So, today was the Bailey O'Neill game.
Let me start again -- one shouldn't bury the lede in articles like this, as it keeps the audience from really following what you're trying to say about the topic at hand. It's at best lazy writing and at worst intentionally misleading, so you'll forgive my enthusiasm to get to what I see as the meat of the story. As a lazy, misleading writer, it's a hard habit to break. So, a more schematic approach: to begin with, the Phillies beat the Red Sox 4-3 tonight at home in Philadelphia, forcing at least a series split with their talented interleague opposite numbers. And, it was the Bailey O'Neill game tonight.
To the former, we saw an iffy start by Kyle Kendrick somehow fail to materialize into any real runs by the Boston offense, while an even more miserable start by Red Sox pitcher John Lackey made sure that the Phillies were able to capitalize on KK's batted ball luck tonight. Kendrick went six innings, striking out only three, walking three, and allowing a line drive home run off the bat of feel-good story and Phillie killer Daniel Nava. Still, he only allowed four hits, generating rally ending double plays, and holding the Bo Sox to only two runs.
Two scoreless innings from Antonio Bastardo and newly not-dead Mike Adams, both with two strikeouts, set the scene for a fairly dramatic bottom of the ninth. Jonathan Papelbon allowed the tying run not only to reach base, but to get to third, before the slowness of Jonny Gomes and the grounding out of Daniel Nava killed the late Sox rally and got Paps his eleventh save of the year.
The offense tonight was largely the Dom Brown show, as Brown notched two homers on the day, one against John Lackey, and one against fairly excellent relief pitcher Koji Uehara. These were Dom's only hits of the night, but they bring him to 13 home runs, tied with Carlos Gonzalez for second in the NL, and behind only Justin Upton's 14 longballs. Not bad...FOR A BUST. Meanwhile, Lackey let up even more offense, allowing gopher balls to Ryan Howard and Erik Kratz, who is on a bit of a power binge himself.
If you're keeping score, all of the Phillies' runs tonight were scored off solo home runs. They got eight hits, and a full half of those hits were homers. Not bad, Phillies. Oh, and they also walked five times. So, basically like a mini-Voltron that was made to fight Barry Bonds.
Again, though, this is the story of the exciting, satisfying, and particularly rewarding victory over the Red Sox. The second story, the lede that I'm worried I've buried, is that tonight was the Bailey O'Neill game. Bailey, as you might remember from RTP's excellent piece, was a young Phillies fan who was bullied on the playground, and, shortly afterwards, passed away. Recent medical tests have proven that there is no medical link between the physical trauma of bullying and the epileptic seizures that caused Bailey's death, so the story has become, if nothing else, more complicated.
As one might expect in the real world, there is no clear black and white for long, and even the descriptions in the above article, of the on-and-off friendship between Bailey and the boy accused of bullying him are confounding. We want an answer and a sort of account of who is to blame, why, and what we can do to make sure nothing like this ever happens again. We won't get it. The inane conspiracy theories and racial venom in the Delco Times article are troubling indeed, and largely because it's painful to see people work their frustrations out this way. These people want answers too, their wrongheaded hate notwithstanding; to get both no justice and no peace is not the way the script ought to run.
I hope those people watched tonight's game, though. I hope this because, for whatever else they may do, sports have a way of constructing and disseminating narratives that make sense of the world. Yes, this can be used for ill, and the various jingoism and commercialism we've collectively seen in sports could probably fill a book. But if there's a time in which the construction of a narrative helps, it's at a confounding moment like this. Bailey was buried in a Ryan Howard jersey, and his family was invited to tonight's game. And Ryan Howard knocked in the first run with a slump-busting home run.
I'm not going to claim that I believe that Ryan Howard's home run actually means something cosmically, but it might have meant something to the O'Neills. And it might mean something to everyone trying to work out this tragedy without recourse to hatred or paranoia. The Phillies played for a 12 year old boy who ostensibly loved them as much as he loved anything, who didn't have the cynical smirk that I have in the back of his mind every time he watched a game. The Phillies won tonight, and symbolically, yes, it can be for Bailey. There's nothing cheap or wrong or shameful about thinking that. But here's the more important thing: tonight, a group of men got on a field in front of a packed stadium, played a civilly competitive game, and remained peaceful human beings to the end. The analogy that "Sports are war" is offensive not (primarily) because it trivializes war, but because it misses the point of sport.
In a world of vague conclusions and few if any satisfying moral codes, a tragedy is terribly hard to process. Sports are often said to be a crutch, but let's be a bit more charitable. As with the Bailey O'Neill game tonight, they aren't a crutch; they're a decoder ring, through which we can understand at least a part of the story in a more humane, if equally painful way. And maybe a way that we can grow through this story.
RIP Bailey; hope you liked it.