Nothing and EverythingBy Robert Nishihara
It has been 365 days since airplanes flew into buildings. It has been 8,760 long, grief filled hours since hundreds of New York City police officers and firemen summoned a courage that I still cannot fully fathom to enter collapsing skyscrapers. It has been exactly a year since a plane full of people sacrificed themselves to prevent more death and destruction by bringing a jetliner down in the Pennsylvania countryside.
And it seems a lifetime ago since our collective calendars read September 10, 2001.
What do the tragic events of September 11, 2001 have to do with sport and the game of baseball? At once, nothing and everything.
Indeed, the box scores and batting averages that pepper sports pages around the country seem meaningless in contrast to the horrible life and death struggles that took place a year ago. The jarring difference between the games we play and the brutality of a sweeping human tragedy, perhaps, was never made clearer than in those 24 hours last September. While we, as a society, attempted to comprehend the depth of the tragedy in the hours and days immediately following, only those most intense core elements held any significance: family, community (both local and national), and spirituality. Appropriately so, all else faded into shadow.
However as we began to slowly bring peripheral things back out of shadow, some provided varying measures of solace. Sport was clearly one of those items.
Indeed, sport, and by extension baseball, does have some rather remarkable social characteristics. It can raise our collective spirits like few other social events. It can bring us to our feet in an instant with a single crack of a bat. It can produce hope over a single at-bat or a single game or a whole season. And it can form community among whole cities of strangers.
The place baseball has in our national fabric is permanent and deceptively simplistic. A game of catch between parent and child is at once merely a passing of idle time and a revered icon of family bonds. The practice of keeping score is both simply chronicling single games and often a skill that has been taught by one generation of fans to the next. A perfectly thrown curve ball is but a single pitch in a game, but those who see it are likely to remember the symmetry of the arc long after the last out. While recalling a favorite baseball moment, the teller is less likely to recall the specific objective details than his or her own emotional reaction to it. Indeed, baseball is filled with heartfelt things that masquerade as emotionless fodder merely occupying our free time.
Certainly, on a grand scale, the individual results of baseball games are, indeed, meaningless. However, some of the inherent qualities that we take away from the sport do have particularly resonating meaning. Hope, joy, and unity have never been in greater demand and if baseball can provide us with any of these things in any unit of measure it is openly welcomed.
While the horrible events of September 11, 2001 can never and should never be forgotten, it is of some comfort to know that as seemingly insignificant a thing as a child's game played on dirt and grass can yield such surprising dividends.
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