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When someone great is gone

It might not seem like the time to dance. It is.

MLB: New York Mets at Miami Marlins Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

These Red Sox dance in the outfield after they win, which is a part of their considerable charm. For a fan base perpetually worried that the Sox will revert to their embarrassing 2014/2015 forms, the dance is therapeutic. When they dance, we’re safe for the moment.

And then, inexplicably, we’re not. The message comes through in texts and phone calls and push notifications, and the words don’t make any sense, even if they are only a handful. Someone great is gone. The weather is perfect, because it doesn’t know any better than your friend who slept in, or the people filing into the church on the corner who wouldn’t know the victim -- heck, wouldn’t know the team -- from Eve.

ESPN goes on high alert. The adults are called in to fill airtime as the facts begin to roll in. Other teams wake up to the news. A game is canceled, and a sport sits in stasis, if only for a few hours. By the time a police officer is spouting safety pablum in the absence of any real evidence -- because it seems like the thing to do, and isn’t wrong, in any chase -- the remaining players have started stretching. There is a game to play. There are 15 games to play, in fact. There is dancing yet to be done.


I’ve been inconsolable since Jose Fernandez died, and as the fullness of the tragedy has revealed itself. First, it was the story of his escape from Cuba, during which he saved a passenger who had fallen out of their boat (it was his mother, he learned in the water); next, it was the Instragram post announcing his girlfriend is pregnant, tagged five days before the accident; this morning, it is the report that baseballs he presumably signed aboard the boat have washed up on Miami Beach.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox played again and won. That’s 11 in a row. They’re going to the playoffs, and very soon none of us will think about Jose Fernandez from moment to moment: We will focus on the dances, big and small. It is both why we are here and all we can do, and pretty much all we should do, too.

There are a million and one songs that tell you dancing is the purest expression of joy, and, by extension, humanity; some are pretentious, some are absurd, some of them are good, fewer are perfect, and none of them are wrong. I have been, in my life, a certified wallflower: nowadays, you have to tear me off any dance floor I get near. I won’t stop ‘til I get enough, and you can’t make me.

I do this because it will all be over in a moment. As Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said:

"It's just sad. It's so horribly sad on so many different levels that there'll be no more of that, there'll be no more of him, there'll be no more of that emotion on the mound, that skill-set, that human being, that young man with such a gift, such a great smile," Hurdle said. "I've been trying to live that life for a while now. I wasn't always in that place. It just makes all the more sense when things like this happen. Be where your feet are. Enjoy the moment. There'll be a day where there won't be another day."

John Farrell knows this. He was a teammate of Steve Olin and Tim Crews, the two Cleveland Indians pitchers who died in a boating accident. He has been here before. When this news filtered through the clubhouse, he did what he could for a devastated Hanley Ramirez.

“The emotions range from shock, disbelief, thinking about their families and how they’re going to continue on and the adjustments they’re going to have to go through, and the pain and sorrow that they go through,” he said.


I knew when I saw the text: “Omg. Did you hear about Jose Fernandez. So f’n sad.”

I hoped it was arm, but I knew. I hoped it was anything else… but I knew.

So I checked, I was right, and the morning was a blur. It was around then that I started hearing the song.

The song, fragments of which are scattered throughout this column, was “Someone Great” by LCD Soundsystem. It is about this very subject. I played it yesterday in my car and cried my eyes out. You might, too, and it wouldn’t be a bad thing. You might not feel like dancing to it, but we can fix that.

For whatever reason, the next song that popped into my head was not at all about death: It is about life. It is “Modern Love,” by David Bowie, and it is perhaps the greatest pop song ever recorded. Death has no place in this song. He’s not allowed to hold a tambourine. He can’t buy a ticket. His picture is at the door, with a big red X through it. He can, as far as this song is concerned, eat shit.

It’s the same feeling I got watching Jose Fernandez play baseball for a living. It might have the same effect on you. “Someone Great” will move you; “Modern Love” will move you, and it will be its own sort of therapy. When you’re ready, turn up the volume, and press play. It might restore your faith in god and man.