Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Sports in the Post 9-11 World

Six years ago today I woke up in a hotel room, having watched the New York Giants and Denver Broncos play their season opener the night before. My mind was on a column I would write that day about how the Denver offense would be affected by the loss of Ed McCaffrey, who broke his leg in that game. But of course, the other events of that day quickly made that seem like the most trivial concern.

I went back this morning to look at the piece I ended up writing instead, and it wasn't particularly compelling. More than anything, I think it captures the shock and confusion we were all feeling as we tried to put those horrible events into context. A year later, I wrote another piece, originally intended as a chapter for the inaugural edition of my Pro Football Prospectus. My thoughts had crystallized by then, and now five years later, they essentially remain the same. In one sense, the terrorist attacks and all of the things that followed have helped put a lot of things into perspective. But while some would argue that it shows our obsession with sports is out of place, I believe the opposite is true. Here's what I wrote then:
We are blessed to live in a country whose freedom and prosperity give us the privilege of enjoying spectator sports. No other nation can rival our passion for the games and for the teams and for the athletes. The Super Bowl is our biggest undeclared national holiday. To celebrate, we gather together with friends, share some pizza and beer, and sit on the couch to watch the last football game of the year. If that doesn't say something about the spirit of America, then I don't know what does.
So whether you want to wave the flag or not, and regardless of how you feel about all of the things that have happened in the last six years, I hope at least that you'll take an opportunity today to reflect on the role of sports in American culture, and how truly blessed we are to be able to root the way we do.