This isn't about sports
Posted September 11, 2013
Wednesday marks the 12th anniversary of one of the darkest days -- one of the darkest periods -- in our nation's history. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 left us feeling angry, scared, vulnerable and uncertain about our future. How would life forever change? How would those attacks alter our day-to-day? What would the effect be on our economy? How would we, as a nation, as Americans, react?
I think it's fair to say that a dozen years ago, everything changed -- some things for the better, some for the worse. But, it's fairly obvious that 09-11-01 is a line of demarcation that separates eras of American history.
I'll tell you what today isn't, nor should it ever be. Today isn't a time to correlate those events with sports. The anniversary of the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center and the crash that killed hundreds aboard United Airlines flight 93 that was bound for Washington, DC was a moment in time that had nothing to do with sports. It was about our culture, our way of life, our freedom and -- unfortunately -- our politics.
The further we remove ourselves from that date 12 years ago however, the more the sports world gloms onto that tragedy as some sort of a healing mechanism. Since when? How exactly does a football game, or a baseball game or a golf tournament make the pain go away for a city with a giant hole where two skyscrapers once stood? How does sports repair the two-fifths of the Pentagon that were blown away by that American Airlines jet in northern Virginia?
Sports is NOT a diversion. Sports is simply part of our lives, assuming you choose to make it such. Sports is simply another form of entertainment, when you boil it all down, like music or movies or television or bird-watching, and it was never designed as a diversion.
The same people who spend their time using sports to reflect back on that day -- those weeks -- are the ones who are the first to remind you in the face of other tragedies that it "puts things in perspective." I'm sorry if I beg to differ. Tragic, life-altering events such as the attacks of September 11, 2001 shouldn't be needed to reassess our priorities.
Yes, the National Football League and Major League Baseball shut down for the week. It caused the postponement of the second week of the NFL season and helped usher in MLB's first November World Series. But, what choice did the league's have in the matter? Four of the 62 franchises, plus the headquarters of both leagues were based in the New York metropolitan area, and another was based just outside our nation's capital. On top of that, in the wake of these events, both leagues had to take a hard look at venue security and both entities acted properly and with respect considering the circumstances.
Today, however, you only wish the sports community would operate with the same level of respect that the NFL and MLB did a dozen years ago. The anniversary of when our lives were forever altered should not be a reason to drum up business, like Tumbledown Trails Golf Course in Wisconsin, who offered a $9.11 greens fee for rounds played today (That deal and subsequent coupon have since been discontinued). Today should not be a day for dumbed-down conversations about how sports helped us heal from those events. It didn't.
First of all, I'm not certain we have healed from what happened 12 years ago. And second, only time is going to make that pain go away, if it ever truly does. I would guess, for those really impacted by what happened that Tuesday morning in the late summer of 2001 -- firefighters, police officers, transit workers, government employees, airline passengers, families, etc. -- the healing may never come.
When I recall what happened 12 years ago -- where I was, how I felt -- sports never enters my mind. I think only of my brother who worked in New York City's financial district, three blocks from the Twin Towers and the seven hours that passed before we found out that he was safe. That he was sitting in a bar in lower Manhattan watching the news on television as I was 450 miles away is only slightly amusing. The image of watching symbols of our nation destroyed is what will forever be burned in my memory, not how emotionally charged it was when the Mets and Braves played the first game in New York following the resumption of play.
Sports is simply a part of some of our lives, and even in the face of such atrocities, life has no choice but to go on. Let's do the right thing, the sensible thing, and not try to filter one of the most terrifying days in American history through the prism of the games that we watch.