Athletics in post Sept. 11 world

Sideline Scholars

Few things on this earth give me the chills. But one event that sent tingles up my spine was legendary announcer Jack Buck's speech on Sept. 17, 2001.

Buck's words celebrated baseball's return to action after the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001. He opened the speech by forcefully answering his own question: "Should we be here? Yes, we should."

I don't know if there's a statement in sports I've ever agreed with more. In the face of national tragedy, Americans found solace in sports. And now, two years later, we still find relief there.

Every time "God Bless America" is played during the seventh inning stretch of a baseball game, fans remember. Sports are the glue that holds America together during its darkest hour.

Looking back, though, the face of American sports has drastically changed since that fateful day two years ago. Attendance has dwindled because of increased security and the economic hit Sept. 11 caused. Teams sport American flags on helmets, uniforms and stadiums. And now you can hear a pin drop when "The Star-Spangled Banner" is played.

While it is up to individual interpretation whether these changes are positive or negative, there is no doubt that sports have evolved into one of the most important aspects of our society.

Personally, I've experienced more chills watching sports over the past two years than ever before. From the New England Patriots winning the Super Bowl, to an eagle flying into Yankee Stadium, to watching the players mouth the words to "The Star-Spangled Banner" at AU basketball games, I am constantly moved by sports.

I must confess I'd been to a thousand ball games before Sept. 11 and rarely paid attention during "The Star-Spangled Banner." However, I have attended about 100 games since the attacks, and every time, I sing along to our nation's anthem.

As a journalist, I take pride in those who have covered sports long before me and Buck is one of the best. In his speech he uttered the words, "War is just not our nature. We won't start ... but we will end the fight. If we are involved we shall be resolved to protect what we know is right."

Protecting what is right is where sports enter the picture. The sanctity of freedom is what is right and sports epitomize this. When I turn the television on Sunday and root for my beloved Dallas Cowboys even though I'm in D.C., I exhibit this very freedom Buck spoke of.

This is the reason why sports were such an important tool in our nation's recovery from Sept. 11. Millions of fans went to ballparks on Sept. 17 and billions have gone since to show their own freedom and joy.

Just this past week, football took over our nation's capital as the worlds of entertainment and sports collectively held the nation in the palm of their hands in a patriotic masterpiece.

Adam Vinatieri, the Patriots' place kicker, may have placed the exclamation point on sports' effect on Sept. 11 when his field goal sailed through the uprights and gave the Super Bowl to the Patriots, the PATRIOTS! (Don't even try telling me that's just a coincidence).

And as the Patriots celebrated their victory, red, white and blue confetti rained down onto the field. The site was an emotional one, a relevant one and an absolutely perfect moment. Not because I love the Pats (I don't), but because for the first time in four months, a nation was well on its way to recovery.

We may never fully heal, but sports continue to push America in the right direction.

Should we (sports) be here? I don't think I could ever say it emphatically enough: Of course we should!

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