Chin Music Sports Serve as Symbol, Pro Athletes Should Play Ball

Whether you like it or not, sports and sporting events form an integral part of American society. In less turbulent times, most water-cooler conversations across the country center upon the previous night’s games and many Americans spend at least one half-hour of each of their days catching sports scores and highlights.

It is therefore fitting that on Sept. 11, a day that saw one of the most tragic losses of life in human history, events from the sporting world complemented the images and words captured on everyone’s television sets.

Although, to be sure, most of us were much more concerned with the horrible footage of airplanes-turned-guided missiles demolishing buildings on Tuesday, the manner in which the sports establishment reacted to Tuesday’s events demonstrated just how deeply these attacks affected America.

Basically, that reaction meant all professional and most collegiate sports would be shut down this weekend. The assaults forced Major League Baseball to do something it had not done since the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt: cancel all games for the night. A statement from commissioner Bud Selig’s office cited both security concerns and sympathy for the grief of the entire nation. Over the course of the next few days, Selig cancelled all games through the weekend, an action which has not been taken since the year the Red Sox last won the World Series. All games delayed by this incident will eventually be played at the beginning of October, pushing the start of the playoffs back a few days.

In addition to the baseball postponements, all NFL football games were called off for this weekend, and Major League Soccer, the PGA, and all college football teams (including Georgetown) have also refused to suit up their players.

American sports organizations must now ask themselves the question: “When should the games begin again?” Some, like Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones, think that playing games at this point in time is a ridiculous notion. Jones said to Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporters on Wednesday that “It’s very petty to even think about playing a baseball game at this point. … Thousands of lives have been lost. I’d imagine we’ll take swift action to find out who did this. I think everybody is focused on that and not something as unimportant as a few September baseball games.”

Pittsburgh Steeler Jerome Bettis said to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “The country is in mourning, and we are the country’s entertainment. I don’t know if the country wants to be entertained right now.”

There are a few issues to deal with when deciding when to restart play. The first is safety of players and fans. Many figure that if the World Trade Center can be taken down, a large stadium with tens of thousands of people could make for another terrorist target.

Resources are the second issue. In affected areas such as New York, security would certainly have to be beefed up at the ballpark if a game were to be played, drawing police forces away from the areas of the city where their presence is sorely needed.

The third concern is the same concern that Jones and Bettis have expressed: the concern that the country is simply too busy mourning to care about something as simple as a football game.

As far as safety goes, Commisioner Selig said Thursday morning he had been assured that play could resume safely. The resource issue is another matter: I don’t think games should be played in the Bronx or at Shea Stadium (which is currently being used as a relief command center, by the way) if the diversion of personnel will put others in danger. However, as for my two cents on the third matter, I believe it to be complete bunk.

I went up to Kehoe and played touch football on Tuesday afternoon (under circling helicopters and military jets) after watching about six straight hours of Peter Jennings. I can’t fathom how that could be considered disrespectful in any way, so why should it be different for professional sporting events? In fact, I found tossing the pigskin around to be rather cathartic. There seems to be an assumption among league commisioners that Americans should be too busy staying home and crying into their pillows to even consider going to a game and taking their mind off things. I personally think we have all done just about all the reflecting on this tragedy that we can stand at the moment. I had tickets to the Orioles-Red Sox game on Friday, and I can’t think of anything that would have been better for my psyche right now than to suck back a couple of hot dogs and bag of peanuts while watching Manny take a few swings of the bat.

As I’ve said before, sports determines the pulse of American society. Let’s enjoy the games, and show whoever committed this heinous crime that we can get on with our lives.

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