The most famous, or at least talked about, sporting events following 9/11 were the first baseball game played in New York City after the attacks, when Mike Piazza hit a dramatic home run leading the New York Mets to victory over the Atlanta Braves, and the World Series in which much of America rooted for the New York Yankees, who lost in heartbreaking fashion to the Arizona Diamondbacks. But seemingly forgotten are the first games by the New York Giants and New York Jets when the NFL resumed played after skipping a week after 9/11. So with the 10-year anniversary of that tragic day coinciding with the opening of the 2011 football season, here's a quick peek at those two games.
The Broncos, 31-10, on opening day of 2001. Jim Fassel was in his fifth year as head coach, and Sean Payton and John Fox were his coordinators. On September 23rd, large American flags were unfurled in all stadiums around the league, and "America the Beautiful" as well as the National Anthem was sung before the games. Red, white and blue bunting with the words "United We Stand" decorated each end zone. Giant players (as well as the ) wore hats honoring the NYPD, NYFD and NYPA on the sidelines, as the team played in Kansas City. Linebacker Michael Barrow, commenting before the game about the Anthem, said, "I may cry. If you're not crying outside, you're definitely crying inside." And all players were thinking about New York City and the heroes of that tragic day, as Barrow stated, "If Notre Dame can win one for the Gipper, we can go and win one for New York." Big Blue didn't let their fans or city down, as they defeated the Chiefs, 13-3. Ron Dayne rushed for a seven-yard touchdown, and Morten Andersen booted a pair of field goals. It was the days of Thunder and , as Dayne gained 46 yards and Tiki Barber ran for 42. Kerry Collins went 20-for-34, for 208 yards (though he threw three interceptions), Joe Jurevicius led Giant receivers with seven catches and 90 yards, Keith Hamilton recorded the only sack for the team and Shaun Williams intercepted a pass. After the game, Williams said, "It was important for our city to have something to smile about. It was important for them to have something to feel good about again." The Giants finished the season with a 7-9 record, and failed to qualify for the playoffs.were coming off a Super Bowl appearance the previous season, and lost to the
Later that day, the Jets played up in New England. Herm Edwards made his head coaching debut two weeks earlier, when the Jets lost to the Colts, 45-24. They would finish with a 10-6 record, but lose to the Raiders in the first round of the playoffs. Chants of USA filled Foxboro Stadium that day, though, and the same fanfare and tributes that took place in Kansas City were also found in Massachusetts. Curtis Martin said, "I've never disrespected the National Anthem at all, but it's always just been a song. I know when I'm out there, I will be listening more intently to the words. Although I know them, they will have more meaning to me." Like the Giants, the Jets also came away with a victory that day, beating the Patriots, 10-3. Martin rushed for an eight-yard touchdown, while John Hall added the other three points with a 26-yard field goal. Vinnie Testaverde threw for 137 yards, going 16-for-28, with no interceptions, Martin gained 106 yards, Wayne Chrebet led Jet receivers with five catches and 53 yards, John Abraham had a sack, and Aaron Glenn and James Farrior intercepted passes. But the game is most remembered for Mo Lewis' brutal hit on Drew Bledsoe, which sent the Patriot quarterback to the hospital and ushered in the Tom Brady era. After the game, a New England fan gave a small American flag to Chrebet as he walked off the field, symbolizing the country's support for New Yorkers. Edwards awarded the game ball to New York City: "This is for all the people who worked to save people's lives."
It was a day when everyone was rooting for New York.
And now on to the top stories of the week in the world of New York sports.
The Arrival of Jesus: He played his first game last Thursday in Boston. He recorded his first hit on Saturday at Yankee Stadium against Toronto. He got his first multi-hit game on Sunday. And Monday was the day that Jesus Montero truly arrived, when he belted the first two home runs of his career, helping the Yankees defeat the Orioles, 11-10. And he wasn't done yet, as he hit a game-tying two-run double on Wednesday. Of course, this is just the beginning, and who knows how he'll turn out. Will he be Kevin Maas or Joe DiMaggio? Jorge Posada or Jake Gibbs? But Montero had a memorable first week to his career nonetheless, with Yankee fans dreaming of another homegrown star. As for the team itself, the Toronto Blue Jays, soggy weather and a four-hour rain delay (with a Jeffrey Maier reenactment thrown in) couldn't stop the Yankees in their first five games this week, all wins, but the combination of A.J. Burnett (who tied a single-season franchise record with his 23rd wild pitch), poor defense, Rafael Soriano and Scott Proctor could, as the Bombers lost their last two.
