There is a moment in the classic American movie, The Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy and the Scarecrow encounter the rusting Tin Man in the woods. The poor Tin Man is frozen in place, unable to move at all. Dorothy and the Scarecrow eventually figure out that what the Tin Man needs is a little oil to loosen his joints. This frees the Tin Man and allows him to both drop the ax which he been holding up and regain his ability to move about. Throughout the rest of the movie the Tin Man is always in danger of being frozen in place, sometimes from his own tears, but his friends hold him close and make sure he has what he needs to continue going forward. You hear the "plunk-ah, plunk-ah" sound periodically in the film. That is the sound of an applictation of love and concern which keeps the Tin Man whole and in touch with his, it-was-never-missing,heart.
Yeah, it's a little bit like that with all these tributes coming in for Boston from around the nation. The Chicago Tribune sports page tribute is a "plunk-ah, plunk-ah." The baseball, hockey and basketball players who wrote "Pray for Boston" on their uniforms or playing equipment is a "plunk-ah, plunk-ah." The tribute played at Yankee Stadium last night is special though. It is about a hundred "plunk-ah, plunk-ahs" all strung together. It has stunned so many people I know and in such a good way. Let me try and explain a little bit about why this means so much.
The rivalry between New York and Boston dates way back, nearly to the founding of each as a colony of Great Britain. New England was settled by those who came over in what was caused The Great Migration from 1629 - 1640. These people were a homogeneous group, nearly all hailing from the East Anglia region of England, nearly all here to set up their settlements under their restrictive rules. New England was peopled, as it were, largely by the descendants of this one group, until the mass migrations of the mid 19th century. Other immigrants, such as the Scots-Irish, came to New England and founded several towns in the area, including Londonderry, New Hampshire, but many of them left for other, friendlier colonies.
New York was first settled by the Dutch. It later welcomed settlers from other places in England and Europe. It was much more diverse from the start. This irritated the New Englanders who were not diverse and not tolerant of other ways. This city-to-city rivalry has continued for centuries. The reasons for it have changed over the years as causes, monetary concerns and patterns of immigration changed with the times. The Rivalry though is still there and very strong in New England.
True story: I attended a baby shower for my niece last year. She knew she was going to have a boy so the baby got multiple Boston Bruins, Celtics and Patriots fan gear to wear. (We mark our children early in New England as members of the tribe, and so they remember "where they came from" from birth.) There was a problem when it came to Red Sox gear. The baby's father was a Yankees fan. He wanted his son to be a Yankees fan. His mother was, of course, a Red Sox fan, born and raised. There were and continue to be numerous discussions within the family of how to "save" this poor baby from a team identity crisis. It is not a completely serious discussion, but it also not something to be dismissed lightly. Little Tyler has to be monitored to make sure he understands that he belongs to the greater "us" of Massachusetts.It was announced yesterday that the New York Yankees would play "Sweet Caroline" in the third inning in order to honor the people and fans of Boston. What followed was just priceless and such a window into the soul of the people in this region. My Facebook and Twitter pages started lighting up with family who were trying to wrap their heads around this and how to express the necessary "thank you" to New York. Nearly every post I got had an explanatory clause in it that clearly and in no uncertain terms proclaimed their undying loyalty to the Sox and dislike of the Yankees. That said, damn it, wow, OMG, that was an amazing thing for the Yankees to do. This was an very moving thing for New Englanders to see. It was a "plunk-ah, plunk-ah, plunk-ah Boston" from the Yankees. Thanks New York, we ah, well, ahm, geez, wow, ah ... you know what I mean?
True Story: Several years ago Little League teams in Red Sox territory in New England had a problem with uniforms. No team wanted to wear the hated Yankee pinstripes because, well, they were Yankee uniforms. (Duh) A vote was taken and Yankee uniforms were simply removed from the available list of uniforms local teams could use. A problem arose about what to do with the perfect serviceable Yankee uniforms that had already been shipped. Some said destroy them; some said donate them to overseas charities. Others claimed this was a waste of a perfectly good uniform. What to do, what to do? A Peace Summit was organized, heads were scratched, souls were searched and a solution was found. A parley would be called, teams from Yankee territory could gather Red Sox Little League uniforms, Red Sox territory could gather the Yankees uniforms and they could be exchanged. The standoff ended amicably and respectfully on both sides. But it was a near-thing, you know.I have tears in my eyes every time I have see the video of New York Yankees fans singing "Sweet Caroline.". It touched me in a deep part of my soul. Just this once, and I may end up denying this because, well, I have to live around here, I want to say nice things about the Yankees and their fans. I respect Derek Jeter and think he is one hell of a playah. (He is a get-it-done, no flash kind of player, which I just love.) One of my favorite memories of the stunning World Series win in 2004 is the 2005 Ring Ceremony that happened at Fenway the following spring. Mariano Rivera, who had a blown save that was pivitol in Boston's ALCS win, was razzed during the lineup introduction. Rivera played the crowd perfectly. He smiled at the fans, doffed his cap, interacted with the gloating fans and just won the crowd over. Yeah, I really like that guy.
I perfectly understand that this story will not make any sense at all to the sensible people from distant lands, like California or Ohio, but it is a "thing" around here. Trust me. (I am serious, things like this happen around heah.)
Seriously, thank you Yankee fans. this "plunk-ah, plunk-ah" moment was deeply felt and appreciated. And, ahm,if its not too, you know, emotional, I, ahm, love you back for this. United We Stand indeed.
To all the people with the oil cans, appplying the freeing essence that helps get Boston back to being Boston, thanks again. Each "plunk-ah, plunk-ah" helps people unfreeze from the dreaded moment of terror and concentrate on what needs to be done to mourn, to move forward and to focus on helping those who will really need it. Again, love ya back, lots. We will never forget this.