By Matt Petersen
I’m not a Yankees, Knicks or Giants fan. I had never been further east than Kansas City, MO. I didn’t know anyone in New York City. I was as far removed from politics as a narrow-minded sports geek could be.
That being said, I had no idea how close to home 9-11 would hit both me and the world of sports.
I was 17, and suddenly I remembered stories from grandparents about “getting drafted.” I pictured myself fighting a foe without a face in some foreign country. And unlike many friends who later volunteered for military service, I didn’t face the idea with bravery or duty.
I was afraid.
In the aftermath of Sept. 11, I retreated further into the world of sports. I just didn’t expect the rest of the world to join me.
I watched a baseball game and saw them honor the recently fallen and newly commissioned. I saw ridiculously rich athletes, already donating ridiculous amounts, shed tears on the field, and it wasn’t over the money. I heard fans sing the national anthem like they meant it.
I realized, in that moment, that sports wasn’t a place to hide. It was a place to hope, a world that reminds us that whatever happens, we still hold the right to be happy. To play. To watch. To go on.
My team sucked that year. I didn’t care. They wore American flags on their jerseys, defying those who say sports aren’t a place to stand for something, that teams and players should stay out of the political arena. In 2001-02, athletes around the world lifted a collective middle finger not toward a country, but to terrorism, to evil.
That’s the beauty of sports. They’re not owned or populated by one nation. A German just led his team to an NBA title. Cubans and Japanese dominate the major leagues. Canadians own hockey. When athletes stand together, it’s not political. It’s powerful.
People often criticize the over-dramatization of sports, the HD-TV-assisted portrayal of good vs. evil.
That year, sports had it right.