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Sports can help us heal
By Jim Caple
I want us to be able to stand and sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and again debate whether Barry Bonds will break Mark McGwire's home run record. I want us to hear the marching band play, while our favorite college football teams take the field on a brilliant September afternoon. I want us to feel the joy of Michael Jordan driving to the hoop with his tongue peeking out.
Was it just two days ago when our biggest concerns were Bonds, baseball's pennant races, the NFL's opening weekend and Jordan's likely return? Was it just two days ago when we went to sleep with no greater concerns than how the late games on the West Coast ended? Was it just two nights ago when public crowds and restaurant televisions were tuned to Monday Night Football?
Was it just two days ago when sports were important?
It all seems much longer ago now. A lifetime ago. And in a way it was. After Tuesday, life will never be the same again for any of us.
With the death toll to Tuesday's unimaginable terrorist attacks still unknown, it is difficult to think about sports, almost wrong to do so. How do you resume sports when resuming daily life is difficult enough?
No one is saying so officially, but baseball likely won't resume play until at least this weekend. Some college teams have already canceled games for Saturday. The NFL is still weighing whether to play this Sunday.
When should sports resume after Tuesday's horror? There is no rulebook to help with this issue.
The NFL played the Sunday after John F. Kennedy's assassination, and commissioner Pete Rozelle said many times that he regretted that decision more than any other he ever made. Baseball postponed Opening Day after Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination in 1968. Amid much criticism, the 1972 Olympics resumed the day after terrorists murdered Israeli athletes.
After the 1989 San Francisco earthquake, baseball commissioner Fay Vincent waited a few days to assess the situation, then postponed the World Series for an additional week. With the city still experiencing aftershocks and bodies still buried beneath rubble, it was the correct and obvious decision.
None of those tragedies compare to the magnitude of this one. And yet, eventually sports will go on, just as those of us who still can will go on with so many other activities.
One crucial concern is making absolutely certain -- as certain as we can ever be, now -- that the stadiums are safe for players and fans. Logistically, teams must be able to travel safely to their destinations and, like everyone else, feel relatively safe doing so.
Further, the players must want to play again. Talking with one player last night, he seemed in as much shock as everyone else, unsure of what to do.
But most important -- for them, as well as for us -- there must be a proper interval of mourning and respect for the dead. But how long is that? No matter how long, it will never seem long enough.
The cliché whenever a tragedy occurs is to say that it puts sports in perspective, as if anyone was ever confused in the first place. But most of us already have life and sports in perspective.
Sports are not life. They only make life more enjoyable amid all the heartache and loss. The sooner we can appropriately get back to our games, the better.
Sports can heal. And we have so much healing to do.
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
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