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Fielder's Choice

Kelly Rides the Bus

I first thought I should say that I love these teams, and go over what I like about each of them. But I realized that to do that would be the same process as describing why I enjoy certain TV shows or restaurants. Sports just do it for me, like Chick-fil-a or Breaking Bad.

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Kelly Rides the Bus


Estimated Reading Time: 5 Minutes

So what do Boston sports mean to me?

The real answer to that question is not actually the first one that came to my mind.

I first thought I should say that I love these teams, and go over what I like about each of them. But I realized that to do that would be the same process as describing why I enjoy certain TV shows or restaurants. Sports just do it for me, like Chick-fil-a or Breaking Bad. And being born and raised in Massachusetts to a Boston sports family, my interest in sports was channeled early on into allegiances with the Red Sox, Bruins, Patriots, and Revolution (sorry Celtics fans, I just can’t get into the NBA).

So all that stuff, I think, would be more about why I like Boston sports. But I suppose it doesn’t really describe what sports have really meant to me over the years, or what they represent now. With that in mind, I decided to go a different route, a route that I think may accomplish this goal a little more effectively.

It’s story time, y’all.

Now, I debated on whether to share this tale from my youth, for it doesn’t exactly depict me in my finest hour. But then I realized that if 100 people every day for the next ten years read this story, it still wouldn’t equal the number of people my Dad has already told. So here we go.

Memorial Elementary School. 1998. I was in first grade, and it must not have been more than one or two weeks into the new school year. The bus pulled into the parking lot on a brisk fall morning and let all the kids off at the front door to begin the day.

All of them, except me.

I refused to get off. Apparently I told the bus driver I didn’t want to go. Whether I was homesick, scared, or just had zero inclination to further my education, I made the decision that the bus was to become my personal taxi back to my house. The bus driver attempted her best child negotiation tactics to coerce me off, but no dice. My demands were clear, my resolve unwavering.

The bus driver managed to alert someone inside about the tense standoff. So out of the school comes one of my teachers, who knew me pretty well by then. She comes on to the bus and stops at the top step. She knew I was nervous, she knew I was frustrated, but she also knew something else about six-year-old me.

I loved sports, particularly baseball.

And this teacher knew herself some baseball, too. So instead of asking me why I didn’t want to go to school, or what it would take for me to get off the bus, she asked me about one of the most significant baseball story lines of the decade: The Mark McGwire/Sammy Sosa race to break the single season home run record (by September 1998, the two sluggers were neck-and-neck and each on the verge of passing Roger Maris). Of course, through my fear and anxiety, I rattled off the latest stats on who had been hitting the most homers. She also asked me about my beloved Red Sox, and how well they were doing as the season drew to a close. Nothing at that age could get me talking faster than sports (maybe dinosaurs), and once we started discussing numbers I couldn’t get the words out quick enough. So we talked about home runs and records and history, and by the time I remembered that I was in the middle of a one-man anti-education protest, I was already standing in the lobby of the school. I got straight-up Mr. Miyagi-ed.

via GIPHY

(Side note: I look back on this now and can’t thank this teacher enough for how she handled the situation. So awesome.)

So what does this story teach me all these years later?

Apparently little kids aren’t that bright.

But aside from that, I think this moment in my life explains the relationship I have had with sports since I was young. It’s been a true outlet for me, and a welcomed escape from reality when needed. Following Boston sports has been something I could bond over with family and friends. It’s been a way I could connect with others, or how others could connect with me (hint, see previous anecdote). It’s been a way for me to relax on my own after a rough day at at school. Boston sports are often the perfect mental escape I find myself craving from time to time. Whether it’s the strategic gameplanning with my brother before Pats games, or screaming at the TV when the Bruins make a mistake, or digging deep into some Red Sox batting statistics when I have the free time. I can’t help but get lost in it all, as much so now as I did that day when I was six.

It’s a part of my life that can add fun and excitement, as well as the occasional disappointment. But I would suffer through ten more Aaron Boone walk-off homers for one more Red Sox World Series. Because a defeat at the end of the road still follows a journey of watching the games with friends at bars, venting to my Dad about unbelievable plays or bad calls, and just trying to get through a day of anticipation and anxiety to watch the game that night. Winning the title is great, but what will stick with me forever is the ride itself. So in short, following Boston sports is one (of many) positive outlets in my life. It’s much more than just occasional entertainment.

And I consider myself fortunate. The Boston teams I love have provided me with quite the outlet since I first started watching games when I was a kid, between five Super Bowls, three World Series, and a Stanley Cup title in less than twenty years. And I hope that success continues. But even if it doesn’t, I’ll still be there at 1am watching the tenth inning of a meaningless regular season game for the Red Sox, or watching the Bruins get absolutely hosed by the refs in Montreal. Because the outlet these teams provide will always be a part of my life, and hopefully be a part of my life I can share with my kids when the time comes.

And if any of those kids refuses to get the hell off the school bus, I’ll know exactly how to get them off.

Ryan Kelly lives in Cambridge, MA, a stone's throw away from his beloved Boston teams. When he is not working as an editorial assistant, he is providing commentary on the Boston Red Sox and Boston Bruins for The Turf.

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