Talk to any Red Sox player about tonight’s emotional return to Fenway Park, and invariably he’ll say one of two things.

1. We want to help people feel a sense of normalcy.

2. Maybe we can give our fans an escape for a couple of hours.

The comments are delivered cautiously and out of respect for the victims of an unthinkable tragedy. No one wants to even suggest a baseball game can erase the memory of the twin bomb blasts that have left us all reeling.

But sports aren’t just about a bunch of men playing a kid’s game. They’re about community and passion and pride, as Bruins fans proved with Wednesday’s unforgettable rendition of the national anthem, shaking the new Garden from the ice to the rafters while Rene Rancourt played the role of conductor.

In that instant — and many that followed during and after a shootout loss to the Sabres — sports very much mattered. They provided a window into what makes us us; the passion we felt for the Bruins was really the passion we feel for our city.

There’s a reason we wear Red Sox hats in New York or Celtics hats in Los Angeles or Bruins sweatshirts pretty much anywhere. When you see a random fan in Miami Heat gear, you make immediate snap judgments — he’s a frontrunner who’ll ditch that hat as soon as LeBron retires or heads back to Cleveland.

But a Red Sox hat doesn’t just say you’re a fan of the team. It says something about your relationship with Boston. Maybe you’re from here. Maybe you went to school here. Maybe you have a job here. The stitched “B” signifies Boston in a way that no other team’s logo can match. The only one that comes close is the interlocking “N” and “Y” of the Yankees.

So with all due respect to those who believe sports are merely a trifle, we would like to respectfully disagree. What happens at Fenway tonight will matter, just like it did Wednesday at the Garden.