So Now What Do I Do?By Dean Shutt
I supported the idea of canceling major sporting events in the aftermath of the September 11 tragedy. I knew that it was probably the right thing to do. I agreed with all of my friends that the country needed time to reflect and digest the events of the week before running off to a football game. Indeed, I was the model of levelheaded sports fandom throughout the whole episode. Then I started to really think about it and I realized that I didn't really agree with the consensus opinion. I started thinking that maybe, just maybe, professional sports was exactly what we needed at that moment.
I can respect and even applaud the athletes for realizing that sport is a fairly irrelevant part of life. As a fan of some pretty bad teams over the years, I can attest that you can have a full and productive life without any sporting joy in it. However, I do think that while the outcomes of the games are not that important, the fact that the games are played can be vitally important. For many years, my beloved Colts lost every weekend. I knew this would happen and yet I looked forward to those weekends and the possibility that maybe this time would be different. During the week I would read about players and game plans and concoct scenarios in which my beloved Blue and White would vanquish the foe. It didn't matter that these were flights of fancy, in many ways that was exactly the point. It took me away from the realities of life and for a moment put me in a happy place where my football team didn't suck. Don't discount the importance of that in everyday life.
Now what if the Colts had taken a good hard look at the beginning of the season and said, "You know what? We are lousy and pretty much the only team we are going to beat this year is Tampa Bay. So we're just going to go ahead and forfeit every game but the Bucs this year." If this were to happen, the outcome of the season would be the same, the record wouldn't change, and quite frankly it would probably do a lot less emotional damage to Colts fans. But we would also miss out on the yearly upset of some Super Bowl contender, the thrilling comeback that comes up short, the midweek dreams of glory. In short, we would miss out on football. Our lives would be dreary places of work and home and fixing things around the house. We would have no reason to look forward to the weekend other than to sleep in. We would almost be women.
That is kind of how I felt that weekend the sports world went dark. For the first time in memory I couldn't find a game anywhere on the dial. I couldn't even find a rerun of a college game on ESPN classic. I was without sport and I was sad.
And I didn't need to be sad that weekend. I had spent the entire week being sad and angry and hurt and confused and tired and scared and far too many other negative emotions to count. I had been through the wringer and back again emotionally and psychologically. All I needed that weekend was to relax on the couch, avoid bad news and watch my beloved Colts pummel some hapless opponent, or even my Red Sox continue their proud march into mediocrity. I didn't need to know how unsafe the airlines are, I needed escape from all of that, and professional sports let me down.
I remember watching the first game back on Monday. It was the Cardinals and somebody or other in St. Louis. I remember the joy in that ballpark and the patriotic fervor as 50,000 sang the national anthem out loud for the first time since grade school. I remember welling up as they sang "God Bless America" for the seventh inning stretch. I remember being proud at the fact that these Americans were putting fear aside and gathering in large numbers (and making an attractive target) for something as silly as a baseball game. I remember feeling a little brighter about things for the first time in nearly week as these grown men ran around and played a kid's game for my amusement. But most of all, I remember thinking that I really could have used all of those feelings of empowerment and happiness a few days earlier.
Dean's House of