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When the cheering stopped


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One year ago today, the cheering stopped. Playing fields and gyms across the country went silent. There were no whistles, no squeeking shoes, no chattering teammates, no laughing children, no screaming coaches, no cheering parents.

Only a deafening silence remained. A silence that said no games today. Because games suddenly weren't that important. This wasn't a time to play. It was a time to pray.

Sept. 11, 2002 was the day that sports were no longer important. How could they be? The very fabric of our society that makes sports in this country great was under attack.

We didn't need the talking heads at ESPN to tell us that sports suddenly had taken a different perspective, one not quite so important in our world. Give people more credit than that. Everything we had ever taken for granted as a citizen in the United States had taken a different perspective. Of course, sports weren't important. They always have been and always will be games designed to be played by children.

We knew that the Griz game against Idaho, the Bobcats game against Oregon State , the opening NFL games on that Sunday, the burgeoning baseball pennant race didn't need to be played.

Games could be rescheduled and made-up, but the lives lost could not.

And still people preached that sports will never be the same ever. The importance was gone. We had serious matters at hand. In some ways, they were right. Phrases like "life or death situation" no longer belonged in sports vernacular. A third and long play could never be life or death.

We didn't forget. That first week when people clamored for normalcy by playing games. The games were anything but normal. Grown men stood in the stands at Washington-Grizzly Stadium in Missoula with tears streaming down their cheeks as Lee Greenwood's "Proud to be an American," rang out.

Stadiums across the country were awash in red, white and blue and a feeling of patriotism that we haven't seen in decades could be felt. We weren't Bobcats or Grizzlies, Yankees or Red Sox. We were Americans. We became fans of a bigger, more important team.

Although sports weren't supposed to be important, we witnessed their importance in different way. On United Airlines Flight 93, Todd Beamer, a former college baseball player, Mark Bingham, a former college rugby player and Jeffrey Glick, a former high school soccer player led a group of passengers who wouldn't allow terrorists to crash their flight into the White House. For all three men sports played a major role in shaping their lives. The leadership, confidence and courage that these men exhibited is something that youth sports tries to teach to kids.

The sports world didn't forget. Whether it was the Yankees and Mets wearing the hats of the New York police and fire departments or the halftime ceremony at the Super Bowl. There were flags on jerseys, in the stands and in people's hands. The sound of "God Bless America," being played during the seventh inning stretch of baseball games and particularly the World Series brought goosebumps.

Now, one year later, do we still have the same perspective we did a year ago? Unfortunately, some people don't. But, they are just a few. Maybe the one year anniversary will help them realize that sports will never be life or death. Flight 93 was life or death. The fire fighters and police men trying to pull people from the burning World Trade Center buildings that was life or death.

We know sports are games and we embrace them as such.

A year ago, the playing fields were silent. At all sporting events today, they will fields will be silent again but only for a moment. At 9:11 p.m., baseball will have a moment of silence and other events will also have their own moments of silence. But following those moments, the cheers will return.

Cheers louder than they would have been a year ago. Cheers that will never go silent again.


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