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Two Days Later
David M. Dorey
September 13, 2001

Last night, I started to write about the tragedy suffered by our country but I didn't. I couldn't. Words became so small, so painfully incapable of making sense of something so absolutely horrific. Terrorism and was so outlandishly unconnected that I felt ashamed that I even considered it. So with the rest of the world I merely watched the surreal spectacle on the television, kissed my wife and tucked my son snugly into bed and hoped that the next day would wake me from the nightmare. Sadly, the next day brought only more pictures of destruction and anguish.

Now the NFL has elected to cancel the games this weekend. Instead of matching receivers to cornerbacks, reviewing stats or trying to explain the details of a game, I am left without my normal duties of the day to fill my time and yet am not able to enjoy my day off from a world that is now changed forever.

So I wonder - was that the right choice?

There was a call from players and coaches to cancel the games. As fans, how could we watch the Ravens host the Vikings knowing that nearby a building still smoldered, with untold bodies trapped in the debris? How could we sip a beer and cheer as the Giants hosted the Packers when two 110 story buildings across the Hudson River were gone? Mounded in a tangle of concrete and steel, entombing likely thousands of fellow Americans?

It seemed frivolous, maybe even insulting to play a game in light of the reality so cruelly thrust in front of us. And yet, not playing this weekend also seemed like letting the bad guys win. It seemed like playing exactly into their hand and not standing strong during a time we need to collectively brush off the dust, pick ourselves up and show the world that we could bounce back. It seems like backing down and that is not the American way.

In the end, the choice was made - no games this week. While my first instincts was that "the show must go on", two days later I agree with the choice.

Football is just a game. A gracefully violent, intellectually physical game played by well paid men. It is the same game that likely you played as a kid, without pads in the rain on a rock strewn field. The NFL represents that game played at its' highest level, but it is a game just the same. And spectator sports do play their role in our society, they offer us excitement, entertainment, escapism and even a stronger sense of identity. But it is only a game, something that comes after the work is done, after the bills are paid and the obligations of the individual and society have been met.

The horror visited upon our native soil is beyond comprehension or understanding. It has intentionally flown straight into our consciousness and altered the safe view of our daily lives. We all learned about liberty and freedom as kids in school but the lessons have not stopped. America is not a static cornerstone of the world, it is but one member of a dynamic international community and it is our very strengths and excesses that have attracted those that would wish us harm. The price for our society is still being paid and now, unlike ever before, that price is being paid by your neighbor, your friend or your coworker. Innocent children, mothers and brothers.

And through the wonders of the media, we have all watched and gasped at the happenings of September 11th. Maybe through it all, we have started to put it behind us. In our own sense of self-preservation, started to rationalize to ourselves how this did occur and yet would not happen to us personally. This is simply not true anymore and maybe it never really was.

Unlike football, there is no person that you can merely point at across the line of scrimmage and know that he is the opponent. Through terrorism, cowards are able to murder and disrupt from the shadows, and slink back once their deed is done. It leaves us with the dead and dying, wondering who did it and how and why.

We have now gotten over the shock. It would be easy to dismiss this as something that happened once, that did not happen to me. That we need to get back to business as usual and within that show the world that football still should be played and that my fantasy team still has relevance and that no one can be allowed to change our society if we do not let them. That simply is not true.

Society has changed and like it or not, the terrorists accomplished their goal. This tragic event is something far more than an act that destroyed four airplanes and numerous buildings. This was the wholesale murder of thousands of our countrymen. After two days, the phenomenal film footage has all been seen and the hunt for the soon to be damned has began. We could cheer on our efforts to find those responsible and extract our revenge. We undoubtedly will do just that in good time.

But what we need is a national "time-out". It is a time for mourning and a time to put faces and names to all those who perished. Innocent people that were at the wrong place at the wrong time. It is time to start to mend the tear in the social fabric. That cannot happen by continuing on as if society is still the same and that not recognizing that we hurt is somehow "showing them".

In taking this pause from our normal lives, we must express our sorrow. We must open our eyes to the beauty of our society and the costs that are incurred to maintain it. Sports are merely a controlled, microcosm of our human condition. It is not appropriate to watch a contrived competition when current reality is being played out that makes a mockery of millionaires coming together for sixty minutes with a clean set of rules and a clear objective.

If you want to see teamwork, dial in to film of firemen, policemen, doctors, steel workers and just people off the street who immediately and with selfless abandon have instantly come together to perform the hardest of tasks in the worst possible environment. A society that has quickly coalesced into a 24x7 unit working in a frenzy in the hopes that they might find even one person still alive. All the while picking through the rubble and human remains.

If you want heroes, forget about football and look at a thousand people currently disregarding sleep, money and personal danger in order to do a job that must be done. If we can look up to a sports star, then what are we to make of Jeremy Glick? We marvel at a touchdown or homerun, but Mr. Glick put his 2 month old child down and along with other passengers attacked the hijackers of Flight 93. He died and in doing so may have saved a thousand other lives. Heroes? What about 202 firemen and 85 policemen that rushed into a burning building in order to save lives and were themselves crushed in the collapse?

There were a thousand courageous efforts that day which none of us will ever know, ones that made a huge difference to our American society and saved lives. They were more than badges and raincoats and briefcases. They were us. And sadly they will never receive the honor and glory that they deserve.

If you want action boiled down to fundamental perfection, listen to the final words spoken by passengers with cellular phones. When life is at its most precious point, it is about speaking with loved ones and connecting with those that have shared in your existence.

If you want to see valiant efforts, watch the workers covered in soot and dust choking for breath, coughing while holding on to a wall and then wiping tears from his face and returning to search for survivors. People hanging from 80th floor windows to avoid the flames until they made the conscious choice to die by jumping. Parents holding children under their arm as they raced frantically from the falling debris. And then compare that to the challenge of a two-minute drive before half-time.

Those very qualities that we admire most from football or any other sport are being played out on life's stage, not a stadium. And it is done by Americans. By the very best of all of us at time when there were no substitutions or a chance to kill the clock. We can watch the valor, selflessness and cohesion that happens at an exponentially higher level than any sport can provide.

America needs this time-out.

We need this time to put faces on people and names to faces. To gain a better perspective of what has happened to all of us and how through the tragedy and sorrow we can extract lessons learned. We need to grieve for all of us. The innocent victims, survivors and an entire nation of horrified onlookers. We must hold memorials not for the dead but as a testament to life. We must hold up those who have persevered against the most terrible of conditions. We must acknowledge, honor, weep, consecrate and rededicate.

We need a day when everything was planned but nothing really happens. A day that we can play with our kids, call our parents and write our friends. A day that we can appreciate our freedoms and recognize the sanctity of what is important in our lives.

Football will happen again. Soon enough we will return to our daily lives and for so many of us, life will change little if at all. We will see revenge enacted and justice pursued. We will see us as a nation hunt down the cowardly murderers and in some way attempt to make right that which is so wrong. All things shall pass. Before too long we will all come to grips with the most beautiful, terrible, invigorating and cruelest of all truths.

Life goes on.

We just need a time-out.