September 11, 2011

OPINION: Why Do Sports Matter?

Remembering September 11 and the weeks following.

by Michael Hadley

September 11, 2001. We all remember where we were. We all remember how we reacted. The days following and the rough times that lay ahead. Films, television shows, recounts, the sadness never seemed it would end.

Major League Baseball, and other professional sports leagues all shut down.  This was a time for answers, not for playoff pushes. Commissioner Bud Selig put the MLB season on hold, waiting to make sure America would not come under attack again.

More violence never came, luckily. But answers were slow to develop. Who were these people? How many of them did this? How did they manage to take over four separate planes? What of United 93? Without the heroics of the passengers there, what other horrors could we have seen?

We Americans may never truly understand why so many had to die ten years ago. But we should take a moment to realize the things that bring us together as a community.

On September 10, 2001, the Seattle Mariners won their 104th game of the season after losing four consecutive to American League West foes. The man with one name, Ichiro, had come and fit in immediately with Mariner’s legends John Olerud, Dan Wilson, Mike Cameron, Brett Boone, and a squad of legends that captured the imagination of all of us who lived in the Pacific Northwest.

We all woke up to the horrors unfolding in New York, Washington D.C., and Pennsylvania the next morning. We had school – I was in sixth grade, trying to meet new friends – and no one really quite understood how to react.

The nation was devastated. Our once-divisive issues were dropped in favor of cohesion and mourning. And for six days, sports were the last thing on anyone’s mind.

Commissioner Selig restarted play on September 18, and God Bless America echoed through the cathedrals built for sport on once-empty lots decades ago. These places, and the shiny new stadiums that followed, were never meant to be palaces of destruction and mourning. They were constructed to bring the community together over one thing: Sport.

Post-9/11, they did just that. And in the Pacific Northwest, we had our own special tribute. The Mariners clinching the AL West championship on their way to a 116-game winning season made us all remember that not everything in America was so bad. We hadn’t come close to forgetting what happened, but instead of pointing fingers and screaming, we had a reason to come together.

Following that win, the Mariner’s team marched around the field and thanked their fans for their support. The public address system played ‘Proud To Be An American’ while the players, lead by utility infielder Mark McLemore, carried an American flag during the salute. Jamie Moyer and Edgar Martinez, two veterans and Mariner icons, cried as they made their lap. Watching on television, we all heard our play-by-play announcer Rick Rizz tell us that, “Maybe there is crying in baseball.”

Sports did exactly what they were supposed to do. In the mid-1900s, they helped break down race barriers. In 2001, they helped begin the healing process on festering wounds we thought were irreparable. We have our differences. We have our flash points and arguments. But when we need it the most, sports bring us back together.

This September, ten years later, remember that. There is always something that can take people totally different background and smash them together on a hard piece of metal in the glaring sun, pouring rain, or blowing snow. Never forget September 11th, but especially never forget what brought us together.

In memory of all the victims and their families whose lives were drastically altered in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

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