America's Favorite Pastime Provides Sept. 11 Relief

Mike HempelCorrespondent IJuly 8, 2008

In years past, certain sporting events have played meaningful roles in our lives.

Whether it's to rejuvenate our childhood passion of those backyard moments when you're the team's best hitter, against the biggest odds, in the biggest moment.

Or to tell your children the same stories your dad told you when you were a kid, about those certain moments in sports that will never be forgotten. 

But never has one sport held such a catastrophic correlation with the most devastating act of terrorism we have ever seen in the history of the great nation we call home. 

That day will play over and over in our heads for the rest of our lives. 

The day when wives lost husbands, children lost parents, and parents lost children. 

I remember it all too well.  I was in high school, my freshman year.

It started off like every other day. I chatted with friends about who was dating whom, copied down the last few answers for last night's homework, and kissed goodbye to my girlfriend as we went our separate ways for the day.

And then in first period, like every other day, the crackle of the PA system came on as we pledged our allegiance. 

"I pledge allegiance, to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic, for which it stands: one Nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all."

It's something we say every day, but on that day, on Sept. 11, 2001, it took on an entirely new meaning. 

About an hour later, just after 9 AM, a plane crashed into the World Trade Center.

And then another. 

And then the Pentagon. 

And finally the stray plane crashing in Pennsylvania.

Our lives would forever be different, and the resolve of this great nation was put under the greatest test to date.

But as the dust would settle, and as the chaos calmed, the sport we call America's favorite pastime would prove to be overwhelmingly symbolic in the resolve and rebuilding of our shattered country. 

With the carnage still an ever-too-close reminder of what had happened, the baseball season would resume days later. 

You saw typically greedy, overpaid athletes walk out on that green grass, that red clay, and those white lines with a refined sense of pride as they sported those hats of the people who risked and lost their lives for millions less. 

The colors, red, white, and blue, never flew so high and with so much pride.

Boston fans held up signs giving their deepest sympathies to the team and city that is their greatest rival. 

Brooklyn and Queens have never been so close together. 

But through it all, the deafening chants of  "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!" will never mean more.

The sheer reminder still makes the hair on my arms salute and my eyes begin to tear.

As the baseball season progressed, the New York Yankees, the team we love to hate, would be the team we all learned to love. 

The team I grew up regarding with such disdain would become the team that symbolized everything for us as Americans. 

And as faith would have it, the Yankees would squeak their way into the World Series. 

John Grisham couldn't have written such a perfect ending to an equally disastrous beginning.

The team that had won the most Championships in its sport, and three of the previous four years, was destined to win this one. 

It was as if that had been our way of saying, "up yours" to those cowards, those bastards who took so much from us.

It was our way of saying no matter how hard you try, how much pain you inflict upon us, how much grief you cause us, we cannot be broken. 

Because in times like these, my neighbors, my friends, and my family become my strength. They, we, become something indestructible, impenetrable, and invincible.

As it would turn out, the Arizona Diamondbacks would celebrate their first World Championship on that field, in 2001. 

But they wouldn't celebrate it alone.

They celebrated it with their opponent, they celebrated it with their families, and they celebrated it with us.

The Arizona Diamondbacks won the World Series, but they shared it with so many others. 

Because, for a brief moment, we celebrated the sport that brought relief to so many families during the toughest of times.

Now, almost seven years later, as the memory fades, as the pain and suffering ceases, as our lives return to a normal level, I'll always root for the Yankees, and the city of New York, somewhere, hidden in the back of my mind. 

Because I'll always remember that day, that season, and that team.

And what it symbolized for so many.

I'll remember that sport, the game of baseball, for what it was.

The game I love, the game that helped so many others forget about so much more. 


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