Its not often a sports writer gets a chance to reflect and comment on real life events -- usually it's the political columnist who try and reflect about big-time sports stories -- but Monday, May 2, 2011, is a day when anyone can write about the death of Osama bin Laden. It's especially fitting since I am one of about a dozen writers, who blog for a website that covers New York sports -- specifically those located in NYC area, the place impacted most by the events of September 11, 2001.
Sunday's late breaking news about the US Navy Seals successful raid on Osama bin Laden's mansion located in Pakistan was delivered to most New York sports fans, ironically, during a game against the Mets and Philadelphia Phillies -- two rival teams who despise each other.
However, there's a funny thing about events like Osama bin Laden's death, it makes us realize why we really love baseball and all sports for that matter. Whether it's the New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers vs. San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs vs. St. Louis Cardinals, the "hatred" is only played out on the field with a ball, a bat and a few walls; and has nothing to do with real life -- we leave that stuff to the news pundits. Baseball and sports is an escape from real life and is why each one of us tune to Sports Center each morning, put countless hours into our fantasy baseball teams and chant "U-S-A, U-S-A" during a contest between two rivals in the AL East.
Baseball fans, especially New York baseball fans, know how important the sport was after the events of 9/11 -- if you haven't see Nine Innings From Ground Zero, please check it out when you get a chance. My fiance, who attended school at Pratt Institute, located in Brooklyn, during the attacks about 10 years ago always recalls that day as a fan of the Yankees: "I remember that I was going to attended the Yankees game the night before (the attacks) and hoped to witness Roger Clemens become the first pitcher ever to go 20-1 (I'm not kidding, she said this). However, the game was rained out after we sat in the bleachers for hours. So, the next morning I was walking to class and stopped at a bodega to grab the (New York) Daily News to find out when the game was going to be rescheduled. I was buying the paper when a crazy lady was yelling about a plane hitting the Twin Towers. Me and a friend had no idea what she was talking about, but as we walked to class we heard the second plane."
Eight days later, after MLB Commissioner Bud Selig put baseball games on hold for a week, Clemens helped the Yankees beat the Chicago White Sox, 6-3, and earned his 20th win for the six time in his career.
"It just doesn't take on as much meaning as it would have because of the circumstances," said Clemens."It's a different feeling. There are a lot of things we take for granted and I didn't know how I'd feel once I got out on the mound. It's been an unbelievable week with everything."
If there was one thing that Bin Laden did, besides make Clemens sound humble for the last time in his career, it was piss off a lot of New York and American sports fans. Not only had Osama bin Laden ordered his men to kill thousands of fellow neighbors, but for weeks there was no outlet to take their mind off things. It wasn't until a week later that baseball returned, a few weeks later so did the NFL, but if you remember it took along time before sports were sports again -- Derek Jeter's Game 4 walk-off home run in the 2001 World Series probably was the first time for New Yorkers.
On Sunday night, almost four months until the 10-year anniversary of Sept. 11,
Osama bin Laden the US Military did something that not even Jeter could do, and that was bring two bitter baseball rivals together for a 15-minute period that probably made the toughest NYC cop or firefighter choke back some tears.
I've really never known a world without baseball or the hunt for Osama bin Laden. In high school, I watched the Twin Towers fall when I was just a sophomore. In college, as a Journalism/Communications major and Political Science minor, I played baseball/covered sports, and dissected the war in Afghanistan and Iraq in the classroom and in research papers. One helped me forget the other, and that's the way it's suppose to be -- from now on, hopefully, it will.
I woke up Monday morning, ready to substitute teach in US History class. I didn't learn about Osama bin Laden's death until 6 a.m., and had an hour and a half to figure out what to say on a day like this. It wasn't until about my second class until I realized that there wasn't an attachment to 9/11 with these students like there was for me or my fiance (heck, they were all in second grade at the time). If I talked about how much Osama bin Laden's death (or the 2001 baseball postseason) meant to my generation, they really wouldn't understand. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that my students won't grow up in a nation where 9/11 or Game 7 of the 2001 World Series is etched in their minds like many others New Yorkers (Americans).
Instead, their memories will be inked with the New York Giants amazing '08 Super Bowl victory, the Yankees' 27th World Series title and the death of Osama bin Laden by US Forces on May 2, 2011. That's one heck of a world for a New York sports fans to grow up in.