Sports and 9/11

Ten years ago, sports took a timeout.

The country was shaken and people questioned what role sports truly had. How important were the games, really?

Did sports really change on that day 10 years ago? The short answer is no.

However, looking back, sports played a pivotal role in bringing people’s attention away from what had happened in New York, D.C. and Pennsylvania.

The sports world took six days off. Was it too many? Too few?

All I know is that when Jack Buck stood in front of that crowd in St. Louis and asked “Should we be here?” and then answered “Yes” the time away from the games seemed just about right.

His eloquent poem was a unifying soliloquy in the aftermath. His ability to reflect how a wounded country felt was a defining moment in why sports played an important part in bringing America back together.

Sports brought the needed distraction. It always does.

No matter your political views, seeing President Bush on the mound to throw out the first pitch of World Series Game 3 was a goosebumps moment. It still is.

The President of the United States was standing out in the wide open of America’s most famous stadium, showing our country’s resolve. We were not to be defeated.

Yes, sports plays a small role in the grand scheme of things, but there is no greater thing that draws up the passion, the emotions and brings people together like sports.

It was sportscasters who seemed to summarize the way the country was feeling, by putting their role into perspective and letting our feelings run our own course. They had a few moments to speak to us outside their realm and they seemed to capture it perfectly. It wasn’t a constant news feed, a blame game and an us-against-them that news channels portrayed. It was compassion and knowing that sports were there as an escape. It was a way to allow everyone to take a moment away from their overwhelmingly emotional thoughts. And, isn’t that what sports truly are? An escape from reality.

Vin Scully said this before the first game the Dodgers played following 9/11:

“All of us have experienced a litany of emotions. Whether it would be shock, disbelief and horror, followed by grief, mourning and anger.
All of us indeed have lost a lot. We have lost thousands of lives. We have lost some of our self confidence. We have lost some of our freedom and, certainly, we have lost a way of life.
The President of the United States has said it is time to go back to work and so, despite a heavy heart, baseball gets up out of the dirt, brushes itself off, and follows his command hoping in some small way to inspire the nation to do the same …”

 

Sports is not life or death. It’s something to take your mind away from things. It’s an industry that brings a lot of unbridled joy to a lot of people, but also a lot of heartache. Yet, at the end of the day we call them “games” for good reason. Life moves forward. We’re just glad to have sports as our security blanket.

On this weekend when we are watching pennant races, cheering for our alma maters and being drawn in by the NFL’s opening weekend, we must also take a timeout from our lives – like sports did – and remember those who have given us freedom and who have fought for our rights. We must not be distracted while we stand for the National Anthem and sing God Bless America. We must also remember that living in America is a privilege.

While a nation mourns and remembers, it seems fitting that on Sunday, the anniversary of the attacks, the NFL season begins. A lot of eyes will be on New York. A lot will also be on the football fields across the country.

The biggest sport in our country brings us the diversion we needed before and 10 years later it is delivering again. Sometimes its funny how things work out.

Before the weekend is over, be sure to take a moment and shake your opponents’ hands. Hug your friends. Kiss your loved ones.

We are lucky.

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