Baseball and the Loss of Innocence

Baseball in New York, and across America, is part of our fabric

To start, the way I found out about it was similar to Jackson’s and gave me goose bumps on top of goose bumps.

I understand that everyone has his or her own 9/11 story and that the killing of Osama bin Laden was an amazing thing for the United States. Both of these are events I will remember forever like Black Friday, Pearl Harbor, the JFK and MLK assassination, Iran hostages, and the Challenger disaster for generations before mine.

It was two days before my 12th birthday and I’m in 7th grade at Kent Center School. I was in social studies class doing a project on South America. After an all school fire drill (a planned one, seems ironic now), that it happened. It was a perfect and clear September day in New England, but before you know it, our teacher was telling us what happened, and we spent the rest of the day watching CNN, finding out about what happened. I didn’t take a foreign language, and instead I took a class on current events in which we watched a CNN program every day. I believe this is the class that got me into politics and started to make me understand the historical importance of this event. I am a politics major because of 9/11, I can now say after Sunday night.

Looking back on it now, I think it is cliché to say it was the day that my innocence, and most likely that of anyone younger than 16, was lost. The day in which we started to live in a world where uncertainty and mistrust were always a part of our lives. The next three years of war and violence and a hunt for a man that was, in my opinion our generations nightmare, like Hitler was to one, and nuclear holocaust was to another. This man that we couldn’t find. Prisoners would say or didn’t know where he was, or which people he trusted. This led to the thought that we will never find time or he will die before we do, like a Freddy or a Jason in the subconscious of Americans.

That’s is why this overabundance of joy came across people under the age of 25. It was a surprising, amazing, and relieving emotion for the United States: killing the monster that has haunted us for 10 years now. A man that’s face most would have loved to punch. A man I now wish could have meant everyone who had a loved one killed because of his leadership, so he understood that we didn’t want this fight, he didn’t want this war, we didn’t have an issue with you. It has created a generational mistrust of government because of mistakes made by the previous administration. The crowd outside of the White House was amazing to watch, to look at the pictures of friends on Facebook who were there, which made it more real. I understand this fight isn’t over, but it should be over. Yes it causes the longest war in United States history, but that’s the nature of the beast we are fighting. The World War II generation had Pearl Harbor to wake the beast of America. 9/11 did too, but in a different way. The nature of which will be impossible to say before we are our grandparent’s age, but history makes things clearer.

How does this relate all to baseball? Well my coincidentally my law, politics, and baseball class was talking about my professor’s book about foreign policy and baseball’s relationship to it on Monday. He talked about how baseball’s steroids era and America’s “Juiced Up Foreign Policy” go hand in hand. We know that after the 1994 lockout that baseball lost many fans, and 10 years later caused the Montreal Expos to move to Washington (The Expos in 1994 were easily one of the best team in the majors and were the favorites to win the World Series. Look at the roster. They were good). Steroids in baseball start before 1994, but after 1994 baseball needed a way to gain the trust and love back from Americans because it was starting to lose its title to football as the American Pastime. So the Sosa-McGwire HR race brought many people back to the game of baseball.

Setting the stage for 9/11, Bonds was looking to break McGwire’s record, and questions were starting to be asked about how he got so big and strong. On Monday we watched “9 innings from Ground Zero” a film about how baseball in New York helped start the healing process for the city and the many people affected by 9/11. I would say that the 2001 World Series is the first that I truly remember, because I remember how in shock I was when the Yankees came back twice of the D-Backs closer Byung Hyun Kim. I remember how Rivera blew his first postseason save in Game 7. I believe Buster Olney calls this the end of the Yankees Dynasty. This was the last great scrappy and hardnosed Yankees teams, before they decided to just spend all their money on free agents. But the movie got me thinking about how baseball, yes, is a sport, but can also be a healing tool. At the age of 12 I couldn’t grasp the magnitude of a Mets-Braves game in Shea 12 days after 9/11and what it meant to the city, and how some call it the point that the city began to heal.

Sitting in this movie it almost had me in tears, because it was hard to see again. It brought back deep memories and feelings that I had bottled up inside because I think it is impossible to see what that event did to the way I think about government, politics, war, and tragedy. I think many people who were around my age when JFK was killed felt a similar way. It is a little overwhelming, thinking about something as horrible as 9/11. Thinking about the events that followed it. The wars, the deaths, the policies. It was a little overwhelming, watching the news unfold, and watching this movie, trying to grasp what it will all mean to me and my generation.

The idea that life goes on is a main theme in the movie that we watched on Monday, but it was still a lot of pent up anger, sadness, and frustration came out because of the United States finally getting a victory and a first in my lifetime of fully understand the scope of an event.

I think that sports and baseball are important to an issue like this because sports have become normalcy, and this normalcy was something that was needed after 9/11, and still is needed today. It doesn’t matter what sport you love or which teams or players you extremely dislike. It is a way for people to escape from reality for a while and just enjoy something that maybe, because of steroids, isn’t pure, but is something so quintessentially American: professional sports.

This idea is part of the reason why people are so upset at the NFL. Because it has become such a normal thing to watch football on Sunday’s in the fall, and root for your team until the final whistle. I think baseball has been very patriotic ever since the early 1900’s and has been the national pastime. I think the timing of 9/11 had it as the sport that was seen as the sport to return normalcy, mostly because of the Yankees run in the playoffs.

Baseball is the thing I remember watching after 9/1. 9/11 and 5/1 are two things I will never forget, and I will tell my kids about when they ask. Just like when the football Giants beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl and just like how I was in San Francisco when the Giants beat the Rangers in the World Series and the way a city reacted to the team. I hope I can do the same for the Sharks (whenever) but I know that all these things have relevance in some form or another. For some it’s music and others it’s movie and others it’s book, for me it is sports and mine has also become politics (but that my career path too). The connection between sports and life is clear, but sometimes you need a victory to remember the losses, even though the loss is greater than the win sometimes. Baseball did that for some after 9/11 and killing bin Laden did it too. We can’t get that innocence back but we still have baseball and sports, and we will always have pride in our country.

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