It Brings Us Together

The video above is from last night’s Mets-Phillies game, and was filmed moments after news began to filter out about Osama Bin Laden’s death at the hand of US forces. When I saw that clip, I instantly recalled October 2001.

It was just a few weeks after a number of deranged individuals took thousands of American lives by committing heinous acts of terror on U.S. soil. America was grieving, trying to cope and process a new world in which our safety, so long taken for granted, was suddenly in doubt. Pain, sadness, and confusion were the emotions of the day, and the country in general and New York City in particular were desperate for a catharsis, for a moment where we could stand together, link hands as Americans, and say “You can strike at us, but we will stand together and grow stronger. We are united. We are not afraid.” Somewhat surprisingly, that moment came at a World Series game in the Bronx.

Ultimately, this was a triviality. It was a bunch of people gathered in a ballpark to watch men play a children’s game, and the President happened to throw a baseball. But somehow, it represented so much more. For a few short hours, we were allowed to stop mourning and start cheering. President Bush stepped out of the Yankees dugout and onto the mound to wild cheers, threw a perfect strike, and walked off the mound as the entire ballpark chanted “USA!! USA!! USA!!” This was 56,000 emotional fans yelling on top of their lungs that, as one fan’s sign said, “USA Fears Nobody. Play Ball.” It was a moment where we could come together as Americans and tell the world that while grievously injured, we were going to pick ourselves up off the ground and continue living our lives. As President Bush said in the excellent documentary “Nine Innings From Ground Zero,” the moment said:

United we stand. We stand together in the face of this threat. We will play baseball in the midst of the beginning of this war. No matter what the threat may be to us, the United States will stand strong and never be intimidated.

Years later, that quote sounds a bit maudlin and cliched, and the juxtaposition of war to baseball seems slightly inappropriate. But I think that at that moment, on that cold October night, anyone who watched what transpired at Yankee Stadium experienced the feeling of unity and perseverance that the President refers to. In many ways, that moment represented the best that America can be, and it was appropriate that such a unifying experience happened at a sporting event.

Sports have a way of bringing us together, of cutting through party lines, racial divides, and social differences. No matter our background, no matter our differences, we tend to embrace one another as fans of our favorite team and sport. Those who have been to Yankee Stadium can certainly attest to this, as the Stadium is a melting pot of citizens from all races and religions, unified by their love of the game. What better place is there for a a moment of true unity, such as the one that occurred in October 2001, than at a baseball game?

Last night, Americans all over the country congregated to once again show unity, under entirely different circumstances. And at a baseball game in Philadelphia, in a moment of spontaneity, Americans once again joined together to salute the U.S.A. Somehow, in some small way, that feels right.

4 thoughts on “It Brings Us Together

  1. Without getting political, that pitch, a perfect strike from the full distance, was by far the best moment of that presidency.

    It honestly might have been the best moment of any presidency since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

    • In the documentary I referenced, one pundit says something along the lines of

      “I didnt vote for him, didnt agree with him, but in that moment, I felt like he was my President.”

      I think a lot of people felt that way.

  2. Hmmm. Unity in killing. I dont like it. just another way to perpetuate the “they hate our freedom” myth and feel good without ever questioning 60 years if disastrous foreign policy. I love baseball because it has nothing to do with this and I loathe and resent when people try to bring them together.

    • I can respect that, although I think the celebration has more to do with the sense of closure than in the act of killing.

      As for linking baseball and this, these events happened at baseball games. The vagaries of history linked them. I happen to find that apt and meaningful, but I can understand your wish to keep them entirely separate.