Werner to team president Sam Kennedy to pitcher Chris Sale and the fans at Fenway Park on Wednesday night, the last of whom are a far better representation of what the city is now about. Henry, Werner and Kennedy met with Jones, apologized to him, were aggressive and proactive. They sent communications to their season-ticket base, urging them to act out against unacceptable behavior at the ballpark. And when Jones came to the plate last night in the first inning, Sale smartly stepped off the mound and allowed the Fenway Park crowd to applaud him.
Does that erase everything that took place at Fenway on Monday? Of course not. The Jones incident sent the expected shockwaves through the sports world and beyond, drew comments from minority players who have felt mistreated here before, reopened the wounds that hurt Boston for a very long time. But then, scars are reminders of things gone wrong, which is why they exist.
So where do we go from here? Hopefully, forward. As a Bostonian, I’m embarrassed by what took place at Fenway Park on Monday night. As a Bostonian, I’m proud of what took place there on Tuesday. And as a Bostonian, I hope we don’t ever have to experience it all again — today, tomorrow or beyond.
But I know we will.
Tony Massarotti is an avid Boston sports fan and has covered sports in Boston for more than 15 years for both the Boston Herald and Boston Globe. He now serves as a co-host on afternoon drive on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston. He was a two-time Massachusetts Sportswriter of the Year as voted by his peers and has written four books, including “Big Papi,” the New York Times-bestselling memoirs of David Ortiz. You can follow Tony @tonymassarotti.