HARVARD SQUARE COMMENTARY

September 8, 2008
From the Editor

John Turner


Over the weekend, we drove down to Boston to watch my college's football team play Boston College in the BC stadium out Beacon Street past the Chestnut Hill reservoir. We spent the night before the game in Lexington, in a bed and breakfast that was once featured on the "This Old House" TV show.

Lexington is an imposing suburb of greater Boston that breathes money. The lawns are trimmed, the trees are old and expansive, the houses recline dusky in the shade. The village itself hasn't changed a great deal over the thirty years or so that I have gone there. The green where the Minute Men opposed the British column on the morning of April 19, 1775, is of course, preserved for eternity, or at least as much of it as the United States will play a part of. All you have to do is walk around on it to get a powerful sense of how myth works. The little town which runs along for about a half-mile east of the green is pleasant but not ostentatious. We had coffee and cake in a Peets, the first time I've patronized that chain, and I can report that their coffee is even stronger and richer than Starbucks -- which means that it wouldn't be much liked by the average American.

The question arises: why go on such an excursion? What can a college football team mean to a person of my age? Surely, I've grown beyond the idea that one set of young athletes is more worthy than another. So how can I care who prevails in a contest between them. I say that to myself, and, yet, there is such a thing as nostalgia, which is not always bad as long as critical mind is in place to keep it from running amok. The uniforms are the same colors as when I was young, and they stir up in me the feelings of that peculiar creature who I was a half-century ago. What part of him is still alive is hard to say. Yet, I retain an affection for him if for no other reason than the good times he gave me. He had hearty appetites, after all.

In any case, I did want Georgia Tech to win. I agonized over their fumbles and mistakes. I was pleased to see they didn't panic. And when they finally did prevail, narrowly, to the agony of most people around me, I was happy. The guy next to me, with whom I had exchanged a few observations, stuck out his hand and said "Congratulations." As I shook, I said both teams would get better as the season went on. "Yeah, they'd better," he growled.

Nothing I saw of Boston College while I was on its campus caused me to think less of it. The fans cheered their team heartily, as they should. But they weren't nasty. I thought it was a good event. And I had to admit, the game could have gone either way. Still, I was glad Tech won.

One good thing: I did not think of Sarah Palin during the entire contest.

On the way home, near Manchester, we ran into rains which it would be euphemistic to call torrential. The water came down harder and faster than I had I ever seen before. As we crept along at about 25 mph, I kept asking myself what would happen if a rain of that force kept on for a long time. The radio announcer said it was falling at a rate of three inches per hour. Suppose there was a rain like that lasting ten hours. What would the results be? I don't know that we will have rains of that scope, but I think we will have more radical weather in the future, and much of it of our own making.  I wonder what Sarah Palin would say to that. I wonder what she would say if she were washed away. It's hard to know what will penetrate a brain.

We did finally get back to Vermont without drowning. For that, I was grateful.


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