Remembering 9-11: NFL should do right thing, delay Week 1

2,977.

That’s how many Americans were killed on September 11, 2001. That’s over 500 more than the number of deaths at Pearl Harbor. It’s the most deadly attack our nation has ever been hit with from a foreign enemy.

Image credit: Doug Kanter/AFP/Getty Images via Boston.com

I’m sure you, like me, remember exactly where you were when you got the news. Maybe you were driving in the car or at your desk at work. For millions of us, we got the news from a teacher at school…while we were surrounded by our closest friends.

Being a sports fan is an awesome, yet often confusing experience. The most awkward moments often come when we realize that sports, at the end of the day, just don’t really matter that much.

Don’t get me wrong, I think sports are important. Like it or not, there are few things in this country that can universally lift us up or bring us down like athletic events. Just ask viewers of last week’s Women’s World Cup Final, who shared the agony of that defeat, or spectators of Jason Lezak’s amazing comeback in the Olympics, who rejoiced in unison.

But there are always those weird epiphanies – usually following a tough loss – where we realize that sports just really don’t matter. As awesome as it was to watch the Dallas Mavericks beat the Heat, Jeter chase 3,000 hits, and Phelps break all those records, none of those events would even come close to making a list of our nation’s 100 most important moments.

To be honest, the first time I ever had one of those moments was on September 11, 2001. To my undying shame, I have to acknowledge that the first thought I had that day was, “Oh great, they better not cancel our soccer game tonight.” When you’re 14, life is only as important as the next big event in your own schedule. But as the day stretched on, and we all crammed into the English room to watch it unfold on those tiny televisions, we all realized that something much bigger than sports was happening.

I will never forget that day.

I don’t think any of us ever will.

And that is precisely why the NFL should not be opening up its season on September 11 of this year.

As amazing as this sounds, it’s already been ten years since terrorists attacked us. Ten years since 343 firefighters courageously ran into buildings that had been hit by airplanes. Ten years since 184 innocent people were brutally murdered at the Pentagon. Ten years since some oft-forgotten heroes took down Flight 93 in the middle of a field in Pennsylvania – preventing a tragedy of unknown proportions from happening in Washington.

It’s the most important anniversary of all. Personally, I think that September 11 should be a National Holiday. But regardless, we should spend this September 11 doing one thing: honoring the Americans that died.

remembering-9-11Image source: Trempealeau County Trunk

As much as the lockout turned me off to the NFL, I’m not asking everyone to boycott it. It’s our nation’s most popular sport, and it will be for a good long while. I love watching the greatest athletes on earth play one of the most exciting games on earth. I will be cheering on Peyton Manning and my beloved Colts as hard as ever this year.

Just not on September 11.

Did you know that they are reopening the World Trade Center that day? They are setting up a memorial for all to see. There will be television specials, parades, and ceremonies. These are things that we as Americans should be viewing that Sunday.

Instead, I fear it will all get lost in the eleven hours of football.

It seems a little ironic that instead of honoring 2,977 Americans that died, most of us will be honoring a group of humans that took four months trying to figure out how to split up $9 Billion.

Nevermind, that’s not ironic; that’s just sad.

And to be honest, it’s probably a fact as well.

There is a time and a place for sports in this country. And you know what? There is a time and place for sports on this September 11.

If you were to ask yourself, “If there was a sport that I remember from Fall of 2001, what was it?”

That’s right, it was baseball.

I remember exactly three sports moments from that year:

  1. I remember Jason Sehorn and some of the other Giants’ players crying into the camera and begging the NFL to cancel that week’s games. “Nobody’s thinking about football right now,” they pleaded. The League kind of complied…and postponed the games until the end of the year.
  2. I remember the bald tenor singing “God Bless America” at Yankee Stadium. I got chills then, and I get chills now just thinking about it.
  3. I remember President Bush, just a few days after the attack, striding out to the pitcher’s mound – clad in a bulletproof vest – and telling the world, “Do your worst, but America won’t back down.” I remember him firing the ball across home plate, not just lobbing it up there hoping to avoid embarrassment. I remember being inspired like I never was before, and quite frankly, never have been since.

Yes, sports held an important place in our country’s heart during that difficult time, and I think it could do the same this year.

What if instead of trying to absorb an entire day’s worth of football, we were treated to resounding Patriotic marches, songs, and television memorials all morning.

Then, at 1:35 ET, George H.W. Bush could throw out the opening pitch in Washington, DC, to start off the Nats-Astros game.

Shortly after that, President Obama himself returns to his hometown of Chicago, and at 2:10 ET, he commences the White Sox-Indians game in his own way. Around that same time, Jimmy Carter could throw out the first pitch at the Braves-Cardinals game.

Then, less than an hour later, George W. Bush could start things off in Texas before his Rangers play the Athletics.

Then, in the night capper, President Clinton could throw out the first pitch in New York City, just miles away from where it all started as America watched the Mets battle the Cubs.

In a matter of seven hours, we could have every single one of our living presidents throw out meaningful first pitches all across the country. We could truly honor the 2,977 Americans that had their lives brutally stolen from them.

Look, I don’t think we need to boycott the football season because we are mad at the players and owners. I’m not advocating a “protest out of principle.” Football is important to many Americans, and it definitely has its place in our society.

I’m simply saying that the NFL needs to do the right thing here. It is the most popular sport in our country – by far. That won’t change if they miss one Sunday in early September when most of us should be caring about something far more important. In fact, it might even go as far to recapture some of the good graces that the sport has lost with its fans over the past few months.

