by Charlie Miller
Ten years ago, our country experienced the most horrific event within our borders. Like every other aspect of our daily lives, sporting events were put on hold for more than a week. For commissioners and sports officials in 2001, there was no precedent. This wasn’t a hurricane to be dodged. This wasn’t a lightning storm. This was a real threat. For several days after the attacks, communication was spotty and even the extent of devastation wasn’t clear. Many details were sketchy, but it was clear that towers fell, the Pentagon burned and lives were lost.
Later that week, I penned the following thoughts for our weekly college football newsletter in place of what normally was game scores, a schedule and Athlon’s selections for Players of the Week.
For those of you who will never forget from someone who will always remember.
(From Athlon Sports Inside Saturday College Football newsletter, Sept. 15, 2001)
For those of us who cover sports on a daily basis, it’s natural to accept the great importance fans place on sporting events like college and pro football. In fact, we the media share much of the responsibility for fostering fans’ attitudes. For without rabid fans, the media is nothing but tinkling cymbals.
The tragic events of Sept. 11 forever changed our perspectives. I wasn’t alive when Pearl Harbor was attacked. In fact, my parents were quite young and do not recall that incident with the gravity it deserves. But the attack on American soil, on innocent, non-military individuals has until now been unthinkable.
One of the most recognized landmarks in this country, and symbolic of our national prosperity and pride, is gone. Now the Tennessee-Florida football in Gainesville seems rather meaningless.
The cowardly attack on Tuesday, which I consider war (if it is not war, I certainly hope I never see what war really is), was not an attack on buildings. It was not an attack on our military. It was an attack on our freedoms and our way of life. The fabrics of American freedoms are woven with cloth of every race, the old, the young, different religions and many national origins. That fabric is decorated with baseball games, pennant races, the chase for home run records, college football, mascots, bands at halftime, tailgate parties, touchdown passes, flea-flickers, slam dunks, no-look passes, yes, even technical fouls.
Those elements are as much a part of our heritage of freedom as the Liberty Bell, the Golden Gate Bridge and Mount Rushmore.
This attack was on all Americans and everything we love about life and our freedoms. Will we ever be as comfortable flying again? Will we ever be as comfortable sitting in the stands at the Rose Bowl? As much as we would like the answer to be yes, we know that fear and doubt have been planted in the backs of our minds. At the moment that happened, the terrorists won. If we can’t enjoy the Super Bowl and college football on a Saturday afternoon in peace, then what do we have?
I respect the decisions of officials who have postponed or canceled sporting events recently. However, I believe we must return to normalcy quickly and prove to ourselves, each other and the rest of the world that we are not afraid to be prosperous and enjoy life.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the families who have lost loved ones in these tragedies. I cannot begin to imagine the terror experienced by those people in New York and at the Pentagon. I cannot begin to imagine the pain family members of those who have not come home must be feeling. And no sporting event, no World Series, no Michael Jordan jump shot will ever erase those feelings.
I am going to continue to love my daughters and teach them to throw and catch and run. But I will not teach them to hate. Here’s hoping they enjoy a lifetime of Super Bowls without fear of terrorism.