Sports put in perspective after tragedy

One year ago on this very day, the games just didn't seem as important.
   It's been a year now since the senseless terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington D.C., and sports just seem to have a totally different meaning.
   We found out on last Sept. 11 who the real heroes were. At that time, Barry Bonds was chasing a home run record, but nobody seemed to care.
   And for good reason.
   On that day, athletes like Bonds and Tennessee's favorite son, Peyton Manning, took a back seat. Instead, it was firefighters and policemen garnering the spotlight.
   That's the way it should be. With the exception of auto racers, most athletes don't put their lives on the line in a sporting event.
   When those airplanes hit the famous twin towers of the World Trade Center, people responded.
   The firefighters and policemen rushed to help the victims and save as many lives as possible. They also helped with trying to find people who were missing.
   As we know, it was the worst terrorist attack in our country's history. And it was an attack that affected sports.
   For over a month, it was almost like I couldn't concentrate on the sports world. It just seemed like the games weren't as important any more.
   And they weren't.
   Three hours after the terrorist attacks, I was at ETSU's football luncheon. The topic of conversation wasn't football, it was the attack on America.
   One of the players at the luncheon was affected personally by the attack. Another player said he hoped the game scheduled against VMI that Saturday wasn't played.
   The game wasn't played, as most major college games were canceled. The NFL games that Sunday were also canceled.
   I remember that day very well. I did a story on how the ETSU football team was affected by the national tragedy.
   I knew it had to be done, but it wasn't a story I was extremely happy about writing.
   Nobody ever wants to write about death. Sure there have been stories of tragic deaths to high profile athletes like Len Bias and Dale Earnhardt that have been tough for any sports writer to talk about, but try writing about an event where thousands of people lost their lives because of an act of hate.
   I do think people in our area took a second look at their lives after the tragedy, but I thought it was a mistake for the local school systems to play ball the day of the tragedy.
   It's like Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden said. How can you go to a ball game and cheer after what had just happened.
   I did feel it was very appropriate at the high school games that Friday night, players were carrying American flags onto the field. Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA" also brought chills.
   On a national scale, you could tell that sports were affected very much by the tragedy. "God Bless America" replaced "Take me Out to the Ball Game" during the seventh-inning stretch at baseball contests.
   Sports have their place in our society. It brings together fathers and sons, and I don't think there are too many more things more American than going with your parents to a ball game.
   Looking back, Sept. 11 made me cherished those days growing up with my mom and dad. It made me especially fond of them for taking me to watch "Mister" Jennings in Memorial Center during ETSU's glory years of basketball, or driving me to Knoxville to watch Grant Hill and Duke play Glenn Robinson's Purdue Boilermakers.
   I thank them for all the time we got to spend together growing up. Not only watching sports, but for being there for me.
   Some people aren't as lucky as I am, as many people lost their parents in the tragedy.
   I do have to say that sports can still be an American tradition even after the tragedy. This past Sunday proved that.
   I thought it was very appropriate that the Sunday before Sept. 11 in New York City, two American tennis legends and two of the best athletes of our generation met in the men's final of the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament.
   Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi are two class acts. They love their country, and they conduct themselves with dignity. I thought there couldn't have been a better situation.
   There have been other moments in the sporting world over the past year that have made us forget about the bad things in the world. These terrorists thought they could ruin our way of life.
   Fact is they didn't.
   And they couldn't put a damper on the American spirit.
   God bless America. And God bless our troops.