Yesterday was a national holiday in my part of the country.
Opening Day at Fenway Park.
Red Sox Opening Day is always a reason for hope, but until this millennium, was rarely a reason to celebrate. Now we've won 2 World Championships in the past four years, we also have reason to rejoice. Yesterday featured an amazing ceremony, with the unfurling of two world series banners the size of the entire outfield fence. World Series rings were passed out to players and on-field personnel. The usual suspects got the loudest cheers--Ortiz, Ramirez, Papelbon, Lowell, and our newest 'toy' Jacoby Ellsbury.
One surprising recipient of cheers was JD Drew. Drew had a dog of a regular 2007 season but was a hero in the crucial game 7 with the Indians when he had a 1st inning grand slam. He's started this season hot and thus--for now--all is forgiven.
But a larger, more magnaminous act of forgiveness took place yesterday.
In 1986, the Boston Red Sox were on the verge of beating the New York Mets and winning their first world series in 60-odd years when Bill Buckner let a ball go through his legs. My son Dan was nine at the time, and so devastated, he swore he'd never watch the Red Sox again. Dan got over that, but the devastation ran deep throughout the entire Red Sox Nation, and poor Bill Buckner had to move to a small town out west to escape our wrath.
Until 2004, the name Bill Buckner drew groans from Red Sox fans. The scars never healed, the bleeding often resumed, usually pricked by those darn Yankees. The first World Series championship in 86 years began the healing. Last year's championship has made all of Red Sox nation absolutely serene. (Trust me when I say this was a miracle.)
Yesterday, Bill Buckner threw out the first pitch. He came out of the scoreboard and made the long walk to the pitcher's mound. I'm sure that first step was hell...wondering if we would boo and curse or just stand, silent and stunned.
He got a standing ovation that went on and on. He cried as he walked, cried and waved and smiled. A nation was healed, a son returned home, hope delivered as a perfect strike.
The thing is...it wasn't all of us forgiving Bill Buckner.
It was Bill Buckner forgiving us.
Bless him for his courage to come home, where we never should have let him leave. I'm sorry, Bill. Thank you.