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Even in wake of tragedy, we can't change who we are; mail

Photo: Winslow Townson/AP

Flowers sit at a police barrier near the finish line to honor the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing.

Monday, and Boston, struck us all in different ways. I thought of the nearly three years my wife and I called Boston home, of the sights and local businesses we frequented in the area, and the people that worked there. The Marathon Sports store, at the finish line ... bought five pairs of shoes there, including the one I used for the 2010 half-marathon I ran. Friendly, helpful and encouraging to a decidedly out-of-shape guy like me. That Atlantic Fish restaurant ... ate there four or five times. That Abe and Louie's ... drank there a few times. That Lenscrafters ... made the glasses I'm wearing right now. In fact, when I picked up a pair there once and tied Bailey outside, they said, "Bring her in!" And so Bailey, my golden retriever, came in and sniffed all the lab techs.

And the street ... Boylston Street, where the marathon ends. That's where I waited for my late brother, Bob, when he ran the marathon 12 years ago, cramping badly at the end. That's where I waited four years ago for my brother-in-law as he finished, in crowds so thick we couldn't get within 50 yards of the finish line. So when the explosions happened, I thought what an incredible disaster this is going to be, with the crowds packed in so tight, everyone craning their heads to see their friends and relatives. And, watching from 200 miles away -- I live in Manhattan now -- I was struck by the rush of cops, EMS workers and fire fighters, running toward the bomb blasts while everyone else ran away, not knowing if there were more bombs to come, but knowing this was what they had to do. How gallant. And how much we take them for granted. The fact that, as I write this, only three people have died from bombs meant to kill hundreds is a tribute to these brave people, and to the doctors in a city filled with great medical establishments.

Patriots' Day in Boston, a local holiday, with the earliest ballgame annually on the pro sports calendar (11:05 a.m. at Fenway Park), and the Boston Marathon, is the kind of day I always had to explain to those not from the Northeast, commemorating the first battles of the Revolutionary War in 1775, in nearby Lexington and Concord. It's such a special day, with everyone out and about in what is the greatest walking city in America. It's the day when thousands of college kids stream into Back Bay and Kenmore Square for the party, and they meet Aussies and Asians and Africans and Europeans. Boston, meet world. World, meet Boston.

That's what someone tried to ruin Monday. No one will ruin it, because we won't let them. We can't. Our world is a different world post-9/11, and this was just another painful reminder of that. This touched sports, though, and that's why I wanted to send this simple message today:

Keep going. Keep going to marathons, to high-school soccer games, to college football games, to minor-league baseball games, to golf tournaments. Keep going.

Keep being us. We gather together to root for our brothers striving to finish the Boston Marathon, the biggest physical achievement in a lifetime. We gather to watch our kids play games. We gather to watch our pros play games. We gather at huge stadiums and small ones for events pro and peewee. It's what we do, and it's what we must keep doing.

The cliché of the week is We can't let them win. True, though. We can't. We have to keep going. New York is going to be challenged in the next year, with the baseball All-Star Game in July and the Super Bowl in February, and I am confident they will be secure. We can't make everything air-tight; we know that. But to slink back into our caves and say, Too risky to be out in crowds except when I have to be, is no way to live. Life is about choices, to be sure. You've got to make your own choice about going to games, now that one of the games has been forever altered. And you might say it's easy for me to say, because my business is writing about games, so I'm going anyway. But I'd go anyway. I love games. This doesn't change it. This cannot change it, at least for me.

I know where I'll be on April 21, 2014. That's next Patriots' Day. I'll be in Boston. Red Sox at 11, finish line (or as close as I can be to it) of the Marathon afterward, dinner in Back Bay or the South End after that.

Hope to see you there. Hope to see thousands of you there.

Now on to your email:

ON MOCK DRAFTS. "Does anyone truly draft the best available player? it seems we spend a lot of time analyzing needs but we hear about the "best player on Team X's board" just after the actual picks. I'm guessing most of that is Team Spin, but wanted to get your take on it. And, do you think the new (ish) rookie pay scale will lend itself to more or less drafting of the best available talent versus needs-based drafting?"

-- Jay, Philadelphia.

Lots of GMs still go for the best player. Ted Thompson and his Green Bay disciples, for instance. But I think what will change in the near term is the way teams look for at least players in the first two rounds to play right away. Not all teams, but with colleges playing such a similar game to the pros in many conferences, there's no excuse not to be able to pick a couple of NFL-ready players every April.

WHY NEW ENGLAND GAVE A WIMPY OFFER SHEET. "The Pats gave Emmanuel Sanders that contract because it was a raise on his tender offer from the Steelers, didn't tie the team's hands financially and because if they really do like him and gave him a long-term offer and it was matched, they would never get a crack at him again. This way they could have gotten him relatively cheaply or, as it turned out, the Steelers had to match at a higher rate and he is in a walk year. Who do you think he'll look to first (or second, if he gives the Steelers a shot first) next off- season when he becomes a free agent? Maybe the team that just got him a significant raise the last year?"

-- Bret Rock, Tallahassee

My point is simple: In giving Sanders one year and $2.5 million, they are inviting the Steelers to match, and even if they get him, they are giving up a third-round pick for a guy guaranteed to be around for just one year. Maybe that makes sense to you. It makes none to me.

GREAT EMAIL. "Memo to NFL: Maybe scheduling the Super Bowl at night in February in New Jersey isn't a great idea?"

-- Frederick Brennan, Lowell, Mass.

Bravo.

ON GENO SMITH. "I think you are unnecessarily down on Geno Smith. What don't you like about him?''

-- Sam Taylor, Bluefield, W.Va.

Sam, this is a comment you should be directing to NFL teams. My reaction to Smith in my Monday column and in my mock draft in the magazine this week is based on what I hear from people in the league. All that matters is what they think at this time of year, and who they might pick. And I can tell there are some people in NFL front offices who like Smith a lot and some who are hesitant to call him a no-doubt long-term quarterback.

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