Archive for Sunday, September 23, 2001

Cheering for Jets, Giants easy to do after attacks

September 23, 2001

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— J-E-T-S! Jets! Jets!

Sorry, I'm just practicing. I have never been a Jets fan. Or a Giants fan, either. But, strangely, I find myself pulling for them.

I'm not alone. The New Yorks Yankees were cheered in Chicago this week. Chicago?!

In the wake of terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, New Yorkers deserve something to cheer about. They should have the World Series winner again! and the Super Bowl champion. So, for a season at least, my loyalties have shifted.

I love N.Y.!

"I think everybody might pull for a New York team, but I know deep down they'd like to win it, too," said Jets quarterback Vinny Testaverde, who took a rock home from the Trade Center site. "But it sure would be nice. It would be a great thing for a lot of people as far as healing and just comforting them. And, you know, that's why I picked up that rock and told my teammates, 'Let's make a commitment. This is the start of it.' The rock is a symbol of what we're committed to do."

The Giants and Jets are between a rock and a hard place. While workers continued to dig through the rubble at ground zero last week, not far away, the city's NFL teams practiced.

Many Giants players admit they have not allowed themselves to look east, where the towers stood. It hasn't helped. The smoke, the dust and the stench of death are sickening reminders of Sept. 11.

"I had to wash my eyes out with water four times during practice," Giants tackle Lomas Brown said this past week. "It's scary just thinking about it. Any time I hear a plane now, I'm always looking up. This is going to change things forever. You almost feel violated."

So how do they focus on football? They dedicate the season to the memory of the 6,000-plus victims of the World Trade Center. They play in honor of the firefighters. They play to give New Yorkers hope.

"I think it means a lot, and this is why I think it means a lot: because a lot of those firefighters, a lot of those policemen, a lot of those people buried under that rubble were Giants' fans," Giants quarterback Kerry Collins said. "I think, first of all, we didn't need to play last weekend for their memory. I think from here on out, we owe it to them to play in their memory and to play the game the right way."

Emotion, however, can carry a team only so far.

Vikings offensive lineman Korey Stringer died from heatstroke Aug. 1. The Vikings played 10 days later and were impressive in an exhibition game victory against the Saints. Minnesota, which dedicated its season to Stringer, went undefeated in the preseason.

But the Vikings were flat in their season opener against the Panthers. Despite being 1012-point favorites, the Vikings lost, 24-13.

Vikings guard Corbin Lacin admitted after Stringer's death that this would be the team's most trying season.

"Not even a second goes by without you thinking about Big K," Lacin said. "Everybody's thinking the same thing. The only thing that helps is time, and you can't force time. All season long we'll be dealing with this."

The Giants and Jets are going to find the same challenges. Nothing will be easy. But it's hard not to hope for the best for them. New York deserves it.

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