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What does 'Boston Strong' mean now?

Posted by Joanna Weiss  June 17, 2013 01:16 PM

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And is it fair to connect it to hockey? When a t-shirt company from Chicago decided to sell "Chicago Stronger" shirts at the start of the Bruins-Blackhawks series, the Internet burned up with righteous fury. Cubby Tees eventually pulled the shirts, but it also posted an attack on Boston fans, accusing them of a) co-opting the tragedy and b) misunderstanding satire.

Harsh, yes. Bad taste, sure. But do they have a point? There are some beautiful stories behind "Boston Strong;" the two Emerson College students who apparently coined the phrase raised $800,000 for the One Fund by selling simple t-shirts. But now, "Boston Strong" is everywhere: a sports rallying cry, an all-purpose local salute. It's also a brand sold on mugs, tote bags, and candles -- sometimes the proceeds go to charity, but sometimes they don't. How far will the labeling go? Could a lobster roll be Boston Strong? (And could a Maine one be Maine Stronger?) A Boston Globe editorial today says it's time to rethink the slogan -- use it only in reference to the Boston Marathon bombings, or accept that, if it now applies to all things Boston, it's officially open to satire. Where do you draw the line on "Boston Strong"? Below are some thoughts about the slogan, sports, and culture. Add yours to the comments, or tweet at the hashtag #BostonStrong.

What Boston Strong means to fans

Thumbnail image for shaughnessy mug.jpgI am separating myself from all elements of reality, competition, caution, and juju. Just for this one day. As we wait for the puck to drop in Game 1 in Chicago, I am thinking about what it would be like if the championship Bruins could ride in those Duck Boats down Boylston Street two weeks from now. How great would that be...carrying the Stanley Cup into Copley Square...after everything that’s happened this spring? It would be the ultimate Boston Strong moment.
Dan Shaughnessy, Globe Columnist
Column, June 15, 2013

Once it's about hockey, it's over

Either the term is sacrosanct or it isn’t. If it’s okay for one fandom to in any way conflate it with their support of an NHL title-contender, then they can’t hide behind sensitivity when opposing forces turn it back at them. Once it’s about hockey, there’s no more finger-wagging. Any weak claim that “Toronto Stronger” or “Chicago Stronger” insults victims can be summarily refuted by pointing out that if there is such an insult, it occurred when all their pain was repackaged crudely and obtusely to aggrandize support for the Bruins, Red Sox, or any others paid to hit something with a stick or play with a ball.
Dan Bernstein, Senior Columnist,
Column, June 15, 2013

A different kind of slogan?

Erasing the fun back-and-forth?

Citing “Boston Strong” to remember the Marathon victims in formal presentations or wearing the slogan on T-shirts or other clothing is entirely fitting. But waving “Boston Strong” signs when the team scores a goal turns the phrase into a universal expression of triumph. By referencing the Marathon, fans suggest that any retort is off-limits — while in truth, a good-natured back-and-forth between cities is part of the joy of a championship series.
Boston Globe editorial
June 18, 2013

Would you buy this?

yankee candle.jpg

Or this?

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Or this?

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Shirt and mug from

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weiss.jpegBoston.comment is an exchange for ideas about Boston and beyond, brought to you by the Boston Globe editorial page and edited by Globe columnist Joanna Weiss. We're the sponsor of's #LabDebates and the creator of the Choose Your Own Adventure mayoral game.

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