I hate it when I cry watching ESPN, but that’s what happened to me last Monday night.
In fact, I cried twice. The first time I just happened to walk through the living room as the National Anthem started at the Brewers-Cardinals game. The sound was low on the television, but I turned it up. Way up. And the tears welled up.
The crowd shots were amazing. The fans in Busch Stadium were decked out in their usual Cardinal red, but there was also plenty of blue and white to go along with it, the American flags and the homemade signs and banners: “Stars & Stripes Forever.” “Land of the Brave.” The chants of “U.S.A., U.S.A., U.S.A.”
In the chaos of a typical weekday night at our house, we didn’t pay much attention to the game. There was bath time. And story time. And a 20-minute break for “Dumbo.” But the game was still there. Going on. Waiting for me, and back I came in the eighth inning or so. And I watched it and waited for “SportsCenter.” I wanted to know what had happened at ballparks around the country (and Montreal, too).
I wasn’t expecting to cry again, but that starting “SC” montage — of the kids, the Canadian Mountie with our flag, the Mets with the NYPD and FDNY caps — was too much. All of that, and “God Bless America.”
That’s what did it. “God Bless America.” Standing in my living room on a Monday night. Crying because of that song and baseball and everything it meant and means.
It was great. Tears of joy, sadness and release.
I’ve been blessed. I haven’t lost anyone in this tragedy. My family is safe. My friends still here. Still the same. And once I overcame the initial shock and horror of September 11th, I think that the sadness I’ve felt has been, well, sterile. Detached. Intellectually sad, concerned, but not emotionally upset.
I’ve been more interested in how the U.S. military and intelligence agencies will move against international terrorists (that comes from reading a few too many Tom Clancy novels) and the effects of the attacks on the economy (which makes me seem quite selfish, self-absorbed and cold). But those were the two things that I’d been thinking about the most during the long days after the attacks. No real personal, intimate, emotional connection. Which is good and bad, but it does lead to more than a few feelings of guilt.
And I tried to shake off those feelings, all of those feelings, by getting back into a routine — savoring the mundane and simple things of everyday life.
Indeed, back to normal — in a world that isn’t making much sense.
My four-year-old has a gigantic cartoon map hanging on a wall in her room. In the dark at bedtime, she likes to point out places on the map with a flashlight and ask me, “Where’s that, Daddy?”
She’s asked about “that place where the plane died. Where the people got hurt.”
“New York,” I told her, “Where the Statue of Liberty is. And in Washington and in Pennsylvania.”
“Oh,” she muttered, and on we move to her favorite destination on the map — Disneyworld.
She isn’t worried about revenge or retribution, rebuilding or repair. She doesn’t understand how different our world is since September 11th.
Of course, neither do I. But there’s one thing I do understand now, and I owe it all to ESPN, baseball and “God Bless America.”
I think that for many of us, a lot of healing began on the field, in our stadiums, with family and friends, with our teams watching Friday or Saturday night high school football, anticipating baseball pennant races over a late afternoon cold one, or reveling in the speed, strength and skill on display in an SEC football game.
Or for me, it’s just having a ball game on low — but having it there. Knowing, perhaps, that there are a few things that haven’t changed and hopefully, never will. Tears and all.
Play ball, America.
Contact MBJ editor Jim Laird at email@example.com or (601) 364-1018.