September 19, 2001

Major League Healing

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The events that unfolded last Tuesday have caused many Americans to feel insecure throughout this following week. A certain reluctance for everyday living has replaced the complacent confidence we all once held in this seemingly impenetrable nation we call home.

However, the world of sports has aided in restoring the faith of a people. And baseball, wielding its power as an iconic symbol of America itself, has taken the early lead in the effort for renewal.

As Major League Baseball resumed play Monday night, a similar feeling of anxious pride blanketed most ballparks. Attendance at many of the big city stadiums slumped as many Americans chose the safety of their living rooms to the public gatherings of pro-baseball stands.

In Pittsburgh Monday night, less than half of those who bought tickets attended the Pirates-Mets opening game.

Coors’ Field in Colorado was sold out on Monday night for the Rockies’ match-up against Randy Johnson and the Diamondbacks. However, one third of the paid seating remained empty throughout the contest.

Fans all over the nation expressed their concern for the obvious dangers of being in such public environments in the wake of the horrible terrorist acts.

While heightened security measures were aimed at comforting fans arriving at the ballpark, most people still had reservations to going to the games.

And who can blame them?

Why shouldn’t extra care be taken by security and extra consideration exercised by fans at events nationwide amidst threats of further attacks?

As for myself, the mere image of armed guards and sniffing dogs presiding over America’s pastime is an uneasing and crushing image.

When I was eleven, I was converted to a Yankee fan and made my first visit to Yankee Stadium. The first time I beheld that Eden, I was eleven years old. I had hardly begun algebra, but I knew that I was experiencing something special.

Last week, the image of an empty Yankee Stadium with a lone American flag hanging in centerfield the day after the attacks somehow put things in perspective for me — as it had seven years prior.

Once again I knew that I was experiencing something unique. But on this occasion uniquely tragic, and tears once again weld in my eyes.

I imagine many Americans experienced similar feelings returning to the ballparks they loved this week.

Yet, somehow the power of the American spirit rang proud in our nation’s stadiums, as the power of sport once again awakened a feeling of patriotic togetherness in cities everywhere.

The national anthem was coupled with “God Bless America” at most games, and the recently ubiquitous stars and stripes laced most stadiums’ rafters, walls, entrances, and fans.

Solemn ceremonies for those victimized in the attacks were commonly followed by a call to all Americans for continued support in the ongoing rescue efforts and for the actions America will take in the weeks to come.

In the spirit of our President’s call on citizens to resume “business as usual,” baseball responded nobly.

And at such a trying time in our history, we are all being called upon to respond in exceptional ways.

In the games that followed such ceremonies, baseball players reacted by playing their hearts out as usual. John Franco made a gutsy save in the Mets’ win on Monday night, while Randy Johnson pitched remarkably to garner his 19th win in Colorado.

These men, as some may argue, were by no means going about their business and forgetting the events of last Tuesday. Instead, they were making a very bold and important statement — that statement being: we need to remember, we need to wear the American flag with pride (as all major league clubs were called upon to do), but we also need to embark upon a life of passion fueled by the reemergence of the American spirit.

We can not live in fear at a time when courage will be the test of our nation’s resiliency.

You may have your doubts about ever going to a ballgame again, but baseball has now made its promise to the American people.

Come to us, and we will provide comfort. We will mourn for those who’ve died, cheer for those who’ve long been the true heroes of our nation (the firefighters and policemen we so often take for granted), and we will celebrate the re-forging of our national pride by providing what little relief we can through the avenue of sport.

Many people have done something to help our nation’s broken spirit at this most unfortunate time, and more will be called upon as the war we have been promised approaches.

As an institution with so much influence over an onlooking nation, it is good to see Major League Baseball playing its part.

We could all use such an example.

Archived article by Scott Jones