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Original Issue

It's a Whole New Ball Game

I guess this is where I'm supposed to say that sports are
pointless now, as useless as a doily on an aircraft carrier. But
that's not how I feel. Actually, I think that sports can be more
important than ever in gluing us back together.

Let's hope, now that sports are in perspective, we keep them
there. No more of those celebration riots or naming your kid Sosa
or breaking up with your fiancee over the infield-fly rule.
Sports can be smaller now, purer, the dessert cart on the menu of
life, not the whole meal.

We're all in this together, so let's hope taunting becomes
extinct. And booing and clipboard-smashing and head-hunting.
Let's hope the terrorists' attacks will put an end to the
look-at-me chest thumps after a two-yard gain. Pal, unless you
went up a flaming skyscraper when the rest of the world was
coming down, we don't want to hear about it.

Let's hope television stations start showing the playing of The
Star-Spangled Banner again. They can run another Crazy Eddie
Stereorama Blowout ad some other time. Also, is it too much to
ask our athletes to stop scratching, spitting and jogging in
place during the anthem?

Let's hope Upper Deck comes out with a line of fireman and
policeman trading cards. O.K., I'll give you two Mark McGwires
and a Roger Clemens for one Father Judge, deal?

Let's hope professional athletes learn something from
six-year-old soccer players and shake hands with one another
after games, win or lose. Hell, make a human tunnel if you want.
Orange slices for everybody.

Let's hope the first golf commentator to call a putt "courageous"
gets his mousse taken away for a month.

Let's hope Soldier Field stays Soldier Field, instead of becoming
Samsung Stadium or Volkswagen Presents Soldier Field.
Philadelphia is planning to build a new baseball park. Instead of
another Pepsi Place or Stadium, how about
Freedom Park?

Now that the World Series could run into November, when it's
going to be colder than the smile on a DMV clerk, how about we
finally move the games back to the afternoon, so our kids can
watch them? Another thing: I don't care how baseball does
it--whether the players have to settle for one less Benz or the
owners for one less Lear--but let's skip the strike this time
around. Baseball has a duty to play.

It's hard to believe these words are coming out of my mouth, but
it'd be sweet if we could have another Subway Series, just for
the sheer joy it would bring New Yorkers. I'm a changed man. I
love Yankees fans now. Please, put a hair in my soup. Grunt
directions at me. Sell me rings that turn my fingers green. I
know who you really are underneath. By the way, you think John
Rocker knows now, too?

Whatever madness has overcome our athletes, let's hope it's
permanent. In the worst of times they've suddenly been at their
best, helping in soup lines, lugging water bottles, visiting
hospitals. It's so nice to see them at blood drives, fund-raisers
and free autograph sessions instead of at Gold Club arraignments.
Keep it up, fellas, and we're going to have to see some I.D.

Let's hope Michael Jordan brings the goose bumps with him again.
And this time, may he bring his social conscience. He's been
invisible through all this. Right now people are depressed, out
of work and skittish. This comeback is no longer just about him.
It's about the joy and unity he can bring. We need him out
front, leading and unafraid.

Let's hope everybody starts pulling hard for Army, Air Force and
Navy. They've got a huge road game coming up.

Let's hope we all go out to the ballyards more than ever. Yeah,
our fanny packs will be checked and the bomb dogs will smell us,
and there will be no-fly zones above stadiums, but don't be
intimidated. The ballyards are America's stage now.

Somewhere, in some little bunker, the phlegmwad that started all
this will be turning on his little TV, wanting to see a country
full of smoke and rubble and tears. Let's give him packed
stadiums full of cheers and hugs and song.

Then let's find the son of a bitch and run the Grambling band
over him a few thousand times.


Our fanny packs will be checked and bomb dogs will smell us, but
don't be intimidated.