Last Sunday, we all paused to remember the 10th anniversary of a defining moment of our generation: the attacks of Sept. 11. On a level unseen since the Cuban Missile Crisis, our nation was gripped with a sense of fear and panic. All the safety we’ve felt as Americans suddenly came crashing down during the violent attacks of that day. Just as it has countless times before, sports allowed us to put the patriotism and fear of the day in perspective.

This weekend, football players — accustomed to being simply men behind masks, raw athletes prone to using brute force to achieve their objective — turned into patriotic symbols with red, white, and blue cleats and memorial messages on their gloves. In one of sports’ most anonymous professions, an NFL referee quietly jogged onto the field with a small American flag in his back pocket before kickoff. This weekend served as a reminder that the most beautiful thing about sports in all of this is that it remembers. Despite the fact that there are almost no similarities between the sporting world of September 11, 2001 and today, athletes of all races, teams and sports took part in mourning loss and celebrating patriotism.

How different are the two worlds we’re trying to compare? On that day in 2001, the University of Miami was ranked No. 1 in football and was well on their way to one of the most dominating national championships seasons of all time. Now? Miami is living in fear of the death penalty from the NCAA after a scandal of epic proportions.

The largest baseball storylines of that day are even more irrelevant in the present. On Sept. 10, 2001, the sporting world was heralding Barry Bonds as a hero after he belted his 63rd home run on his way to a record-breaking 73 that season. Since then, Barry Bonds is only known as a joke, a walking Mister Potato Head. In the pre-9/11 world, steroids in baseball were only quietly questioned and not yet the subject of a congressional hearing, massive scandals and phenomenal cover stories (if anyone would like to help Manny Ramirez explain why he was caught taking female fertility drugs, he’d love the help).

In the NFL, Kerry Collins had just “resurrected” his career with an impressive Monday night performance against Denver. In Collins’ case though, this resurrection has lasted for another 10 years: He started on Sunday for the Indianapolis Colts while qualifying for AARP benefits. Shouldn’t there be a rule in football that if it’s been 13 years since your DUI scandal, you should be forced into retirement, or at least a rule for a decade-long limit on any comeback attempt?

The current crop of young athletes, entertaining us with their skills, precision and antics, were not even in the ranks of professional sports when the events of 9/11 occurred. In baseball, the reigning National League MVP was only 18 years old and still living in Toronto at the time of the attacks. These players were not there to stand beside the New York Yankees as George Bush threw out the ceremonial first pitch of that year’s World Series, nor were they able to rush into NFL stadiums with American flags proudly waving behind. For the most part, the athletes we watched honor America last weekend were children at the time of 9/11.

That’s what made Sunday even more special. You didn’t have to be a member of the Yankees to feel the pain of the attacks, nor did you necessarily have to even be from New York. On Sept. 11, 2001, millions of people across the country went through the same experience. For that reason, we were able to connect with every MLB player with an American flag sewn on the back of his uniform.

As we watched the members of the University of Florida football team take the field with an American flag in their arms, we watched a group who were mere middle schoolers at the time of the attacks represent our nation. Much has changed in the last 10 years, but the sense of respect and remembrance we saw this weekend showed that the ever-evolving world of sports will always lend our nation as much support as it can.

Corey Blaine is a junior in the McDonough School of Business. The Bleacher Seats appears every Friday.

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