The phone rang, it was mom….she was crying….the world as most of us know it would never be the same.
I was half awake and at my parents’ house as I was watching my sister for the week. I had graduated college three months prior and was getting close to the real world. 11 days earlier I had moved from the suburban bubble of Lake County to the urban bubble of Lakeview. Through her tears my mom was muttering something about the United States being invaded. Though I was half awake that terminology jolted me into an upright position. I chuckled half heartedly as I knew that was impossible. I raced upstairs from my bedroom and turned on the television. Every channel was showing the two towers smoking as every broadcaster struggled for words. My mom, still crying on the other line, kept asking me if I was by a TV. She wanted to know what was happening. As I was about to respond the first tower tumbled down a hundred stories. I still vividly remember my feelings. Shock, horror, confusion, terror, anger, scared, sad. I acted as a play by play man to my mom for a few more minutes and then we ended our conversation with more loving terms than I thought possible.
I stared at the television for awhile and then called my two roommates. We had tickets to Wrigley that night. The Cubs were still holding on to a possible playoff birth and I had never walked to Wrigley from my house before. It was quite clear rather quickly that there would be no baseball for awhile.
The whole world watched the whole world change within in two hours. Terrorists decided that our way of life was wrong and so they needed to kill thousands of innocent mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, doctors, lawyers, teachers, bankers, firemen and policemen. Yes, that will show the world what we are all about. This will prove that they are wrong and we are right. But about a week later something happened. Something happened that they did not expect.
We kept going. Our world kept going. Dozens of players from many different countries took the field adorned in the American flag. The flag flew proudly from every car and house on the block while we sang “God Bless America.” Maybe we needed a reminder about how great our country is, but we did not need that. And they did not need what happened. Sammy Sosa popped, hopped and trotted with the American Flag in his hand.
Derek Jeter and Joe Torre made the pain go away for awhile. Mike Piazza’s game winning blast days later made people feel normal again. The playoffs started and for three hours every night we had a diversion. Days rolled into weeks and the pain lessened and normalcy heightened. For once the country rooted for the Yankees. But there was no bad guy in this World Series. The bad guys were cowardly hiding in caves thousand of miles away. Enemy and hero received new definitions and our place in the world was redefined. But baseball remained the same. The great American pastime became the way for America to move on and recover.
Sports are and always will be a release. They are an escape from every day life and a diversion from reality. And most importantly they are entertaining. They pull at your emotions, bring great joy and cause great pain. Sometimes sports are too important; sometimes they cause too much trouble. While the term “It’s just a game” has always peeved me, there is some truth to it.
The Cubs may pull this thing out, they may not. We could be on cloud nine or wish we were six feet under. As this month rolls along and the football season gets into high gear I ask you one favor….
Always remember sports and their true frame. They are not life or death, but instead a great way to help us stop thinking about life and death for awhile. Baseball helped a nation recover from one of the worst days it has ever witnessed. As much as I love baseball I hope we never have to turn to it in that manner. Go kiss your wife, hug your children or give your grandmother a call….and until next time….
Stay Classy United States of America!!!