Wednesday, September 12, 2001

Sports ought to put games on the shelf




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        The toy department is temporarily closed. The events of the day have made fun seem frivolous. The land of the brave has been struck from the blind side and been staggered. The nation wants revenge, not relaxation.

        In the unreal aftermath of Tuesday morning's terrorist attacks, as we count the casualties and brace ourselves against the unknown, our games clash with our grief. They require more resilience than we can readily produce, more travel than is presently permitted and a police presence we surely cannot spare.

        Out of respect for the dead and concern for the living, sporting events throughout the country were canceled Tuesday. Given heightened security measures and the
logistical problems inherent in transporting teams during an airline shutdown, it may be several days before play resumes.

Wait for answers

        This is as it should be. There is no point in filling our ballparks with potential targets or in pretending that sports can salve so deep a wound as was absorbed Tuesday. In the days ahead, as precautions are taken and answers are achieved, America will return to the refuge of athletics and begin the long road back to normalcy.

        For now, however, let us heed the message of former baseball commissioner Fay Vincent, whose finest hour was spent recognizing that in the context of a catastrophe, the World Series could wait. It was, in his words, “a modest, little sporting event.” The grandest of our games are only that: games.

        They exist to entertain us, to distract us from our troubles, to inspire us with examples of individual excellence. They serve a purpose, but they can survive postponement. When the dust settles, and the debris has been cleared, we again will seek the sanctuary of the stadium. Until then, we can always play catch with our children.

        Reason says you do not yield to terrorism. You do not allow it to disrupt your daily life. You cannot fear fear itself lest you live in a state of perpetual paranoia.

Games will heal, eventually

        Yet when terrorist attacks can be coordinated, and losses are large, it is irresponsible to behave as if nothing has changed. All our terrorism experience — in Oklahoma City and Beirut and most recently aboard the U.S.S. Cole — was but a pale prelude to the horrific attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and our collective confidence. Unless and until we can retaliate in such force and with such specificity as to diminish the dangers of playing the world's policeman, the scars of this dreadful day will span generations.

        Sports will play its part in the healing process, just as it did after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. It will remind us, as James Earl Jones says in Field Of Dreams, of “all that once was good.” It will distract us from all that is awful, all that we have come to dread.

        When the time comes, our games will help to remind the world that this is a country that cannot be cowed; that we will not go underground in the face of threats; that we love our lives more than we hate our enemies; that we will persevere and, soon enough, we will play.

        Life will go on in the land of the brave. Barry Bonds will resume his chase of the home run record. Michael Jordan will continue to contemplate a comeback. Soon enough, the toy department will reopen. Eventually, it might seem to matter.

        E-mail tsullivan@enquirer.com. Past columns at Enquirer.com/columns/sullivan.

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