TO PLAY OR NOT TO PLAY

(Update - 9/14)<BR> In the backdrop of the worst domestic disaster our country has ever endured, we find our world of sports. Rendered insignificant by a terrorist attack, it also represents one very large vehicle for escape, a return to normalcy, and some semblance of peace of mind.

The question is obvious: Should athletic contests at any level be played in the immediate wake of this tragedy? While we all want a return to our every day way of life, when is it appropriate to resume playing "games?"

The answer is obvious: Not this weekend.

After making the most infamous PR gaffe of his tenure by electing to go ahead with NFL games two days after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, former NFL commish Pete Rozelle spoke for years with regret about having played games that weekend.

His successor, Paul Tagliabue, did not make the same mistake. His decision to postpone all the NFL's games for this weekend was not only the right thing to do; it started a wonderful domino effect that caused the reversal of some previous poor decisions.

Major League Baseball – which immediately postponed games for three days, with the apparent intent on resuming play on Friday, gave in to peer pressure and decided to wait until Monday to get back to the pennant races and record chases. Although many College Football games set for Thursday and Friday night were postponed immediately, as were a hand full of Saturday contests, most others, including the SEC and Big 12 tilts, were going to go forward. That is, until the NFL decision forced them to change their minds.

The Southeastern Conference at first elected to go forward with all their football games this weekend, saying in effect that they did not want the terrorists to be successful in altering our way of life. They said they would use gate receipts and TV money to make a significant financial contribution to the relief efforts in NYC and Washington, D.C. They felt that was the way to proceed. (You just hope that the SEC and Big 12 were not basing their decisions to play on financial concerns connected to the conference title games set for December 1st…?)

After the NFL – and many other sporting bodies and events – made their postponement decision, they did a reverse. As did the Big 12, and all others who had been standing on the wrong side of this decision.

I understand - and agree to a large extent - that this country should get back to normal as soon as possible. We don't want to "let the bastards win." However, no matter how badly we all want to put this in our rear view mirror, and no matter how much we all want to go back to life as we know it ASAP, there's something much more important to consider.

Are the victims - and the families of the victims – already numbering in the thousands – ready for the country to move on? Is it possible that maybe we owe them more than just a couple of days of watching wall-to-wall news coverage and shedding some tears, before we turn back to the sports page?

Pushing back the NFL, MLB and the other ‘entertainment' stuff for one week won't hurt anything. Rescheduling all the various collegiate events for one week is slightly more difficult, but it's still the appropriate way to honor the thousands of innocent victims of this horrific tragedy.

If many of our country's citizens and leadership are worried about sending the wrong message to the scuzbags that pulled this off, by letting these events put our lives on hold for a few days, I have a suggestion. Let our nation grieve and honor it's fallen for a few days – a week even – then send the scum the same (right) message we sent the Japanese after Pearl Harbor. Which message do you think they'll remember most?

God Bless America.


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