Today is opening day for the National Football League. More importantly, it’s also the 1oth anniversary of 9/11. Of those two things, I only feel comfortable talking about the less important of the two. But today is not a day to write about what’s more comfortable.
Don’t get me wrong, I think one of the best things about sports is their ability to uplift people in tough times and even, illogical as it might seem, to inspire them. And looking back at what happened 10 years ago, it’s clear that sports did fulfill its function there.
The New York Mets triumphing over the Atlanta Braves in the first pro sports game in New York after 9/11, the New York Yankees defeating a 116-win Seattle Mariners team to reach its fourth straight World Series and the NFL’s first post-9/11 games are three of the most frequently cited examples of this but after a tragedy as enormous as 9/11, any sports game, movie or concert was bound to mean more to people.
9/11 was an event that forced us, if only for a while, to consider the most serious and terrifying aspects of life. In such an environment, people need escape and inspiration. Sports cannot always bring comfort and they cannot directly make things better. But after 9/11, that was going to be the case no matter where we took our inspiration. The more important question is whether something can provide comfort and inspiration at all. And after 9/11, sports could.
Make no mistake, I’m thrilled to see football return. I’m glad the lockout ended. I was thrilled to see the Buffalo Bills win their opening game this afternoon and as I write this post, I’m watching the Giants-Redskins game with enormous pleasure. I imagine a lot of people on this campus feel the same way about being able to watch their favorite teams again.
But as happy as we all are to see the return of the NFL, I don’t think anything could match how happy we were to see the NFL season begin in 2001. After all, I doubt we’ll be holding any moments of silence for the 10th anniversary of the NFL lockout.