How Sports Helped the Country Return to Normalcy After 9/11

ThomasSenior Writer ISeptember 11, 2008

I will always remember that dark day. It was Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. A day that would become the worst day in American history.

For me, it started as a regular day. For some reason, I had stayed home from school, and I was watching cartoons in the TV room (I was only 11). Suddenly, my dad (who also stayed home for some reason that day) burst into the room and took the TV remote away from me and turned to CNN.

Surprised, I asked him why he had done that. All he said was "Watch the TV, son."

That's what I did. I watched it for the rest of the day and then continued to watch it for the next month. I was in shock. How could something like that happen to the USA? My 11-year old brain thought that the USA was invincible. Nothing could happen to us. I was wrong.


An utter sense of loss

Seven years later, that day is like yesterday to many people. Everything was affected by that day. Sports was affected during those first few weeks, but it adopted a return to normalcy approach and gave relief to those who needed it.

The "Star Spangled Banner" has always been sung before games, but after those attacks, something special happened. It's like the country actually listened to the words of the song.

The football and baseball games following the attacks meant nothing for those first few weeks.

College games were cancelled, and the PGA cancelled it's World Golf Championship and two other tournaments. 

Baseball games were cancelled or postponed. It was only the third time the major leagues postponed an entire day's schedule, aside from labor strife, according to Scot Mondore of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

In Milwaukee, Selig called off the baseball owners’ quarterly meeting that was set to start that day but did not make any decision about Wednesday’s games.

"The greatest country in the history in the world being attacked. So all of this doesn't mean very much today," he said.

The NCAA said conferences and schools had the authority to determine whether to play college football games that weekend as well as hold other events.

"The games themselves are insignificant in the face of what has happened today,” NCAA President Cedric Dempsey said.

Needless to say, most, if not all, college games were either cancelled or postponed.


Finding a reason to go on

When sports came back, it was the only thing keeping people together.

Players from baseball to hockey now wore American flags on their jerseys. There were moments of silence for the victims. 9/11 was still fresh in everyone's mind.

However, the show had to go on, and sports went on. In many ways, sports was the only thing that could get people's mind off the attacks. In the HBO documentary Nine Innings From Ground Zero, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani said: "The only two things that got my mind off it at any period of time in the fall of 2001 were baseball and my son's football games."

When the first few games after the attacks took place, the stadiums were empty. People didn't want to think about sports yet. Yet, the games continued; they had to continue.

After Sept. 11, sports gave the world an outlet from the pain, death, destruction, and debate of the attacks. There were home runs, there were strikeouts, there were tackles, and there were touchdowns.

There were wins and losses on an inconsequential level. There was entertainment. Something that allowed people to feel again, even if it was just for a short time.

Conventional wisdom would indicate that sports would be a way to escape the horrors and reminders of such events as Sept. 11. It's a chance to escape into a fantasy world. A world where rules are followed and fans cheer on their familiar tribes—it's the ultimate form of escapism.

Sports took on a more practical role after Sept. 11. Watching Monday Night Football or cheering on your favourite team on Hockey Night in Canada each Saturday was a way to regulate or bring back some kind of structure to the week. It allowed people to forget the troubles and live life as if nothing happened, if for only a few hours.


Getting back to business

In the weeks and months after Sept. 11, the sports world, like the travel and tourism industry, took a while to get back on its feet. Sports recovered more quickly than most other walks of life, though.

"In terms of the financial impact, I don't believe it had a great financial impact in terms of people going to games," said Howard Bloom, publisher of, in 2006.

Following the attacks, people were scared to go anywhere and ticket prices dropped dramatically. However, people need sports as an escape. So slowly, but surely, the sports world made it back to the way it was post-9/11. So much so, that now, one could say that sports is bigger and better now, post-9/11.


Healing the wounds

Sports has, and always will, be a source of escape for people. When a natural disaster comes, people usually run to stadiums for cover. In the aftermath of 9/11, sports was the only thing that could help the USA return to normalcy.