By Eric Charbonnet @ECHARB10
I think everyone remembers where he or she was on the morning of September 11, 2001. I know I sure do. I was seven years old in my parents’ kitchen eating breakfast. Something people might not remember, though, was where they were on the night of September 21, 2001.
That was no ordinary Friday night; it was the night baseball came back to New York, and an aching nation could take a breath and pretend things were normal for a few precious hours.
The stage was set, the chess pieces in motion. As the Braves and Mets took the field, their storied rivalry took a back seat to something much greater as Liza Minnelli belted out the national anthem. The tension in the air was palpable as the last words rang and as hugs were exchanged by the rivals. The fuse was there, the electricity in the air was tangible, and all that was needed was one spark for the whole stadium to erupt in the emotional way that a city and a nation yearned for.
The rest is history. Mike Piazza’s game winning home run sent the stadium into hysteria for a brief moment of careless ecstasy. People in New York were cheering for the first time in what seemed liked an eternity, and the first ray of light broke through what felt like an impenetrable fog.
The sun shone through even brighter yet again when George W. Bush strode out to the mound at Yankee Stadium for the opening pitch of Game 3 of the 2001 World Series. The crowd cheered as the President waved to them in his New York Fire Department jacket.
The stadium stood a little straighter as the pitch came close to being delivered. The raucous mass seemed to hold its breath.
The pitch came right down the middle, a perfect strike. The people in the stands, both the cheap seats and boxes alike, completely lost their minds. Sporting events were healing the people of this country, or doing their part to, one strike, hit, and run at a time.
The Yankees vying for another ring was exactly what New York needed at the time; the nation didn’t mind it either. It makes sense when you think about it though, in a time of such extreme change, when absolutely nothing felt normal or seemed the same, sports remained unfazed.
No matter what, each team still needs to score runs, get 27 outs, and play hard. It was a beautiful thing, that familiarity.
It gave people a much-needed break from the revolving door that was their lives at that time. The fact that New York was trying to defend its title was just icing on the cake. It doesn’t get more familiar than that in the game of baseball.
After people saw and felt what sports could do after 9/11, people began to turn to sports for healing after other tragedies as well. The first game back in the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina, a blocked punt meant a win, and the first smile a city had seen in too long. Bombs blew up in Boston. There were so many people injured and ailing, but then it happened. With a flag draped over the Green Monster, David Ortiz spoke to the waiting ears of the wounded, and a nation stirred again.
Everyone is nervous when it comes to change, and tragic events are sudden change in the extreme. This is exactly why people can turn to sports in these times. Sports are constant, unwavering, and time tested. They’re images of familiarity and reminders of another, simpler time, turning down the noise of the current world, which has gotten too loud.