Since the collapse of the economy in October ’08 I’ve become a sports fan in an effort to escape the barrage of bad news. I rediscovered the compelling yet inane lure of games, fans, players and broadcasters.
Oddly enough, escaping into sports is how I handled our last overwhelming national crisis, the bombing of the Twin Towers. During October 2001, the Arizona Diamondbacks played the New York Yankees in the World Series.
Concern about the terrorist attack was flooding the airwaves, our normal conversation and even our private thoughts. An overwhelming sympathy and compassion for NYC arose across the country. We non-New Yorkers emptied our hearts, our brawn and our pockets to help the ravaged city.
After the screaming, the confusion and the scalding grief, New Yorkers quickly regained their independence, pride and attitude. The World Series soon became the focus of the city’s recovery. Players were encouraged to “win one for the city.” America would rise from the ashes on the shoulders of the Yankees. The huge ticker tape parade was going to be the equivalent of Veterans’ Day.
The national media joined the chorus. The opposing Diamondbacks were not cast as the bad guys, as much as just the acknowledged foe in this New York-centered American drama. For the minority of us who lived in the American outback, those of us who were Diamondback fans might have felt a twinge of guilt. In my case, I respectfully acknowledged the importance of the Yankees victory to the battered confidence of their supporters. But, with friends, my loyalty to Randy ‘The Big Unit’ Johnson and Curt Schilling never wavered.
It was one of the best, evenly matched, well-fought, exciting World Series ever played. Both teams deserved to win. Alas, the Diamondbacks won by a thread.
The story disappeared as quick as NYC and Yankee supporters could sweep it under the rug. The upstart, unknown Arizona team was quickly forgotten. We had spoiled their party.
I watched the 2009 Superbowl. A tough Steelers team, in Pittsburg since 1918, beat the Cardinals, home in Arizona for only 21 years. It was as close and exciting and fun to watch as the 2001 World Series. We lost. In this case the spoils and praise go to the victor, as it should.
I have often thought that after the ’01 World Series, Phoenix should have proposed that the two cities each hold a ticker tape parade with both teams on display. It would have united the country in a way I don’t think proud New Yorkers could have imagined. It would have been a visible demonstration of our feelings toward America’s biggest and most vulnerable city, and New York City’s hand reaching out beyond their own city limits where the rest of us live. It is a moment lost to history.
Baxter Black is a cowboy, poet, humorist, and former large animal veterinarian based in Benson, Arizona –www.baxterblack.com