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Boston Red Sox's David Ortiz speaks to the crowd before a baseball against the Kansas City Royals in Boston, Saturday, April 20, 2013. (Michael Dwyer/AP)

When David Ortiz took the microphone at Fenway Park on Saturday the crowd roared with delight. Big Papi was back, baseball was back, Boston was back. For the injured Ortiz, this was his first game of the season with the Red Sox. His speech was the culmination of an emotional pre-game ceremony that included all manner of moving tributes and grand pronouncements. Ortiz got to give the final word before the game began.

This is our #%&!ing city. And nobody gonna dictate our freedom.
– David Ortiz

“Alright. Alright, Boston.” (Big cheer from the crowd.) “This jersey that we wear today, it doesn’t say Red Sox. It say Boston.” (Bigger cheer. Ortiz’s Dominican accent makes jersey sound like “chersey.”) “We want to thank you Mayor Menino, Governor Patrick and the whole police department for the great job they did this past week.” (Big cheer. Pause. Then out with it.) “This is our #%&!ing city.” (Huge gasping cheer of amazement. A woman in the row behind me tapped me on the shoulder. “Did he just say what I think he said?”) “And nobody gonna dictate our freedom.” (Cheering intensifies combined with laughter.) “Stay strong. Thank you.”

Ortiz’s declaration was like lancing a boil. After a week of tragedy and terror, his profane and patriotic response felt so good. It was quintessential Boston — honest, combative, and funny. In your face, shutdown, lockdown, shelter-in-place. His words were real and spontaneous, compared to the highly scripted, often over-the-top self-congratulatory tributes about perseverance and resilience.

I don’t live in Boston, but I root for the Red Sox. I live in Massachusetts’ Pioneer Valley so I watched the Marathon tragedy and the week of terror unfold from two hours away. By chance I had gotten tickets to the game a couple of weeks ago. It just happened to be the day when a Red Sox game was also a public display of appreciation, a memorial and a return to normalcy. On the way into the park we got frisked but there did not seem to be any noticeable extra security. (I later learned that bomb-sniffing dogs had scoured the premises.) We received “617” bumper stickers with our programs, as well as 15-inch, polyester American flags.

Once the game started it felt like Fenway. We know how to do this. Root, root, root for the home team. Three strikes you’re out. The wall giveth and the wall taketh away. The traditions were carefully observed. As the players ran out to take the field, the P.A. played “Dirty Water” by The Standells. Then, of course, there was the requisite singing of “Sweet Caroline,” a tradition that started in Boston about 15 years ago. On Saturday the singing was led by the ditty’s auteur, the one and only Neil Diamond, who flew in for the occasion.

Ortiz’s declaration was like lancing a boil. After a week of tragedy and terror, his profane and patriotic response felt so good. It was quintessential Boston — honest, combative, and funny.

“I bring love from the whole country,” said the pop star, decked out Fenway-style in blue jeans, a green jacket and a Red Sox cap. Pacing on the outfield grass near the right field stands, Neil worked the crowd. In the past week, “Sweet Caroline” was played at sporting venues around the country including Yankee Stadium. I will never forget going to a game at Fenway right after 9/11 and we sang along to “New York, New York” as a goodwill gesture to our fellow citizens in the Big Apple. It felt so much better than chanting “Yankees suck.”

On Saturday, after we had Diamond on the diamond, the Red Sox came from behind to win the game in the bottom of the eighth on a three-run homer by Daniel Nava. It was an ideal finish to an incredible afternoon. The whole day at Fenway felt like a continuation of the scene in Watertown Friday night when residents spontaneously lined the streets to applaud the police for capturing the suspect and ending the terror. As we poured out of the park after the game the city finally felt a little more like itself.

Tags: Baseball, Boston, Boston Marathon Bombings, Red Sox

The views and opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the writer and do not in any way reflect the views of WBUR management or its employees.

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  • anne sweeney

    It sets a poor example for Boston, regardless “Who” said it. You would believe that a City which produces, intellects could press this issue without profanity. We lowered ourselves to the rest of the Pack, Oh Well ?

    • Lynn Ellison-Murphy

      Take a chill pill and relax Anne! You never heard the “f” word before? It’s just a word to which society attaches morality in it’s meaning. Let your hair down and lighten up! What Big Papi said was what 99.9% of us felt. You are in the minority. And really, is the choice of words what is IMPORTANT?! It’s the
      feeling he imparted and Boston gets it…………except for you.

      • Sinclair2

        He’s an overpaid airhead ballplayer with verbal limitations like a lot of sports fans. He could have chosen other emotional words that are real like “this is our fantastic city”.

        • Sinclair2

          How many elementary school kids heard this and see him as a role model? Maybe it could go down as a famous quote and become a part of his legacy.

    • StevenHB

      Who thinks that it sets a poor example? How many schoolkids are unfamiliar with the “s-word” and “f-word” (please excuse the inane euphemisms required by BUR’s comment guidelines)? Do you think that NY thinks less of Boston because of Papi’s profanity? Are you f’ing kidding?

      These words are getting less profane by the day while racial, ethnic, sexual-orientation and other slurs for groups of people are considered more so. I like the change.

      • Sinclair2

        This is not about the contrived, stupid and childish (and lucrative) New York – Boston psuedo rivalry and what New Yorkers think.

        • StevenHB

          No, of course not. My point was that hardly anyone cares. Who will see this as an example of how to act and then act badly as a result? Who will think less of Boston as a result? Answer: no one.

          I’ve always had disdain for the “smarter people can express themselves without profanity” argument. That’s bull-(fill in the profanity). Profane words are valid words, with valid meaning and connotation. They’re used by effective communicators when the situation warrants the meaning and connotation. I this case, the situation warranted strong emotion and emphasis. Papi’s use of a profane word was completely appropriate: he expressed passion and emphasis – defiance – of the bombers.

          • Sinclair2

            It’s not about WHO will think less of Boston. People who express themselves without profanity are NOT smarter than those who choose otherwise. if one chooses profanity, it’s all about speaking habits and choice of style and how one chooses to be percieved. If a person earns their living being in the limelight and attracts maximum attention using profanity because of their limitations, they become more valuable and ultimately earn more money. Endorsements come to mind.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sharynabs Sharyn Abernathy

    Lighten up Anne Sweeney. This is how we all feel inside and Big Papi just had the chutzpah to say it out loud. Sometimes it’s ok not to be “pc” and just be human and let it out. Let your flag fly!

  • Pointpanic

    no big deal. It’s not even about being “pc”whatever that means .it’s about Papi speaking for Boston after a senseless traumatic event.

    • http://www.facebook.com/sharynabs Sharyn Abernathy

      Pointpanic…”pc” politically correct.

  • PeaceBang

    Love it. “Honest, combative and funny.” Amen, and play ball.

    • Sinclair2

      Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot.

  • Vandermeer

    Great article… the f word needs to be saved for special fitting occasions and this was one of them.

  • Bill

    It was Inappropriate.

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