Archive for Friday, September 14, 2001

Sports can wait

Colleges, pros call off weekend contests

September 14, 2001

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Professional and major college sports will shut down this weekend, following the lead of the NFL that said America needed time to mourn and reflect on this week's "horrific acts of terrorism."

Major league baseball, several auto racing circuits, college football conferences and Major League Soccer all canceled competition.

A baseball glove lies in the grass at Enron Field while the San
Francisco Giants stretch. San Francisco's game Thursday at Houston
was postponed because of the national tragedy. Baseball won't
resume play until Monday.

A baseball glove lies in the grass at Enron Field while the San Francisco Giants stretch. San Francisco's game Thursday at Houston was postponed because of the national tragedy. Baseball won't resume play until Monday.

"We understand those individuals in sports who want to play this weekend. We also can empathize with those who want to take the weekend off and resume their personal lives and professional careers next week," NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue said Thursday in a statement. "We strongly believe that the latter course of action is the right decision for the NFL."

A conference call Wednesday night with all 31 team representatives led the NFL Players Association to strongly ask the league to call off Week 2 of the season.

"I thought it was ultimately the right decision," Browns quarterback Tim Couch said. "I couldn't see 80,000 people coming to a stadium and cheering with all that's going on in the country right now."

Some colleges and auto racing had wanted to play on, hoping to "bring our people together," but those decisions were reversed in many cases.

And after the NFL announced that it would not be playing on Sunday and Monday, a flurry of cancellations and postponements quickly followed.

Baseball postponed all games through Sunday. It will resume play the following day.

Commissioner Bud Selig said all players will wear American flags on their uniforms for the rest of the season, and the Stars and Stripes will be given to fans at all games Monday.

"The more I thought about it, I couldn't rationalize starting before Monday," he said.

Baseball will make up all the games by extending the regular season, which had been scheduled to end Sept. 30. The games will be rescheduled for the week of Oct. 1.

"I believe in the sanctity of the 162-game schedule," Selig said.

That leads to the possibility of the World Series, long known as the October Classic, producing its first Mr. November. It originally had been scheduled to end Oct. 28.

By rescheduling the games, baseball ensured Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn would finish their Hall of Fame careers at home instead of on the road.

The Big Ten, Big 12 and Southeastern conferences reversed field and postponed all of their college football games a day after announcing its teams would play.

The three leagues joined the Atlantic Coast, Big East and Pac-10 conferences in calling off the games, meaning there will be no major-college football Saturday.

There were 116 games involving Division I-A and I-AA teams scheduled for this weekend, and it appeared only a handful if any would be played.

"There was real anxiety as the week went on on the part of our football team about traveling by air," said Bowling Green athletics director Paul Krebs, whose school pulled out of a game at South Carolina a few hours before the SEC reversed course and called off its games.

The NASCAR race in Loudon, N.H., was rescheduled for Friday, Nov. 23 the day after Thanksgiving.

"It was NASCAR's decision, but we agreed with them 100 percent," track owner Bob Bahre said.

It was only the second non-weather postponement for NASCAR in at least 30 years.

The Indy Racing League's season-ending race and a NASCAR trucks race scheduled this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway were postponed for three weeks. The decision to delay the races came a day after plans were made to run the races as scheduled without qualifying sessions.

"This has been a difficult process from the beginning," Texas Motor Speedway general manager Eddie Gossage said. "Opinions have been mixed."

The NFL made its decision following talks with league owners, union leaders and the White House. It was the first time in the league's history that it called off games for a reason other than a strike.

A decision on whether to reschedule this weekend's games or play a 15-game regular season schedule is under consideration and will be announced as soon as possible, the NFL said.

The Bush administration provided only information, not a recommendation, said administration spokeswoman Anne Womack. Aides to President Bush kept league officials informed about such things as major memorial services that might conflict with games.

"We asked them to use their best judgment about whether to proceed," Womack said.

Tuesday's terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon left leagues struggling with how to get back to business without offending a nation grieving its dead.

"You can't have a stadium full of people having fun," St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Fernando Vina said, "because that's not what this is about now."

With that sentiment in mind, baseball has put off 91 games to raise the possibility of World Series games being held in November for the first time. The postponements were the most for the national pastime since World War I.

Barry Bonds' pursuit of 70 homers and the pennant races were all put on hold with 2 1/2 weeks to go in the regular season.

Tagliabue was well aware of the decision by predecessor Pete Rozelle to go ahead with games two days after the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963. The late Rozelle long regretted that choice.

"I made the decision," Rozelle once said. "In retrospect, I wish I hadn't."

Plenty of NFL players were adamant: Cancel the games.

"You know what? I'll forgo my weekly paycheck. This is serious," said defensive end Phil Hansen, the Buffalo Bills' players association representative.

Others were worried about flying to road games or thought it would be tough to concentrate on their jobs. But there were also those around the league who insisted the games must go on.

"From a personal standpoint not as a coach but as an American we want to play," said Brian Billick, coach of the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens. "I don't want cowards to dictate what we do in this country."

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