America as our Home Team: Osama, 9/11 and the Sporting World Reaction

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You will always remember where you were when President Barack Obama informed the nation at about 11:45 p.m. ET on May 1st, 2011. His announcement that U.S. military operatives had caught and killed Osama Bin Laden is a generation defining moment.

Although the war on terrorism is far from over, the killing of Bin Laden, and the reaction of the American people, is a symbol of the continued healing America is still going through nearly 10 years after the horrific events of September 11th, 2001.

For those who lost loved ones on 9/11, it is a bittersweet moment. President Obama said it is “a good day” for America, but it is also one that brings back haunting images and memories of what happened at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and an empty field in Pennsylvania.

Where does our realm, the world of sports fit into all of this?

We get so worked up over a silly little game that, in the grand scheme of things, means nothing.

However, sports took a week off after 9/11 as our nation began the recovery period. When baseball took the field again one week later, people were moved by the New York Yankees and Mets wearing New York Fire Department and Police Department hats during their games. A moment of silence was taken before every game and baseball seemed to be part of that healing process. Especially for fans in New York, it was three hours where they could escape from everything else that was going on around them.

Of course, nothing could make someone forget about the events that had occurred a week before, but baseball served as a short distraction for a nation that was hurting.

On September 11th, 2001 I was riding the school bus to fourth grade when I noticed that nobody was outside playing on the playground like we normally did before school started. The bus driver said we couldn’t go outside and we needed to go straight to the gym.

Later, we saw the events on television and those images will forever be seared into our minds.

Last night’s images evoked feelings on the polar opposite of the emotional scale.

The scene in Philadelphia was touching as Mets vs. Phillies played on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball. News spread throughout the stadium about the killing of Bin Laden and fans chanted, “U-S-A! U-S-A!” The players looked around and had no idea what was happening but the scene was one that will leave you with goosebumps.

David Wright, Mets third baseman, said afterward, “As proud and as great as the moment was being on a baseball field — you multiply that by a million and that’s probably what they’re feeling at the fire houses, at the police stations.”

Bobby Valentine was commentating the game and said he would never forget that moment or the feeling he had when, as manager of the Mets in ’01, they took the field for the first time after the attacks.

In the big picture, sports are a very small thing, but as last night showed in Philly, a group of people can come together, no matter what team they root for, and be one as a nation.

Thousands at the ballpark stopped caring about the baseball game on the field and shifted their attention to more important matters. At a time when fan violence is at an all-time high and people are ending up in the hospital just because of what team they root for, it was a great feeling to see fans of two teams come together and cheer for America.

Americans all over have a good feeling after the death of the mastermind behind 9/11 but let us never forget those who were lost on that terrible day. God Bless America.

–Zach Wadley

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