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The healing power of sports

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By Brian Blair

It was a dark day, maybe the darkest.
Ten years have passed since Sept. 11, 2001. Ten years have come and gone since planes flew into three buildings and one crashed in an open field. People have lived now for a decade without a loved one who was either on a plane or in a building just minding their own business. They did not choose their fate and neither did the country. It happened anyway.   
In the days following 9-11, everyone and everything was affected. Noticeably absent from the sky were airplanes, and gone from stadiums around the country was sports. Those in charge of Major League Baseball and the National Football League decided it would be wrong and potentially dangerous to ask people to come and cheer for their teams when so many people were suffering.
So for several days following the attacks, the country was transfixed on a huge pile of rubble in Manhattan and just how the country was going to get back on its feet. One thing that helped was when both leagues got back on schedule and the games started again.
How important were those games? In the HBO documentary “Nine Innings From Ground Zero,” former New York City 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.”
Who can forget the show of patriotism when baseball teams went back on the field? It was moving to see both New York baseball teams wearing hats to honor the police and fire departments and those heroes who put others first and sacrificed everything on that day. It was amazing watching grown men stand on the sidelines of football fields and shed tears during the playing of the National Anthem. These were rough and tough players who were not afraid of anything but breaking down at the magnitude of what had happened just days earlier.
Sports helped this country get back to normal. Being able to spend a few hours cheering for our teams was almost therapeutic as it helped take our minds off the tragedy that we were seemingly unable to escape. Who knew that sports could do so much for our psyche, but it did.
One of the most memorable moments sports provided during the weeks following 9-11 came at Yankee Stadium before game two of the World Series between the New York Yankees and Arizona Diamondbacks. Then-President George W. Bush walked out to the pitcher’s mound, without Secret Service, and fired off a strike to home plate. As the President walked back to the dugout to the chants of “U.S.A. …  U.S.A.” something said that everything was somehow going to be OK.
That pitch and those fans in New York on that night in October of 2001 screamed that America was back and that nothing, especially a group of terrorists, was going to keep the country down for very long.
Sept. 11, 2001, made those who watched those images rethink their lives and priorities. Ten years later, the country rolls along and hopefully has not forgotten.
On Sunday, we will commemorate an anniversary that we wish we did not have. One way we will do that is the same way we recovered 10 years ago. We will watch football as week one of the NFL schedule kicks off.
Fans watching the New York Giants play the Washington Redskins in the nation’s capital will take time to reflect on those terrible events. We should all do the same.