For the six days immediately following the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, absolutely no one cared about baseball, and rightly so. It was irrelevant, as was anything but rescue efforts and attempts to comfort those who had lost loved ones. But when it did return on Monday night, America was right to feel it had regained a certain sense of normalcy, a certain comfort in seeing that their national pastime had indeed returned.

The way games themselves were played – with decreased attendance and increased security – provided a glimpse of the nation’s pulse. We are all more cautious and uncertain right now, but at the same time we stand proudly defiant in the face of our fear and uncertainty – and we play on.

It reminded us all once again that although baseball may never save the world, it is an important part of our lives, and how important psychologically it is to be able to escape, even for a few hours, from the horrors with which we have all been faced. If baseball, and other sports for that matter, do nothing more than allow us to take our minds off the events of the past week, then they have truly done a public service.

Maybe baseball can’t save the world, but as the Associated Press’ account of the Mets-Pirates game put it on Monday night, “for the first time in a week, New York is a winner tonight.”

Baseball players are often accused of being spoiled millionaires who don’t care about the fans and don’t have any attachment to the cities in which they play, and for good reason. There are too many examples from recent history to deny that they are often among the most self-absorbed elements of our society. But this past week showed us that it isn’t always like that. You need no more evidence of their humility than the image of Mike Piazza, whose contract pays him more in a year than most New York city cops will ever see in a lifetime, honoring them by wearing an NYPD cap. The rest of the team did as well, donning caps honoring the New York Fire Department and EMS instead of their own teams during their game Tuesday in Pittsburgh.

The other images from ballparks across the country were a welcome departure from the unspeakable images coming out of New York.

How great was it to see images of the American flag across the pitcher’s mound as the entire stadium sang “God Bless America” in Pittsburgh?

How fitting is it that in the first two days of resumed play, the city of New York was a combined 3-0?

Was it simply coincidence that 42-year-old John Franco, the only New York native on the Met roster, whose son’s Little League coach was one of the firefighters lost in the attack, was the winning pitcher of the Mets’ first game since the attacks? aybe, but I don’t think so.

If you ask me, it was justice, in her own small way, reminding us that she is still out there, that she knows we need her wherever we can find her right now.

Maybe there really is magic out there right now, and maybe it’s enough to pull off a small miracle in the wake of tragedy. As of Wednesday morning, the Mets were a mere six games behind the Atlanta Braves with two weeks remaining in the season. A long shot to be sure, but the teams do play each six times in the next 10 days, starting tonight in what is sure to be an emotional return to Shea Stadium.

It wouldn’t be the first time the Mets have made an against-all-odds charge for the playoffs. In both 1969 and 1973, they made late moves to make the World Series in both years, earning the team its one enduring nickname, the Amazins’.

The rallying cry for the Amazin’ Mets in that magical summer of 1969 was “You gotta believe.” Maybe magic won’t be enough for the Mets this time around, but you never know.

Especially in times like these, you gotta believe.

Running the Option U.S. Spirit Will Prevail -Sep. 14, 2001 A Little Bit Of History Repeating -Sep. 7, 2001 Any Ending A Bad One For Almonte -Aug. 31, 2001 It’s Been So Long … That We Might As Well Keep Singing the Fight Song -Aug. 24, 2001

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