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How 9/11 Changed the Sports Landscape

A regionally renowned sports columnist was the guest speaker in our journalism class my junior year at the University of Dayton, and I remember wondering whether or not to ask the question that was front and center on my mind.

Finally, I did. Directly and bluntly.

“Since there are so many more important things going in the world, do you ever regret you’ve spent your entire career covering sports?”

I can’t remember ever being as anxious to hear the answer to a question up to that point in my young life. After all, I had every intention of following a similar career path. But first, I wanted to know – had to know – if it was a worthwhile endeavor, and, if so, why.

Then came the answer.

“You’re right,” he told me. “In the overall scheme of things, there are more important things than sports. Still, sports has its own special importance. It’s a diversion from all the serious things going on everyday that everyone has to spend a lot of time focusing on. Because of that, we need sports as an escape.”

As he spoke, I felt a sense of relief with every passing word.

I continued on my career path as planned – as a sports journalist.

But there were times when I must admit, I felt envious of my colleagues on the news side, especially during big events.

On Sept. 11, 2001, the news editor at the newspaper where I was sports editor, was on vacation. As the terrorist attacks gripped the nation, I filled her role.

After being immersed in the coverage of an event that has forever altered American lives like none since Pearl Harbor, there were moments when I wondered if I could ever go back to the sports desk.

I even wondered at times if anyone could play games in the immediate aftermath of such a transformative and tragic event.

After some time had passed, though, playing the games seemed like it was something all of us needed.

Major league baseball postponed its games for a week after 9/11. The NFL also postponed its games that were scheduled for the weekend following the tragedy.

Section 1, the governing body of interscholastic athletics in Westchester, Rockland, Putnam and Dutchess counties, postponed all games scheduled for the Friday through Sunday following 9/11 after initially allowing many games to be played the previous two days.

When Mike Piazza’s home run lifted the Mets over the Atlanta Braves on Sept. 21, 2001 in the first pro sporting event played in New York City since 9/11, it seemed like an entire city celebrated together.

The scene was replicated hundreds of other times over the next few weeks on fields throughout the area, including Westchester.

For high school athletes, especially, playing sports means being around friends, having fun and continuing with a regular routine.

And in the 9/11 decade and beyond, nothing is more important than that.

Joe Lombardi's look at sports of all sorts in Westchester appears on Sundays.

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