Stoner Steps

    In the wake of national tradegies such as the horrific destruction of the World Trade Center, there naturally comes an immediete suspension of sports from American culture.

    This pause gives the nation time to sift through the reverberations and emotions resulting from the calamity that has occurred, as well as respectfully acknowledging that there are indeed more important things in life than sport.

    Victims, their families and the public have to adjust to a completely new situation following a tragedy of this magnitude. Unfortunately, there are several precedents for this type of event. During D-Day in World War II, baseball games were canceled for two days. After the 1989 earthquake, the World Series was postponed for a week.

    Inevitably, the powers that be must decide when to restore the flow of sports to the American people. In the aftermath of the tragedy last week, the National Football League chose to suspend all games on Sunday, while Major League Baseball postponed all games until Sept. 17.

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    In my opinion, these decisions, while well-intentioned, were not in the best interests of America. I believe that football should not have canceled its games and that baseball should have waited until a day or two after our national day of mourning and rememberance to begin again.

    I feel this way for several reasons, cold-hearted logic being one of them. Obviously, the fewer games delayed, the easier rescheduling will be. But since football, baseball and several other sports have been affected, the task of rescheduling arises.

    NFL representatives have mentioned three possibilities they are considering: cancel the missed games and have all teams (except the San Diego Chargers who had a bye last week) play only 15 games, extend the season a week and replace the first week of playoffs with the games that were supposed to be played last Sunday, or perform a rescheduling miracle and attempt to schedule postponed games during teams’ bye weeks.

    All of these options have definite drawbacks. First of all, it would be unfair to have the Chargers play an extra game, and some sort of compensation would have to be made in the standings. The one lost game would also make it very difficult for any players or teams to challenge existing records. What if Jevon Kearse missed the quarterback sack record by one sack? Would there have to be more asterisks in the record books?

    If the league officials decided to move this week to the end of the season, it would replace the first week of wild-card playoffs. This would reduce the number of wild-card teams in each conference from three to one and the total number of playoff teams from 12 to eight. This option would deny four teams a berth in the postseason — four teams that deserved to go to the playoffs.

    Many coaches cited the poor decision the NFL made in 1963 when NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle elected to play only two days after President Kennedy’s assassination. He later called it the worst decision he made during his 29 years as commissioner. However, this situation is different in that if football resumed last Sunday, it would have been five days after the Pentagon and World Trade Center incidents.

    Five days is plenty of time to give respect to all those who were affected by the terrorist incidents, any more time might become dangerous. The American public has latched onto this incident, and it seems as if the public cannot let it go even if it wanted to. Yet there comes a point when it’s time to move on and accept the tragedy and its consequences upon each individual.

    Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig has maintained that the games missed will be made up at a later date. While this is the right thing to do, it will create a scheduling nightmare. Also, perhaps for the first time ever, the October Classic may turn into the November Classic. And the more games he postpones, the longer the World Series gets pushed back, and the more the sporting world delineates from its normally comforting straight road.

    Five weeks after Pearl Harbor, Franklin Delano Roosevelt wrote a letter to baseball commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis and told him that he believed it was for the best if baseball continued to play. I believe that should hold true for this situation as well.

    This leads me to my other reason. Sports comfort people. Sports offer people an escape from reality, a shining example of honesty and fairness in a world and culture that rarely upholds those values. Rules are made and followed, and those who break them are punished. It’s so simple, yet so captivating for millions of people who know that on any given day their team has an excellent chance of winning, and whether it wins or loses, it will have been a fair contest.

    The idea of sports is like an old, comforting blanket you always keep around just to know you have it. You know they will always be there on the weekend when you want to escape from a hectic week. When you have nothing to do, there’s always the option of taking a jog, shooting some hoops or going to see a ball game. Sport is the great equalizer, accomplishing what even this great society has yet to do: It ignores the superficial differences and focuses on abililty and effort.

    If the games weren’t suspended, they would give people a chance to turn their eyes away from the horrific images on television all day, to finally not have to look at all four angles of the plane crashing into the World Trade Center or the people jumping out of the burning building and falling to their deaths. Instead, America, and especially its children, could see more wholesome images of good, clean competition.

    This is not to say we should forget what occurred on Tuesday, Sept. 11, but rather we shouldn’t dwell on it. We must begin to heal the American consciousness.

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