9/11: the real score

One year ago today, the rules of the game changed forever.
Sept. 11, 2001 brought a permanent time-out to our feelings of invincibility as North American residents.
The terrorism contests taking place in the Middle East, which we had been casual spectators to before 9/11, suddenly had found a new arena—our own backyard.
What happened in the streets of New York City and Washington, D.C., as well as in the skies over Pennsylvania, was no game. It was real life—as chilling and devastating as we could ever imagine it.
All walks of life were touched by that day’s events, and the sports world was no exception.
Major league baseball, despite its pennant drives in full swing, ground to an immediate halt. So did the National Football League as well as many other sports across North America and right around the globe.
Athletes everywhere had to address fears for their own safety when travelling to competitions. Some Olympic participants even considered skipping the Winter Games in Salt Lake City this past February to avoid the risk of putting themselves in harm’s way.
Los Angeles Kings scout “Ace” Bailey lost his life in the attacks, as did friends and family members of numerous other athletes, coaches, and team officials.
That’s not to say every one of the nearly 3,000 lives taken in the horrific drama wasn’t just as important. When the dust finally settled and the full impact of 9/11 sank in, though, the sporting community played both tangible and intangible roles in the extensive healing process.
There were athletes volunteering at “Ground Zero,” helping feed the heroic firefighters and other rescue personnel who spent countless hours digging through the rubble in search of the dead and wounded.
Others willingly did unpaid commercial spots promoting the various charities supporting the families of victims.
Then there were the games themselves, which served as both a distraction from the nightmare that had occurred and a galvanizing force for both teams and fans to help each other try and rediscover a sense of normalcy in their lives.
But some segments of society, including the sporting component, already have forgotten the lessons of togetherness and tolerance that 9/11 so emphatically taught us.
In numerous sports, at both the professional and amateur level, players still consider dangerous underhanded tactics during competition acceptable. So what if an opponent’s knee gets torn to shreds with a cheap shot, as long as it give the culprit’s team an advantage?
At thousands of sporting venues, fans still don’t hesitate to call for the head of the officials, or publicly humiliate their own children by vocally browbeating them because they missed a defensive responsibility or failed to hit the winning shot.
Much of life is based on perspective—and people like these are in dire need of a reality check.
Because your team didn’t win the series, your child didn’t make the all-star team, or the ref blew the call doesn’t give you grounds to act like a hot-headed Neanderthal.
Remember, those who succumbed to the wicked hand of terrorism didn’t get a next year—or even another tomorrow. They’ll never get to catch one more foul ball, celebrate one more touchdown, commiserate over one more loss, or cheer one more victory.
We’re still in the game. Let’s never take that for granted.

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