It was past midnight in Boston, and the Red Sox had won an improbable World Series, done that at Fenway Park on this night in 2013, won the Series at home for the first time in 95 years. There had been fireworks in the air over old Fenway, and finally it was time to walk back to my hotel, through Kenmore Square and up Commonwealth Ave., on an occasion when Boston felt as strong as it ever had.
And then I walked over from Commonwealth to Boylston St., which had exploded with homemade bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon in April and people had died, or had become wounded in ways that would change their lives forever. We had seen all that, and moments and images of heroism, as people had rushed into the middle of Boylston trying to help. My dad, a World War II veteran, had said to me later, "They always talk about us, and the Greatest Generation, and how brave we were. People who ran into that street today not knowing if more bombs were going to go off, they were as brave as we ever were."
And then the Red Sox came home a few days later and won a ballgame, and David Ortiz had memorably and profanely grabbed a microphone and told the country and the world, "This is our ----ing city." The Red Sox won a game that day. Daniel Nava hit a big home run and Don Orsillo, then the Red Sox's play-by-play man, said, "This one is for you, Boston."
"Boston Strong" was born that week. And throughout the spring and summer and into the fall, the Red Sox showed that even though sports did not change what happened to the dead and wounded, it could help rally a city. All through the rest of the season, the Red Sox did not forget April. They continued to honor the idea and ideals of "Boston Strong." And then they won.
There are no equivalencies for tragedies. And no one is saying that the Astros, if they keep winning -- and even if they win it all -- can repair the damage and tragedy done to a great American city by Harvey. But now they have made this trade for Justin Verlander, and they have given themselves a better chance when they get to October. Maybe if the Astros do make a run, they will make things a little better in their city, as it tries to continue to get back up like a boxer.
It is a way to root. After the worst American tragedy in September 2001, nothing the Yankees did on their way to Game 7 of the World Series changed what had happened in downtown Manhattan. But the games they played, up to and including three amazing games in the Fall Classic at the old Stadium against the Diamondbacks, at least gave people a few hours, if they were able to watch the game, when things felt and looked the way they used to before the world exploded.
So the Astros, who were the best team in baseball this season until the Dodgers were, have made a deal for somebody who was once as much a star pitcher as anybody, and has started to be that kind of star again. They give their team hope after the flooding that has changed the life of Houston and brought this kind of death and destruction with it.
At a time when there has been so little good news in Houston, other than the city's images of heroism and people trying to help, a baseball team makes a little good news. It tries to rally itself by making the kind of big deal that so many other teams made a month ago at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
Sports doesn't change things. Baseball doesn't change things. Nothing can change what has happened over this terrible time in Houston. Sports doesn't bring back a life or a home or make things the way they were. But maybe things will be better by October.
The Yankees helped the healing in the shadow of Sept. 11, 2001, they did. The healing in Boston went on for months, and was finally capped off by an improbable World Series, one at home, such a short walk from Boylston St., and the finish line, and the Boston Public Library, and Marathon Sports and Lord & Taylor, where the security cameras were that helped track down the bombers, the Tsarnaev brothers.
It was quiet there that night, months later. But you could still see the images from the day of the Boston Marathon, the terrible images, and remember what it was like. They will remember in Houston, forever, the water rising and washing away normalcy.
Nobody would ever suggest that Verlander and the Astros could ever make those images go away. Again: Sports can do a lot. Just not that. But this was just a bit of good news from sports, late Thursday night. Maybe the Astros can make a run. Make the city come together around them, in some sort of storybook way. It doesn't always happen that way. But it can.