STRONGER THAN EVER… by Steve Safran

For me, the most amazing people at the Boston Marathon are not the winners. To be sure, running 26.2 miles in two hours and change is an astonishing feat. But to my mind, it’s everyone else who runs the Marathon who is the best.

That’s pretty easy sentiment, I know. But consider nearly every marathoner runs knowing he won’t win. Won’t even come close. Can you think of any other sport where that’s the case? Any other event in life? Even lottery ticket buyers hold a small hope for a win. Joe Marathon runs knowing he won’t.

And that’s what’s so great about The Pack. They’re running for the joy of it, for a personal best, in memory of loved ones, to raise money, and for 30,000 other reasons. They run to run.

And man, do they run.

I had the good fortune of covering the Boston Marathon for Boston.com. I reported from the start in Hopkinton and from the finish in the Back Bay. (The media bus with police escorts is the only way you’ll find Stevie “running” the route.) I’ve never seen the rested and carb-loaded athletes at the Start or witnessed their transformation at the Finish. When you see the runners in Natick or Wellesley, they’re still in pretty good shape. By the time they hit Boston, they look like Hell. They also look fantastic. Every quadricep, every ligament, and every other whatever Britt can recall from gross anatomy– they’re on display, steeled for the goal. These aren’t just people who put on a kick to the finish; they kick the finish in the ass.

So yes, I saw the winners race past to triumphant finales. But it was another runner I won’t forget. His fall was dramatic enough, collapsing maybe 50 yards shy of the finish line. And then a fellow runner stopped. He stopped. He likely didn’t know the guy who fell. Maybe he was on pace for a personal best. But he stopped, helped the stumbling runner to his feet, and together, arm-on-shoulder, they finished.

Name another sport where those two “losers” are such winners.

As I write this, I’m in the Back Bay station, waiting for the commuter rail. I feel undeserving of the Gatorade I’m drinking. Runners are here waiting for the train, too. I don’t know why that strikes me– but it does. These champions just ran the freakin’ Boston Marathon, and they’re standing here like any other commuter. They have to go to work tomorrow. They’re just average folks who happen to be the best athletes in the world.

Sportsmanship at its finest.

Sportsmanship at its finest.

Advertisements

The Local News, by Steve Safran

I want to tell you a little bit about working in local news.

It’s messy and complicated. It’s filled with drudgery. It’s overnights for years without recognition. It’s reporters who start in small markets with pay so low they take a second job, usually as a waiter or waitress. Pilots describe their job as “Hours of boredom with moments of terror.” There’s not a lot of terror in news.

Until Monday.

My friends in local news work their asses off to tell stories that affect people’s lives. They are lumped in with “the media,” so often used these days as an insult. But “the media” is people: normal people (mostly). People at work the same way you work. Working in news is just like working in any company.

Except when you get something wrong.

I do not for a moment defend the inaccurate reporting that went on Wednesday. That was terrible journalism. That was rumor-mongering. That was the absence of the rule to have at least two sources. The oft-quoted saying in journalism is “If your mother says she loves you, get a second source.” News let us down Wednesday.

But, for the most part, that was the national news. What inaccuracies were reported locally were sourced, as in “According to the AP…” That’s not an excuse. That’s how it works. And how it doesn’t. My friend Cory Bergman at BreakingNews.com had a perfect tweet midday Wednesday as the networks were pulling back from the report that a bomber was arrested. Cory’s site was not reporting any such arrest. And Cory tweeted “And that’s why Breaking News is still waiting.”

Props, Cor.

Local journalism can be silly. We’ve all seen those “WILL THIS THING KILL YOUR CHILDREN? TUNE IN AT 11!” teases.

But it can also rise to the occasion. On 9/11, NECN was on the air for 60 hours straight. Tom Melville, the Assistant News Director anchored overnight. Everyone pitched in. NECN News Director (and now GM at WBUR – an example of excellence in reporting) Charlie Kravetz gave cool-headed direction and insisted upon accuracy. We held off until we knew.

