9/11 showed us how sports can unify

September 11, 2010 |

On September 11, 2001, I was a college student at George Mason University. After sports, my passion in life is history and civics; that autumn I took a course on the American Presidency which was held on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 – 10:15 AM. I had another class at 10:30, so as I got out of class that Tuesday and was walking to the next one, someone walking in front of me got a call on his cell phone. The guy said, “…oh they hit the Pentagon too?!” I looked at the guy walking next to me with a dazzed look; he said, “…that didn’t sound good.” Someone walking behind us over heard the conversation and told me what had happened while I had been in class…

We all remember the events of those times, and if you’re anything like me you can probably recall small little details about that day as well. I remember going home from school because God forbid something else should happen, I didn’t want to be in my dorm away from my family. I remember hearing on a traffic report that there was a broken down vehicle on the side of the road on a highway at some point that day. That brought a smile to my face because at the very least that was some sort of normal occurance on a day that was in no other way business as usual. When I got home from college I immediately took out my Dad’s flag pole and American flag and put it up in the front yard at half staff. When my Dad came home from work and we started watching all of the coverage on CNN, I was flashed back to another similar moment in my own history. While the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger wasn’t a tragedy on the level of 9/11, it was a major event in American history and in my life. To this day, I vividly remember watching (with my Dad) President Reagan speak to us from the Oval Office, just as President Bush did that night.

As we all remember, the sports world literally stopped for about a week after 9/11. To me, there’s no greater personification of the role that sports play in our lives in this country than the events of September 16, 2001. For the first time since the 1987 players strike, there was no NFL football on a Sunday afternoon (at that time of year). Along with the NFL, baseball grinded to a halt on the heels of this horrible tragedy. I remember seeing an interview with Mark McGuire regarding whether they should or shouldn’t play. His comment was that all sports should absolutely take pause because athletes are just that: athletes. Not military personnel, police, firemen, etc. Those are the real heros of our society, not home run kings or quarterbacks. Not the camden heros that we see at Oriole Park, but those that fight to protect our right to call those people heros.

So some of you might be wondering when I’m going to tie this in with the Orioles or Ravens. There are some things that supercede even my love of sports, or sports’ place in our society. September 11th is one of them. The NY Giants had played the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football the night before the attacks; I remember thinking that perhaps a lot of people in the World Trade Center had been late to work after having been up late for the game (thus lowering the potential death toll). However as soon as we realized that America was under attack, even the most ardent sports fan wasn’t even thinking about that game, or about the fact that Cal Ripken Jr. was retiring in a few weeks’ time. One of the ripple effects of the September 11th attacks was that baseball rescheduled a whole week’s worth of games, tacking on a week to the regular season. This allowed Cal Ripken’s last game to be played at Oriole Park at Camden Yards (the O’s had previously been slated to finish on the road in NY). While it was nice to see him finish his career in the city of Baltimore, I think we all would have traded that moment for our country to not have been attacked (including Cal).

However when sports returned, we saw it as a unifying force as opposed to a divider. When the NY Giants came to FedEx Field to play the Washington Redskins, I found myself shaking hands with a few NY fans that made the trip, and asking them how things were going in their neck of the woods. They did the same with the Redskin fans, as both cities were attacked. The following spring when the Yankees came to Oriole Park, that same scene replayed itself. I hate seeing my beloved Oriole Park at Camden Yards overrun with Yankee or Red Sox fans. However next time we experience that perhaps we should remember that our military is in the line of fire to protect ours and their rights to come to the ballpark. That Yankee fan bleeds just as red, white, and blue as you or I, and that Boston fan probably loves his country the same as we do. Effectively, we’re all on the same home team.

…for the record, on that September 11, 2001 our class on the American Presidency covered the special war powers of the President. I remember the professor saying that nobody had ever seen them used in our lifetimes. How ironic things can be sometimes. With all of that said, my deepest appreciation and thanks goes out to the thousands and millions of military personnel, policemen, firemen, etc. that protect the O so beautiful and spacious skies of our beloved United States of America. Be you liberal or conservative, black or white, northerner or southerner, Oriole fan or otherwise, you live and breathe the amber waves of grain of the United States of America. You wave the star-spangled stripes of Old Glory as the banner of your homeland while singing a song that was written in Baltimore Harbor as it’s national anthem. With all of this said, may God rest the souls of the deceased of 9/11 in peace, may he provide comfort to the survivors, watch over our military, and may he always continue to bless our America.