I wasn’t supposed to have to do this.
Monday night, I was at work researching for a column that was supposed to run in today’s paper. I gathered as much information as I could, knowing there was little time to waste: Who knew how many home runs Barry Bonds would hit before my little masterpiece had time to hit the newsstands?
Bonds was supposed to play three games at Houston’s tiny Enron Field during this time; supposed to continue his assault on the major-league record. But he did not.
Major League Baseball postponed all games through today, a suspension deemed appropriate — necessary — in the wake of the tragedies in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.
This is no time for sports, the country collectively sighed, turning its television sets from ESPN to ABC News. And the world went on.
Or, I should, say the drama unfolded. Hardly anyone’s day went on as usual Tuesday. Classes were a dream, and sleep did not come until we were sure CNN was not going to uncover the Great Masked Threat that night.
But when demons are discovered, whether the journalists or government intelligence win the race for the final clue, and the country mobilizes to follow through on President Bush’s promise to destroy the scourge — what then?
America, as we know it, isn’t designed for war. That Persian Gulf thing? It wasn’t war. It was a high school baseball game: The mercy rule was invoked after the third inning.
No, America cannot handle war, now. There has not been a conflict that gripped the nation in 30 years, or a cause worth fighting for in almost 60. Interruptions of that peace can be chalked up to skirmishes, and United States involvement mere dalliance. So we’re not used to fighting, or seeing our friends or families touched by international violence. No other generation in America’s history has been so lucky. Trials of human conflict have been replaced with the trivia of human competition.
Where little children in the 40s ran out of bed and huddled by the radio to hear about the Allied Forces’ advancement into German-occupied Europe, now they spring to the television in their underwear and socks to try and follow the pennant races on SportsCenter.
We are not a fighting generation, certainly. Our great generals stalk the sidelines instead of the trenches. Our great heroes get paid free agent dollars.
Well, that was the way things were before I woke up late for class on Tuesday. Now there are no games — they’re all canceled. Instead there is uncertainty, maybe war.
The games will start again soon, hopefully tomorrow, and I’ll have different things to hope for then. I can go back to hoping a left-handed man in San Francisco will keep hitting balls into the bay. But for now, violence has transcended sports as the figure of our attention, after we had worked for so long to displace it.
Everyone keeps talking about how insignificant the games are, compared to the lives that were lost and the devastation that wracked our largest city. No comparison, sure.
But not insignificant.
America is in that awkward stage right now, where we want everything to go back to normal but don’t think we should act like nothing has happened. What the administrators of our sports institutions need to realize is that halting athletics in reverence of a tragedy, or out of safety’s sake or whatever doesn’t solve what happened. There is no blueprint for how to fix this, nothing we are supposed to do.
You were supposed to be reading about Barry Bonds now, because terrorists weren’t supposed to fly two planes into the World Trade Center.
But they did.