The Year 2015 and the ‘Peril of Hope’

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“It is right there
Betwixt and between
The orchard bare
And the orchard green”
— Robert Frost from “Peril of Hope”

With an eerie prescience, the January 9 front page print edition of The Boston Globe captured perfectly the mixture of fear and anticipation associated with the hope a new year brings. Two headlines above the fold – “Boston picked to bid for Olympics” and “Baker promises firm fixes, sensitive touch” – would set the tone for 2015 in Greater Boston.

Boston 2024 Partnership, the consortium of business and political interests (so-called “thought leaders”) to bring the 2024 summer Olympic games to The Hub, underestimated Bostonians’ capacity for common sense and overestimated Bostonians’ tolerance for large municipal projects. (Didn’t anyone remind planners of the Big Dig experience?) Residents rightly feared costs would be socialized and any profits would be privatized by special interests. The bid was rescinded in July.

Charlie Baker was sworn in as Massachusetts’ 72nd governor within hours of the Olympic announcement. No one campaigned last year on the Olympics but it consumed precious time and energy from more mundane and serious matters, such as the opioid emergency, which rages on unabated (1,256 people – likely more this year – fatally overdosed in Massachusetts in 2014). Alarmingly, more people die here from overdoses than from car crashes.

Boston broke the record for snowiest winter on record with 108.6 inches. But the MBTA was broken long before 2015 from decades of incompetent government oversight. With melting irony, man could not make the trains run during the blizzards but a train actually ran without a man this December in Braintree, due to “operator error.” Baker must restore the entire system to ensure a second term.

The New England Patriots earned their fourth Super Bowl championship in February, amidst the faux-scandal of Deflategate (which is now being taught as a class at University of New Hampshire). A federal judge determined that the NFL went too far in suspending quarterback Tom Brady. In May, some suggested that Salem State University went too far in paying him $170,000 for a one hour “lecture.” But don’t tell that to the local media, which cover the team by way of sports jingoism, not journalism.

It took a jury in April nearly 26 minutes just to read the “guilty” verdict on all 30 counts against unrepentant terrorist Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, in the Boston Marathon bombing trial.

Irish rockers U2, who lived through the terror of “The Troubles,” charmed the town with four sold-out concerts this summer, as “#BostonStrong” was featured prominently on a massive vidi-wall during their encores.

Pedro Martinez was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame and David Ortiz announced this post season he would retire in 2016. Their recognition and retirement mark the perilous end of an era of Boston baseball dominance. Perhaps no other players were better catalysts of hope for a despondent Red Sox Nation before 2004.

Two films about Boston’s ugly underbelly proved to be, in many respects, largely for Boston; another cathartic exercise in order to exorcise criminality. “Spotlight” chronicled the unspeakable and unimaginable clergy sex abuse cover up, and “Black Mass” showcased Whitey Bulger. Each affirmed that evil can reside both in men of the cloth and the cleaver.

After nearly a century, Cambridge-based Converse unveiled the long-awaited Chuck Taylor II sneakers.

After 20 years since the first Charter School was opened in Massachusetts, with some municipalities having reached their quotas, many want a reset, a Charter 2.0.

Attorney General Maura Healey, prodigal progressive, concluded that more regulation (of course) would be best for Boston-based fantasy sports league website DraftKings (and FanDuel). But former Gov. Deval Patrick, promiscuous progressive, discovered free enterprise by joining the investment firm Bain Capital.

In November, the financial news website ranked Massachusetts as the best place to live among the 50 states. General Electric thinks so, as it imagines what a world headquarters might look like in Boston as it contemplates relocation from Connecticut for lower taxes and closer proximity to the area’s innovation ecosystem.

This autumn, the Oxford Dictionaries determined that its word of the year was, in fact, not a word, but a pictograph. The “Face with Tears of Joy” emoji according to Oxford lexicographers, “best reflected the ethos, mood and preoccupation of 2015.”

In retrospect, then, Frost got it partially right. Time — and 2015 — might best be defined as an alluring alloy of peril and hope.

James P. Freeman is a New England-based writer and a former Cape Cod Times columnist. Read his past columns here.