Remembering 9/11 in Sports
It’s been 12 years since the attacks on September 11th.
Robert Griffin III was only a month into his 6th grade school year. Kevin Durant was a 7th grader. Tony Gwynn was still robbing home runs in the outfield for the San Diego Padres.
Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani called it “the worst day of my life and maybe the greatest day of my life.” Giuliani, a noted Yankees fan, showed up to the game and was applauded by 40,000 plus Mets fans. That’s like being a Michigan fan and being cheered at Ohio State. Or a Nebraska fan being cheered at Oklahoma. It just doesn’t happen (or I didn’t think it would).
It’s no coincidence that we find comfort in some of the most heart wrenching events in our lives.
It took 10 days for a regular season professional sporting event to be played in New York City following the attacks. The New York Mets played host to NL East rival Atlanta Braves. The Mets trailed 2-1 heading to the bottom of the 8th inning. Mets icon Mike Piazza came to the plate with one on in the bottom half and hit a moon shot to center, giving the Mets a 3-2 lead they would hold on to.
But it wasn’t only the Mets who won. Mets fans won. Mayor Giuliani won. Baseball won. In a way, the Braves won. Most importantly, America won.
It’s a funny thing – heartache, pain, depression – how the loss of something so great brings out something, seemingly, that much greater. The way an entire nation rallied around one city. How one city rallied around just another sports team. And how a team rallied around, go figure, the face of its franchise.
It was only fitting that Piazza would hit that home run. Go ahead, name one player other than Piazza on that 2001 Mets roster. No one would remember the home run if it was Todd Zeile or Edgardo Alfonzo. People wouldn’t recall the day Rey Ordonez or Timo Perez lifted the spirits of an entire nation. It was going to be Mike Piazza, the greatest offensive catcher of all time. It HAD to be.
This doesn’t make the senseless attacks that day tolerable. Nothing can, nor will. But without sports, what would those 40,000 baseball enthusiasts have done that night? What would an entire nation have cheered for on a late September night? 7th Heaven? Lizzie McGuire? The Looney Tunes? Sure, it would have been nice to tune in for a quick laugh or a cute face, but those were endings we’d already seen before.
The attacks on that day September day in 2001 weren’t. No one could have predicted what happened that day. But at that same time, no one could have seen what was coming just 10 days later. 10 weeks later. 10 months later. 10 years later. What Mike Piazza did that night is something, just like September 11, 2011, I will never forget.