How Baseball Helped Heal America After 9/11 - The Role of Sports
The Role of Sports After 9/11
Baseball undoubtedly helped heal a hurting nation after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Football surely did, too, and, perhaps other sports, but none more than baseball, a game I’ve been following since the young days of childhood, tuning in the radio to listen to the St. Louis Cardinals with my dad and brothers.
Remember the old Chevrolet jingle? “We love baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet, baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet….” The sentiment expressed in that catchy tune from 30-some years ago is what I equated with the beauty of the game of baseball and its integral part of American culture. After 9/11, baseball proved its significance as more than just a game.
By no means am I saying that America was healed in those weeks and months after 9/11, when baseball started back up again after a six day hiatus. Nor am I saying that America is healed now. But America is resilient, and the phrase “Life goes on,” though often overused, has perhaps never held more truth than it did in the days after 9/11. Days when it seemed the world seemingly stopped. No planes in the skies. Fewer cars on the streets. Parents not knowing whether or not to send their kids to school…or go to work. No one could escape the tragedy of 9/11. Whether or not we personally lost loved ones, we watched their distraught and destroyed families, as they were transmitted into our living rooms, day after day, night after night, with story after story of devastating loss.
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- Baseball Helped Country Heal After 9/11
When the planes hit the Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001, it seemed like the world stopped. The baseball world did. ... for six days. For many of the players and coaches in the major leagues at the time, thoughts eventually turned to if and when they...
Reactions of Baseball Players
How were we to care about a game, a mere sport, when we were reeling from the senseless deaths of nearly 3000 innocent people who had left behind countless thousands more to mourn? Atlanta Braves’ baseball player, Chipper Jones, and others, recall that they didn’t care when—or if—they played again, as baseball became insignificant, even with the play-offs coming up. How could it not be secondary, at best, in light of what had happened? Still, after six days, Major League Baseball had decided to again take the field.
The St. Louis Cardinals and Jack Buck
On the night of September 17th, I tuned in to see the return of my St. Louis Cardinals, who were hosting the Milwaukee Brewers. Jack Buck, long-time Cardinals announcer, delivered an eloquent speech and a touching poem that he had written for the occasion. His words exemplified America’s strength and resolve. He asked, "Should we be here?" and answered his own question with "Yes."
Lifting the spirits of New York after 9/11
Hope for New York and the Mets
Across the nation from St. Louis, four days later, on September 21st, New York Mets' player Mike Piazza lifted the spirits of New Yorkers when he lifted a home run ball out of Shea Stadium. That home run is credited as key in bringing back a sense of normalcy to New York.
Sure, baseball is "just a game." A game that has been a part of this country through difficult changes and traumatic loss. A game that helps us to focus on life again as we learn to live again and enjoy normal things.
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Fans around America
New York and St. Louis weren't the only baseball stadiums full of supportive fans and proud Americans. Around the nation, baseball fans waved their flags and sang “God Bless America” during the seventh-inning stretch, an act that has become a regular part of the game.
Baseball fans, brought together by their love of the game and love of their country, exhibited a new sense of comaraderie and patriotism, enthusiastically supporting their teams while remembering America and its fallen heroes.
We Will Endure....
So, what was the role of baseball in steering a grieving nation towards healing? On its simplest level, the game gave Americans an outlet, a release, and even an escape from the sorrow they saw in those early, dark days. When everything had changed, when nothing felt normal, baseball stepped in to help give us some kind of sense of normalcy. On a deeper level, baseball gave Americans a sense of solidarity and perhaps a new found pride for their country and respect for fellow Americans.
Baseball didn’t just give Americans a distraction; it helped them to begin to heal, as it joined them in honoring those lost, as well as in the efforts to survive a changed world. Fans embraced baseball's recognition of the great loss America had suffered, as well as its presence in helping Americans move on, something the whole country had to do.
Ten years later, I watch the pre-game ceremonies before an NFL football game--stirring stories from 9/11, a beautifully haunting rendition of TAPS. All day, the airways remember 9/11 with its programs and its commercials. Even with "moving on," there will always be continual remembrance. Often we hear, “We will never forget.” And we won’t. And neither will baseball.
September 11, 2011