We all know that when we root for our favorite teams, it doesn’t matter if they win or lose. It all comes down to whether or not you were entertained and that saying “There’s always next year.” Sports is basically an escape for us to forget about what’s going on in our lives for just a few hours. It became clear that all the sports would need to be more than just an escape, but set an example for how a country can recover after the tragedy and inhumane acts of September 11, 2001. We all remember where we were and what we were doing that morning. I was getting ready for school and happened to glance at the TV where it had “Breaking News” on the bottom of the screen and showing one of the Twin Towers in New York with smoke coming out of the top. After standing for only about a minute or two watching, suddenly a plane slammed into the other tower on live television. I had to rub my eyes to make sure I just saw what I thought to be a plane smashing the other building. It to my horror was true and I will never forget that image.
Baseball like the NFL postponed games that week. While the country was still ravaged and scared, all the sports leagues in this country played a unique role in the recovery. Baseball always has a way of making the transition look so simple. Every baseball fan that year was rooting for the New York teams. And why not. It would bring so much joy to a city that like Washington D.C. and Stonycreek Township, Pennsylvania, had suffered through the events of 9/11. The Yankees had their All Star lineup of Jeter, Soriano, Posada and Williams. Arizona however wasn’t going down without a fight. Led by the pitching of Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling, it was a World Series with more drama than a play on Broadway.
The Yankees had won all three games in New York. Game 4 & 5 in dramatic fashion with extra inning home runs to win. Game 6 wasn’t going to go in the Yankees favor with Randy Johnson pitching lights out baseball in a 15-2 blowout. Game 7 was set for what is to be one of the best and most intense Game 7s in World Series history. Roger Clemens on the mound for the Yankees and Curt Schilling for the D’Backs. Both pitchers were exchanging out after out in a scoreless game through the first five innings.
Arizona got on board first in the sixth inning. The Yankees would answer in their half of the seventh. Tied up a 1-1. With Arizona coming away with nothing after the seventh, the Yankees took advantage with a HR from Alfonso Soriano off Schilling to go up 2-1. The D’Backs had no answer again in the eighth and they weren’t going to go out easily when they threw Randy Johnson out as a reliever for the last four outs against the Yankees. New York was still up 2-1 going into the bottom of the ninth.
There were two on and one out for SS Tony Womack facing one of the best postseason pitchers of all time, Mariano Rivera. Womack sliced a cut fastball down the right field line scoring one and the winning run staying on third. The place was erupting with excitement as the game was now tied and the winning run just ninety feet away. 2B Craig Counsell was next, but was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Luis Gonzalez to this point was 0 for 4 in the game. He was batting .259 with 1 HR and 1 RBI for the Series. This was his moment and his time to shine. The Yankees were playing the infield in which is the smart move to prevent the leading runner from scoring. However, Gonzo (pictured above) as they call him blooped a liner over Jeter’s head into center field for the game and series clincher. A great moment for not just baseball, but for the country.
The NFL couldn’t have had a better matchup in the Super Bowl just five months after 9/11. A team called the Patriots. The underdog against “The Greatest Show on Turf” the St. Louis Rams. The Rams were going for their second title in three years. The Patriots were making their third Super Bowl appearance and were looking to start their own legacy on the heels of an improbable win in the divisional game against the Raiders. The infamous “tuck rule” game. This wasn’t going to be as simple as counting to three. With the way the World Series went, this was going to be another great finish.
The Patriots were up 14-3 at halftime thanks to cornerback Ty Law’s pick six and the unknown quarterback Tom Brady throwing an 8 yard strike in the back of the endzone to wide receiver David Patten. The Rams were baffled, but not out by any means. New England added another three points to their total heading into the fourth quarter where all the magic was soon to happen.
Kurt Warner of the Rams was back to his old self. This time scoring on a goal line run to bring the Rams within a TD of tying the game. With exactly two and a half minutes left in the game. Warner would give his defense a chance to stop the Patriots from winning with a 26 yard pass to wide receiver Ricky Proehl to tie the game at 17. No one knew much of Tom Brady other than he was the luckiest guy in the world thanks to the “tuck rule.” However, he had a veteran team that wasn’t going to let him fail when they needed him to win the game for them.
Brady was on fire. Connecting on every pass attempt to bring the Patriots within striking distance of an Adam Vinatieri field goal. Now in the game against the Raiders a few weeks before, Vinatieri connected on a 45 yard field goal to tie and a 23 yard field goal to win the game in overtime. Would there be any doubt on this attempt? This one was from 48 yards away as time expired on the clock. Once it was kicked (pictured above) Vinatieri was the only that knew it was going in. It wasn’t one of those kicks that just got through the uprights. This could have gone another 20 yards no problem. Once it was all said and done, the NFL and the country got two great moments with two great finishes after one sad day.
The video below is just a clip of what sports was doing to help the country heal and recover from that tragic day when over 3,000 Americans were killed in New York, Washington DC and Stonycreek Township, Pennsylvania. Not only did Baseball and Football help, but the NHL and the NBA were just about to start their seasons and were ready to help in the healing process. Salt Lake City, Utah played host to the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. Patriotism was abundant then and it still is now. Sports will forever be our treasured prize. Whether it’s for a championship or an escape for a part of your day. They all play an important role for the good times and the bad.