While back of the pack numbers are a time honored tradition in Boston (you used to buy them from the guy who ran the race dressed as Groucho Marx), they were never a real number and they were never a number stolen from a qualifier/registered runner. There was always someone near the finish to shunt those guys through a side chute so they wouldn't get the perks of running Boston, like photos or medals, but could get any medical attention they might need.
I get it, people wanted to run Boston this year and the BAA was cracking down on bandits for security reasons. A number of other things that made Boston fun, like costumes and flags and props and things went away this year too; however, you don't take a real person's number like that. Perhaps these folks were just clueless in that they were looking for a Boston number on Craig's List or something and didn't realize they were buying a real person's number that had been stolen. I'd like to give them the benefit of the doubt. If that is the case, they should come forward and talk to the BAA about how/where they got the number to make sure it doesn't happen again. If any of them accepted a race medal, they should send it back because it really sucks to be a registered runner, struggle your way through the race and find out the one literal badge of honor are all gone because some idiot who didn't deserve it took yours. (Talk to me about my Ras Na Heirrann medals some day and the year the kids gave them out to everyone asking for one because of the bottle opener on it so anyone finishing after the 40 minute mark didn't get one. Paulie made good on it but it really wasn't fair to a bunch of folks behind me in their first 5k that didn't get the reward they deserved.)
Then came the incident at the Sox game last night:
Classy, just classy. I post this here so you start getting a walk of shame as well.
Let me tell you first hand what it's like when a grown up like you steals a ball from a kid like that: you kill their trust in adults just a little bit faster. It stings and it becomes a thorn in your side as you grow up. In 2005, Jason Varitek tossed a ball to my son during batting practice and another jackass like you snagged the ball before he could catch it. Tek yelled at the guy saying, "It was for the kid." The guy, instead of giving it to my son handed it to the kid he was with saying, "Now you have 2 balls and you can sell one on eBay."
My son, who is now an adult, obviously never forgot that moment. He never quite enjoyed batting practice the way he did before that moment. In fact, on opening day he turned to me and said, "Remember when the guy stole Cap'n Tek's ball from me?" You have now turned that child's memory of a Red Sox player tossing a kid a baseball forever into, "Remember the time that jackhole Red Sox fan stole a ball from me?"
Good going jerkface.
I don't care if the kid's a Yankees, Royals or even Blue Jays fan, the ball goes ALWAYS goes to the kid. End of discussion.
I hope that kid now does what my son used to do after that, he always carried an extra sharpie with him to batting practice so when kids who didn't have a pen or something for a player to sign their hat, ball, program, whatever in Canvas Alley, my son would hand them his extra pen so they wouldn't go home disappointed.
To give you an idea of why I adore Jason Varitek, he later took a moment from warming up the pitcher in the bull pen and signed my son's cap. Tek is a hero in our home for that reason (and many others). Because the other thing my son said to me on opening day this year as we were freezing our butts off in the right field grandstands?
"Remember when Tek signed my hat that day...."
My son is no longer the kid that wants to get there early to get a player's autograph on his hat (which has Johnny Pesky, John Halama and many others along with Tek from years of asking politely), but he still remembers that asshat who stole his baseball from Tek. Not only that, he also sincerely thanked players for signing his hat and he never asked when they weren't making an appearance. We saw players out with their families having dinner, etc. He never crossed that line because he knew he wouldn't like it if that was his dad and all their playing time was interrupted by strangers asking, "Hey, would you sign...."
So Boston, time to start remembering we're on the world's stage and stop acting like insensitive jerks. If for no other reason than the one your mother probably used to give you: I'm watching. Better yet, just start being nice to people. The world has too many jerks and we don't need to be on that side of the equation. We need to be on the solution side.