February 20th, 2016

Before CROI 2016, Some Boston Pride — Except for One TINY Detail

Arguably the most important scientific conference in HIV, the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) takes place in Boston next week, as itcoldest day in years has many times before.

For those expecting hereafter a CROI preview, or anything even vaguely related to Infectious Diseases and/or HIV, you can stop reading right now. Sorry about that — just contact the folks at NEJM Journal Watch, I’m sure they’d be happy to send you a refund for the price you paid to read this post.

I bring up this almost bi-annual February gathering in my home city since having the meeting here gives me a chance to show off the place to my colleagues.

Yes, even in winter, Boston is wonderful — the narrow streets, the blend of old and new architecture, the river and harbor views, the numerous colleges and universities, the wonderful seafood, the cultural diversity, the parks, the museums, the music scene, the Boston accents that Hollywood loves. Sure the weather can be terrible, but it also can be knock-out beautiful, and the contrast makes us appreciate the good weather that much more.

Comedian Steven Wright has said “Everywhere is within walking distance if you have the time“, which is not just an example of his absurdist humor — I think he got the idea for the joke because he grew up here. Geographically small, Boston is remarkably accessible on foot for an American city, a pedestrian’s dream. The city proper is surrounded by densely populated, poetically named, eccentrically pronounced towns with their own distinct character, many of them also worth a visit.

So I love this place. Can’t you tell?

There’s only one small thing, and it’s this:  I’m not a fan of any of Boston’s sports teams. 

To explain, let’s take the big four individually, starting with (currently) the two toughest.

For the Red Sox, it’s because I grew up in New York, and in those formative years in which fandom is created (roughly ages 9-12, according to one of my favorite baseball writers), I became truly obsessed with baseball and a certain local historic team — a team whose name I will keep off this page so as not to sully the local 9.

Then I moved here just before a light-hitting shortstop hit a memorable 3-run home run in a memorable game that immediately led to his gaining a new middle name. But even if that hadn’t happened, I doubt my allegiance would have shifted — after all, Red Sox fans never switch when they move to New York. Not even Bill De Blasio, and cripes, he’s the Mayor of New York City. These fan things are tenacious.

For the Patriots, it’s because they play football. And I’m not a football fan. Actually, it’s much more than that — I’m an anti-football fan. Where do I begin?

Maybe with the anti-science denials of the NFL about the dangers of head trauma (stealing pages from the tobacco company, always an impressive role model). Or the fact that many of the players who are being chewed up and pummelled for our entertainment are poor, faceless (thanks to the helmets) minorities. Or the way college football distorts the mission of undergraduate institutions, with the schools’ giving many of the players little more than a sham education. Or how the youth game increases the risk of dementia, and should probably be banned. When I see little kids playing youth football, their big helmeted heads perched precariously over their little bodies, I want to shout to their parents, Don’t you know your son’s brains are in there? 

OK, that’s enough on football.

For the Celtics and Bruins, it’s much simpler — I don’t really follow those sports. I know that this year in basketball, the Golden State Warriors (they play in California) are having a historically great season, and that hockey is a fast game played on ice, but couldn’t confidently name a single current Celtics or Bruins player. No credit for Larry Bird or Bobby Orr.

Boston is my home — I love it. Just not the sports teams.

(And I say this fully aware that this is the NEW ENGLAND Journal of Medicine Journal Watch, and the MASSACHUSETTS Medical Society publishing this thing. Oh well. Not surprisingly, some of my very best friends are passionate Red Sox and Patriots fans.)

Back to ID/HIV next week, I promise.

2 Responses to “Before CROI 2016, Some Boston Pride — Except for One TINY Detail”

  1. Loretta S says:

    Agree with everything you said about Boston, Paul. And I don’t even live there! I always refer to it as a “nice little town”, as if it were some village instead of a great big old city. Very walkable, as you point out. Which is a good thing, considering how Bostonians drive! Although I must say the roundabouts and rotaries make me feel right at home, coming from NJ, the land of traffic circles — many of which have been engineered out of existence, unfortunately.

    Who knew there was a tool to help plan roundabouts and rotaries? http://www.ctps.org/Drupal/data/pdf/studies/other/roundabout_tool.pdf I certainly didn’t! And who knew there is a smaller version of a roundabout/rotary/circle, called a “traffic calming circle”?

    Clicking on the link about Bucky F. Dent (which had one of my all-time favorite jokes embedded in it), made me click on another link about a woman who was photographed while sitting on a treadmill. I highly recommend everyone read it, as it is so funny and achingly sad at the same time. http://www.dailydot.com/opinion/i-am-woman-you-laughed-at-internet/ I will think of it the next time someone sends me an email with a link to photos of Walmart shoppers.

    As for sports? Meh. When I was 12-13 years old, I was a complete Knicks fan. No, I was a Knicks nut (knut?). My best friend and I pretended we were Willis Reed and Walt Frazier, which was a little unusual for 2 girls in the early 1970s. We would even sign everything “Willis” or “Walt”. Man, that Frazier could dress snazzily. That was probably the last time I followed a sports team. And having worked in brain injury in the past, I am 100% with you regarding football.

  2. Andi says:

    How did I know before scrolling down, that you would post that clip? Wicked!

HIV Information: Author Paul Sax, M.D.

Paul E. Sax, MD

Contributing Editor

NEJM Journal Watch
Infectious Diseases

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