Even so, they probably won’t. “The show must go on,” and they will beat the money cow until it dies.

I really am looking forward to following this season closely, and I will definitely end up being sucked in soon, especially after Manning leads the Colts out to another hot start.

Just not until September 18.



About Jon Washburn

Jon Washburn grew up in Indianapolis, IN and as such, is a diehard Pacers, Colts, and Cubs fans. When it comes to college, he cheers for Notre Dame football fan and Purdue basketball. Yes, this sounds shady, but since he grew up without cable, he learned to love Notre Dame - the only team on TV. Glenn "The Big Dog" Robinson was at Purdue when Jon was in his formative years, so he latched onto them as well. Did that make him a fair-weather fan at the time? Sure. Give him a break...he was 8...and he has stayed with those teams ever since. Currently, he lives in Charleston, SC with his wife who grew up in Cleveland. Although he is no longer physically in the Midwest, his heart will always be there. Jon goes by the name "Twitch" because he has Tourette's Syndrome. Hit him up on his twitter @jwtwitch.

Comments

  1. Love the idea's of the President's throwing out the first pitches. But I believe that just like NFL players running triumphantly back onto the field 10 years ago with flags, there can be very fitting tributes and memorials and still play the games.

  2. What about going about our daily lives like Bush suggested Americans do after that tragic day. I don't think many family members of the victims want to sit around all day without football watching "television memorials" rehashing those nightmarish memories.

    Plus I don't see how former Presidents throwing out first pitches honors 9/11 victims either, especially considering how regional baseball viewership is. And consider watching Jimmy Carter and H.W. Bush lofting 14 mph bouncers in front of home plate doesn't really add points to anybodies patriotism card.

    Don't get me wrong I love White Sox baseball and would be honored to see Obama back in Chicago. But the NFL won't tread their Billion dollar football egos by ignoring proper 9/11 tribute. I think Giants-Jets will be a fitting end to the day and you know that their pre-game opening/entrance will give Americans similar patriotic chills.

    • No doubt most NFLplayers and its brass care more about $$$ and their game than 9/11/ They are not typical Americans. I know they'll play, but I am glad to stand against this. Playing football (or baseball) on the 10th anniversary is simply insulting.

      And it'd be nice for Obama to stay in Chicago. He belongs there with the other ____

  3. The key here, for me, is that if NFL games are being played, they will have America's attention for eleven straight hours. The tenth anniversary is the most important one for 9-11 victims, and the only way to properly give them the attention they deserve is by taking football off the air…if just for a day.
    The NFL could still honor the day if the games were played on Saturday…or Monday.
    But 9-11 is important…it's the most deadly attack on our country in history…It needs to be remembered.

    • I really don't understand how baseball can remember 9/11 but football can't. It does need to be remembered. Before the game, halftime, at every game.

      I went to Ohio Stadium 9/11 last year for the game against the Canes. Moment of silence and National Anthem before the game. Honoring police, medical, and firefighters on the field and in the stands during halftime. They stood in the stands and everyone else had to sit. There was crying and hugging. Miami and tOSU fans shaking hands and smiling.

      Postponing NFL games because 9/11 falls on a Sunday is some crazy socialist left winged crap. Just Kidding, Jon. ;)

      • They do all that, then they play a meaningless game where 110k people drink, carouse and watch 22 guys hit each other. That's just wrong, KVB.

    • I'm certainly not a 9/11 victim, but am in the Army, and have been to Iraq and had my life significantly change the last 10 years because of 9/11. I want the games played. They're a distraction from reality, especially those watching on Armed Forces Network

      • I respect the view of a veteran. I just still think it detracts from the meaning of the day. As Jon eloquently said: "they are reopening the World Trade Center that day? They are setting up a memorial for all to see. There will be television specials, parades, and ceremonies. These are things that we as Americans should be viewing that Sunday. Instead, I fear it will all get lost in the eleven hours of football."

  4. Good discussion here on Facebook too, in a group Jon started: http://www.facebook.com/groups/228138117225063?ap

  5. Every American that cares about his/her country's past, present and survival should be APPALLED that on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, instead of honoring the dead & viewing the re-opening of the WTC (if the Union jerks stop their strike), the NFL wants us to watch millionaires play football

  6. Had to cancel "remember 9-11" group because too many people refuse to think about 9-11 and terrorism and call me names for wanting to honor the dead instead of watching millionaire NFL crybabies who dont care about our nation's future–just their paychecks

    sad nation

  7. Gene McManus says:

    Glad to see I wasn't the only one who thought the NFL should have postponed 2011 kickoff on 9-11. The NFL really fumbled a great opportunity to show the nation that they understand the place sports has, or should have, in our society. Here's the difference as I se it: On 9-11-01 and immediately thereafter, we wanted to show THEM, that THEY would not dictate to US how to live. We were not going to change our way of living out of fear for what they migh do. So, as President Bush suggested, we carried on "normal" activities. Fast forward to the 10 year anniversary of that day. Today is a day of OUR choosing to remember, honor and memorialize those who died 9-11-01. It should be a day all Americans (even millionaire athletes) should cease from the daily or seasonal routine and pay respect to those who perished. It could have been great for the NFL to have recognized this by having the 2011 season open on Monday night. All scheduled games being played the day AFTER.

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Trackbacks

  1. […] season on September 11, the 10th anniversary of the worst terrorist attacks in American history? Jon Washburn of MSF thinks it’s a mistake. Personally, I tend to disagree with him. I believe there are extremely appropriate ways to honor […]

  2. […] be honest, I have changed my thinking a little bit since writing this post a few months […]

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