NEW YORK, NY – This is a solemn day across the United States. As solemn as it gets. I scrapped my initial post while watching the 9/11 Memorial Service, as it is likely that anyone reading this was touched in some way by the events of September 11, 2001. As Different Matt, Junoir Blaber and Ben Whitney will remember, our shared rugby community was hit hard. It is chock full of Wall Street types, police, nurses and fire fighters. I went to at least eight brutally sad wakes/funerals. Twenty years later, the scab still gets ripped off each year, followed by a trickle of tears. Yet we move on, some of us easier than others. We continue to live freely and openly, despite the intentions of those behind the attack. THAT is what makes this country, warts and all, so unique. We can pretty much do what we want, even if it means posting a sports column on 9/11. And really, would any of those lost have it any other way? Probably not. With that, let’s get to what we do (while flipping the bird to those that tried to compromise us) with one thing that ties things together: 9/11 and Mike Piazza.
The country was on lock-down after the 9/11 attacks. Planes didn’t fly again until the 13th – on a limited basis. Not having planes buzz overhead was eerie and unsettling. To keep the economy going, the Wall Street exchanges were up and running by the following Monday, with friends of mine passing by body bags to work at Ground Zero. They were civilians in what was still a war zone, asked to ignore the death and destruction to simply keep trade and the stock market from collapsing. They did this while wondering if they’d see or find many missing colleagues. And it wasn’t just those working in the financial sector. There were many, including my brother Tommy, that were working on the smoking pile, looking for survivors. Tragically, they mostly found just pieces of those lost. I was in LA until finally getting on a flight on the 20th. With phones not working in many instances, we were relying on the relatively-new internet to find out who was alive. In the meantime, my buddy and his family were using my apartment to search for his sister Margaret, who was not found.
As for MLB games, ultimately there was a six-day shutdown. People were not all on the same page about professional sports resuming, however, particularly in NYC. Some felt it was too soon, or disrespectful. Other felt it was important to get back to some sort of normal. When the Mets and Braves took the field in that first game back at Shea Stadium, there were mixed emotions. Then came Mike Piazza’s home run, and all was good again – at least for a night. Families of the fallen in attendance erupted with cathartic cheers and smiles. Collective emotion poured out as Piazza rounded the bases. There was no bat flip. No standing in the box and admiring his shot. Just a man rounding the bases, doing his job. Thank you, Michael.
That’s all for today. I hope that those of you suffering through a loss on this day can focus on happy memories and get through the weekend with that scab being torn off just partially. If you need a laugh, watch tonight’s Subway Series, which pits crappy iterations of both the Stanks and Mutts for the first time. (Usually one of the teams is actually good).