For those who may remember September 21, 2001, it was the first professional sports game after 9-11 took place at Shea Stadium between the New York Mets and the Atlanta Braves. Ten days after the attacks that brought down the Twin Towers, the city was looking for any reason to feel something good again. Mike Piazza stepped in and socked a a two-run homer against the Atlanta Braves. I’ll never forget that homer, and Piazza still recalls the moment fondly as the roar of the crowd shook the old stadium. The Mets went on to beat the Braves in that game, and so New Yorkers had something to cheer about again.
All these years later the city still needs things to help it get through the tenth anniversary of the attacks. It is very comforting to see our sports heroes take the time to recognize the day in tangible ways. I remember seeing the Mets wearing those FDNY and NYPD caps ten years ago, and it still gives me chills. Now the New York Mets will hold a ceremony before their home game against the Cubs on September 11, and the New York Jets will also be observing the tenth anniversary at the Meadowlands.
In truth this is more than just the right thing to do, and both organizations seem honored to have the opportunity to be playing home games on September 11. Last week the New York Yankees also had a ceremony to commemorate the anniversary. It is notable that the teams have opened their arms to the city in an effort to assuage what are still significantly deep wounds even after all this time.
These “remembrance ceremonies” are substantial moments in sports history. Chilling as Lou Gehrig’s farewell speech at Yankee Stadium, these events become part of our collective memories, and reflect sports at its very best.
The Mets and Jets will be honoring the first responders, those lost, the rescue workers, and their families. The Mets will specifically involve families from Tuesday’s Children (who lost parents on 9-11). We will watch and feel the tugs on our hearts and the tears on our cheeks, all the while knowing that this is not only marking the importance of this day but the integral relationship of our sports teams with the city and the fans.
This will be a long and emotional day for most of us. By the time former American Idol star Pia Toscano sings “God Bless America” tonight at Citi Field, we are all going to be exhausted but exhilarated too. Hopefully the Mets and Jets will win these games, but that really doesn’t matter as much as what is happening on the field before play begins.
This is an example of sports at its very best. It is also a reflection of our city, though bruised and battered as it has been, New York has risen from the ashes of 9-11. The world will be watching today, and we are ready to show our best at the World Trade Center site in the morning and in our ballparks tonight. This is what New York City is all about, and we can thank our teams for doing their part to make the Big Apple shine brightly on this day and all the rest of the days of this season and many seasons to come.
Photo Credit – AP