They're Still Playing: Well, there was good news for the Mets off-the-field-wise, with Ike Davis looking like he may not need surgery after all and Johan Santana making another rehab start on Friday. With the minor league seasons ending, Santana may actually pitch for the Mets this season yet. On the field, Terry Collins just does not let his team give up (though they didn't look so good in Thursday's doubleheader). They could easily have fallen off the face of the earth, and slipped 20 games under .500 but they keep staying afloat and playing hard (with a 4-4 record this week). Oldsters R.A. Dickey, Manny Acosta and Miguel Batista pitched in with solid efforts. And while youngsters Lucas Duda, Nick Evans and Ruben Tejada continue to thrive, and they've been bolstered by call-ups like Josh Stinson (five and 2/3 innings, 0.00 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, save), Bobby Parnell is not joining in on the fun, as his learning curve continues to be steep. Finally, the Jose Reyes Batting Title Watch: Reyes .335, Ryan Braun .329.
Here Are Your 2011 Giants: David Carr is in. Sage Rosenfels is out. Mark Herzlich in. Phillip Dillard out. Henry Hynoski in. Adrian Tracy out (the 2010 draft class is dropping like flies). And Steve Weatherford is in, with Matt Dodge getting the boot, meaning he'll forever be remembered for his Eagles game snafu last season with no chance at redemption or glory, at least as a Giant. Ten rookies in all made this year's team, including four linebackers, and one (Greg Jones) may start because the injury pileup just keeps on coming as Jonathan Goff tore his ACL and is out for the season. And even Justin Tuck may miss the opener. When does it end? But after all the craziness of the abbreviated offseason and training camp, it's now on to Washington and the beginning of the season. With a depleted defense and holes at fullback, tight end and receiver, not to mention their gruesome special teams, the Giants are a big question mark coming into the season. But they do have talent in Eli Manning, Ahmad Bradshaw, Brandon Jacobs, Hakeem Nicks and on the defensive line, so they should be in the playoff hunt. Of course, with the anniversary of 9/11, opening day will take on a little more meaning, with extra weight to it this year. And all the players are aware of the significance, as Jacobs stated, "Playing for the city of New York, given what happened on 9/11, you have to go out and represent the city to the best of your ability. It's going to be an emotional weekend. We just have to make sure we go out there and do what we have to do to lift the down people. We're playing for a lot of New Yorkers and a lot of tourists as well who were here at that moment."
Here Are Your 2011 Jets: Gang Green put the final pieces to their 53-man roster together with some last-minute finagling, which included trading Dwight Lowery to Jacksonville for a conditional draft pick, acquiring G Caleb Schlauderaff from the Packers, claiming QB Kevin O'Connell off waivers from Miami and releasing Aaron Maybin. The Jets' strength is, of course, their defense, with a superior linebacking corps and Darrelle Revis, so the big questions for the team are on the offensive side of the ball. Can Shonn Greene be the number one back? How will the offensive line do? Can Mark Sanchez take the next step in his development? And how will a rusty Plaxico Burress and aging Derrick Mason fare? A sidebar to Sunday night's clash with the Cowboys is Ryan vs. Ryan, as Rex's twin is now the defensive coordinator of Dallas, but the big story is playing the game in the shadows of Ground Zero 10 years to the day of the attacks. And the Jet coach feels the responsibility to win one for New York. "I feel more pressure on this game for whatever reason than any game I've ever coached, seems like."
No Apologies: Plaxico Burress was a troublemaker in Pittsburgh, he was a troublemaker with the Giants, he shot himself in the leg, which was a big reason for Big Blue's downfall in 2008, and he ended up behind bars. And now he's ripping Tom Coughlin, Eli Manning, the Giants (didn't their owners publicly defend him and visit him in prison?) and even their fans. Shouldn't he be apologizing to everyone? Apparently, we should disregard any previous feel-good stories about him being a changed man or learning his lesson. He is clearly a man who doesn't "get it." And here's the kicker, as he channeled LeBron James with this message to his lowly fans: "What are you doing now? You still mad at your job? You still angry about your life? 'Cause I'm back living my life and enjoying my family while you're still doing the same thing."
Another Tragedy: Yet one more tragedy has hit the hockey world, when a Russian airplane crashed on Wednesday that was carrying the KHL's Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team. A handful of players with local ties were on board, including Alexander Karpovtsev (a member of the 1994 Stanley Cup-winning New York Josef Vasicek., former New Jersey Devil and Ranger Karel Rachunek, former Devil Alexander Vasyunov and former New York Islander