“It’s amazing how things seemed so important for the moment, like they did when Ryan Howard batted with the bases loaded; and then, if it’s true, that Osama bin Laden has been captured, killed or whatever, it just takes you back to that awful, awful day. You wonder why you got so worked up about a baseball game in the first place.” Those words were broadcast over the radio in just the New York area, but they resonated with each and every person that listened to WFAN’s New York Mets play-by-play announcer the night bin Laden was killed.
The players that were playing in that edition of Sunday Night Baseball between the Mets and Phillies must have wondered why the fans at Citizens Bank Park suddenly started chanting “U-S-A” over and over again.
Rewind almost ten years ago and the Mets were at the forefront again, playing in the first sporting event in New York City since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. That night, they played the Atlanta Braves, but the feeling around Shea Stadium was still the same: patriotism. Both teams were covered in hats and patches that read FDNY and NYPD and more from the first responders of that day.
These instances are found everywhere in sports. The New Orleans Saints returned to the Superdome after the devastation that Hurricane Katrina left behind and won one of the biggest games in their long history, backed by a fan base that was the loudest they’ve been in quite some time.
When the Boston Bruins held their first home game since the Boston Marathon bombing, the crowd stood to sing the National Anthem. After the first few lines were sung by Rene Rancourt, he became the conductor as every single fan in the building belted out the lyrics. It may have just be the loudest you would ever hear the National Anthem sung.
It doesn’t matter the rivalries that are going on in that moment. It doesn’t matter in the large spectrum of things. Sports are meaningless in the midst of these tragedies. Once the healing process begins, however, sports is and always will be the thing that unites a fan base, a city or a nation. It’s in those moments that sports become more than just games.