There will not be a football game played in the “Big House” tomorrow afternoon, and given the circumstances, many would say it”s probably the right thing to do.
After all, it”s been just three days since one of the most horrific tragedies in our nation”s history shocked the world and hit painfully close to home for nearly everyone.
It”s still even hard for me to write.
Having to watch repeatedly the planes crashing into the World Trade Center and the heart of our nation has turned into a terrorizing form of instant replay. It has paralyzed aspects of our life such as classes, jobs and sports.
Major League Baseball has shut down all of its games for the first time since the “D-Day Invasion” in 1944.
The NFL has cancelled all of its games this weekend. Commissioner Paul Tagliabue probably remembers Pete Rozelle making it known that one of his biggest regrets was playing football on the Sunday after the Kennedy assassination and didn”t want to make the same mistake.
College athletics, including college football, has followed the same path and postponed most of its games saying that it”s not the right time.
But when is a “right time” to start? Will Monday all of a sudden be okay to play? Tuesday?
I believe it should be now.
While many are in support of shutting down all sports out of respect for what happened and with regard for people”s safety, others still want games to be played and life to move on.
There”s nothing wrong with that.
Just as writing serves as a release for me, sports fill a similar void for many students, athletes and coaches around the University and the nation. Sports give them a chance to come together in unity, and even in the case of this incident begin the healing process together as a group.
“It”s important for healing to begin and we need to return back to normalcy and from there take things one thing at a time,” said Michigan men”s soccer coach Steve Burns, whose team is heading to Louisville on a six-hour bus trip to play in two of three scheduled games this weekend.
“Our players see a good thing of being together on the road being able to take a mental break, to lean on each other and start the healing process.”
Burns” whole family was in the New York area during the attack, but is fine. Two of his players had loved ones working near the World Trade Center, but they were among the lucky.
And men”s soccer isn”t the only Michigan team in action this weekend, as the field hockey, volleyball and both golf teams are also playing.
“You don”t want to try to pick up like nothing happened,” volleyball coach Mark Rosen said. “Because it is a huge tragedy far worse than anything anyone has ever seen. But you can”t let it change your entire life. That”s what the terrorists” goal was the intention to disrupt our life.
“Do we want to shut down everything and let them win?”
There are definitely more important things than sports right now: Family, friends, our loved ones. Each person was touched differently by this terrible event, and the appropriate healing time must be gauged on an individual basis.
But letting some “faceless cowards,” as President George W. Bush calls them, control our lives and restrict us to a state of vulnerability is not the answer. Even Secretary of State Colin Powell said Wednesday in an address to the nation that we need to return to “normalcy” and continue on with our lives.
This means going back to school, work and even football games. It”s not going to be easy, that”s for certain.
But neither is staying at home in front of the television tomorrow afternoon and continually watching the horrific images on news broadcasts. Nor is talking about it in every class we have.
The truth is that nothing can change what happened. None of us are ever going to forget about the tragedy, the loved ones we lost or what we were doing on that fateful day.
There is no precedence. Nothing this terrible has ever happened here, and no one knows when is the “right time” to get back on track and start playing again.
But I think the sooner, the better.
“Sports will go on, people have to go on and do what they do,” said Michigan hockey coach Red Berenson, who felt on Thursday that Michigan should play the football game tomorrow. And this is what we do.”
Berenson remembers the night after former President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. He suited up with the rest of the Montreal Canadiens to take on the Chicago Blackhawks in the Windy City. Berenson said that while the players didn”t really want to play, the fans didn”t mind a bit.
“They went crazy that night like they wanted vengeance of some kind,” Berenson said. “Sports can be a release for that.”
And it”s not like Berenson doesn”t know firsthand how much different the Kennedy assassination was from Tuesday”s attacks. While Berenson was only an infant when Pearl Harbor was attacked, he knew two people on one of the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center. A former teammate, Garnet “Ace” Bailey, who is the Director of Player Personnel for the Los Angeles Kings was on Flight 175 from Boston to Los Angeles. Also on the plane was Kings scout Mark Bavis, who had played golf with Michigan hockey assistant coach Billy Powers the week before.
They were on their way to training camp but never made it.
“This is not going to go away for a long time,” Berenson said. “But we can go on and learn from this.”
Berenson”s first response to the news of the attacks was, “Can we give blood?” Since then, he”s sent his captains to talk to the Red Cross to find out if he could set up a time where the athletes could do their part. And he said that wasn”t the only way we could join together.
“It”s a show of unity, strength and resolve to go back (to playing) the sooner the better,” Berenson said. “We can”t spend the rest of our life looking over our shoulders.”
But 15,000 of us can spend a few hours at a candlelight vigil, hand in hand.
And over 110,000 of us could have spent a Saturday afternoon together as well.
Too bad it has to be next week.
Joe Smith will be giving blood today.
Hopefully you will too.
His column normally appears on Thursdays and will be returning in its original spot next week.
He can always be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.