On Monday, as the bombs went off at the Marathon Finish Line, I am quite certain the instinct would have been to run like hell. But the journalists stayed: people like Steve Silva of Boston.com, who was there simply shooting what he hoped were inspiring stories. As soon as the explosion hit, Steve ran to get more footage. That’s not sensationalism. That’s journalism. And, though he’ll shrug it off, that’s bravery.

My friends in local news tried to make sense of the chaos. Mike Nikitas at NECN anchored calmly and accurately. Kathy Curran of WCVB, there to report on the race, put on her local news hat and stood within yards of the explosion reporting. Producers and Assignment Editors in every newsroom – unheralded though they are – scrambled to keep things organized and on the air. The national anchors dropped in later. But the local newsies were there from the first second.

I worked in local news from 1992 – 2006, and continued to work with stations as a consultant right up to last month. 20 years of experience. I can tell you what I know for sure: the people who bring you the local news are, well, wicked awesome.

PRESS

The Basement

Teddy is scared of the basement. I totally get this. I was always scared of the basement. It’s where spiders and monsters and murderers lurk. The basements of my youth were unfinished spaces. In one house, Dad put up a makeshift curtain divider to separate his workbench and tools and things-in-storage from the area we were allowed to rollerskate and jump on old mattresses, chalk foursquare courts onto the concrete floor and make forts with moving boxes. Occasionally one of us would be sent to retrieve an item from Beyond the Curtain: a space that wasn’t illuminated by the light switch, but instead required wild grasping in the dark until a grateful hand met with the pull cord of a naked bulb. That moment before contact with the blessed string was probably the height of scary for me as a kid. But now Teddy, my funny, imaginative little 8 year old, won’t go down to the basement alone because… well… maybe we should sweep it for bombs first.

I think we all feel like we just finished explaining Newtown to our children. And now, there’s another bad guy… and he’s still out there… and he knows how to make and hide bombs. (And if the good guys can’t find him, maybe he’s hiding in the basement.) Our church, our schools, and everyone on Facebook tell us to look for the helpers. Brodie and Teddy saw their dad suit up in scrubs, throw on a white coat, drive closer to bombs, and enter hospitals armed with guns (to keep the bad guys out, or keep them in?). They might be proud that Daddy is a “helper,” but more than usual, they want to know when he’s coming home.

“So this is probably the second worst day of my life?” Teddy wondered at dinner on Monday night. Because “that time the guy killed all of those kids was the worst.” This was followed by a discussion of how 9/11 would trump even these, but they weren’t born yet. Jesus. When I was 8, I’m sure I couldn’t name a single murderous event that didn’t involve a fictitious, deranged goalie, much less three acts of belief-shaking violence. Those things lurking Beyond the Curtain of my youth were unnamable, fantasy, and just on the cusp of exhilarating (if it weren’t for the more tangible and real threat of spiders). The fears of my children are spun from things on TV in the afternoon.

Later, there was this: “Should we have a moment of silence?” asked my 9 year old. Brodie, whether he knows it or not, looks for answers (or solace) in Prayer. Reluctant to sob in front of my little guys, I deflected that with “who wants ice cream?” I’m not ready for a Moment of Silence. Here’s the loneliest thought: there will be no answers to the why Why WHY of it all in even the most momentous of silences. And until they catch the bad guys, I’m still too distracted and scared to pray to anyone… but what many of us feel (regardless of your brand of spiritual cracker) is that we’re praying for each other.

Here in Boston, familiar sights are outlined with yellow tape and there’s nothing else but this on TV. Here in the Lee household, Daddy is a helper but there might be bombs in the basement. We’re all grasping for that cord in the dark, and finding… each other. Although we’re sad, there is great love amongst us. (See: countless acts of kindness, frantic Facebook queries and assurances, The Yankees, and Chicago.) We’re not defeated! But right now, here in Boston (here at the Lee’s), we have no explanations to alleviate the basement fears of an 8 year old boy. An 8 year old boy. An 8 year old boy.

We are all Bostonians right now.

We are all Bostonians right now.

Thinking of Martin… always thinking of Martin.