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Archive for Sunday, September 16, 2001

NFL was wrong to call off games

Pain would remain, but three-hour diversion would have been welcome

September 16, 2001

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— This is America. This time of year, we play football on Sunday.

Not today. But we should.

Since Tuesday morning, we've all been touched by the tragedy, and in some cases, emotionally drained and hurting.

Goes without saying, few people felt like working.

But most of us kept going to work in order to keep society functioning. It was part of our duty.

Professional athletes the most privileged employees of all need to do their duty, too.

After Tuesday morning, nobody was looking forward to the mundane details of life: dropping kids off at school, making meals, getting cars fixed, waiting around for cable television installers, having meetings, arranging for deliveries, polishing furniture, cleaning bathrooms . . .

But we did it. We're still doing it.

Last week, the commissioners of two major professional sports leagues decided with little input from the public to postpone or cancel any games scheduled this weekend in recognition of the horrendous events in New York, Washington, D.C., and above Pennsylvania.

The presumption being, with so much grief across the nation, thousands of people yet unaccounted for and probably buried under tons of rubble, few could enjoy watching a full schedule of football games during this national period of mourning.

I agree. But while few would enjoy watching football today, many would be thankful for the chance to escape the news.

This nation was crying out for diversion, any kind of diversion, to get our minds off the madness. By this morning, many of us have probably had our fill of the non-stop coverage on the airwaves, radio and TV, the consecutive special editions of the newspaper.

Our senses have been assaulted by the enormity of this tragedy; it's time for a brief respite.

I'm not suggesting having a full schedule of NFL games would soothe the national soul. What's important to me is the sense America needs to do everything it can do to return to some sort of normalcy.

We have to start flying commercial airliners again. Congregating in public spaces again. Filling the tallest skyscrapers in our largest cities with teeming humanity again.

Playing football on Sunday. Because that's what we do here.

In the overwhelming sense of patriotism spreading the country, it seems everybody's most concerned with presenting the best possible face. It's easy to view the NFL's decision as one made out of national pride and respect.

Read the sports pages, however, and the real reason is revealed. The players themselves didn't want to play.

Many in the New York City and Washington, D.C., areas had valid concerns about the victims and the families of victims, their own families. In other cities, some players began to express concerns about flying in commercial jets or performing in front of large stadium crowds.

They were afraid, plain and simple. Understandable, but also not acceptable.

Unless every professional athlete decides to retire in the next few weeks, someone's going to have to do that job.

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