<
>

The right call?

9/28/2001

When silent, even a fool is considered wise. That's from Proverbs. It's not
often followed. We Americans had to say something.

Americans said things such as "playing the games is not as important as what
happened in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania."

Oh?

Americans said things such as what happened "helps put things in
perspective."

You think?

Not to come off more grounded than the next guy, I had long held the view
that the playing of games was somehow less important than an attack against
American cities using hijacked commercial airplanes as weapons. I'd long espoused the
heresy that the playing of games is far less important than a whole
lot of things.
Most things.

But what the hell do I know? It took me a week to put this down on paper.

I wasn't on the schedule to work SportsCenter for several days after the
attacks. I listened mostly to news, not sports. There were no sports for the
most part. I watched high school girls play soccer the day after the attacks when my
family and I stopped at a park for 30 minutes, to be outdoors away from the incessant news
reports. I didn't think our break from listening to the news nor the
playing of a high school girls soccer game was disrespectful to the dead.

Some small college football was played last Saturday. That didn't dishonor
our country or its victims. As a country we pay little or no attention to
small college football games or girls soccer games. But these games matter a
great deal to their communities. So, just as community grocers went to work,
just as gas stations and dry cleaners and other small business people carried on, what was the
problem with small games -- so big to their participants -- being conducted?

Probably nothing. The grand debate was reserved for our nationally celebrated sports.

We argued all sides of the question. We weren't even sure what the argument
was about. Was it a debate about respect for victims and country? Was it
about security concerns? Did it have something to do with some notion that
the players "couldn't be focused" for their big important games? We'd built
our athletes up so much, elevated their status to such a degree, we were
willing to go along with the premise that they were somehow more affected
than the rest of us Joes. Does anyone really believe the left tackle for the
Green Bay Packers would be more troubled going back to work than a United
Airlines employee?

Lots of folks went right back to work. Do you know why? It's
because that's what they do. They go to work. Restaurant employees, who worked just blocks
away from the World Trade Center, went back to work. They made meals their
employers handed out for free to fire and police personnel who were risking
their lives. They did that while the sports world debated the question about
whether the left tackle for the Green Bay Packers could cope.

So this week we're back at play. Football will be played. Baseball started
up again Monday night. We're clear now that these games aren't so damn
important any longer. The worst-ever attack on the United States was enlightening like
that. But had we somehow attained such "perspective" previous to Sept. 11,
2001 maybe we could have spared the country such unnecessary debate. If the
games are relatively unimportant now, we might also consider that they always were.

Some racetracks took criticism for not suspending their meets. But I'm not
convinced that "open for business" was the worst response one could have.

As it turns out, millions of Americans went back to work long before our
athletes did.