[General] Till My Head Falls Off: Meaningful Games in September?

Thanks for all of the feedback sent my way after my debut here on the Inside Pulse Sports beat. These fortnightly columns are gonna be a lot of fun, and hearing from you always helps, so keep it up! Oh, and before I get into the topic at hand, make sure you read Nick’s great Pancakes in the Age of Enlightenment and Dr. Jay’s Pine Tar For Sale. They not only include links in their columns to the rest of the IP Sports team’s great work from earlier in the week, but tackle some key happenings in the athletic world. (Seriously, if you want to know ANYthing about blood doping, the Dr. is your man; and we all know I’m trying not to touch the football until the games count, so if you need your NFL pre-season fix, Nick brings the goodness.)

I don’t want to get into a huge rant about Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, but it’s hard not to let the theme have a place in this writing. Nick and Jay — and several of Inside Pulse’s great columnists — have shared their thoughts and heart-felt reactions to the disaster, and in case you’d like to make a donation or otherwise help in the recovery efforts, here and here look like pretty good places to start. Send some money, say a prayer, and even go down to the southeastern US if that is how your heart tells you to help. Being in New York City during September 11, 2001 — a vastly different if not the most recent, similarly upsetting, tragedy that the country has seen — I know how proud I was to see the news full of stories about how people were going out of their way to help each other … and I know how sad it makes me to see video footage and news reports of rape, murder, looting and arson — ON TOP OF the effects of both the natural and logistical disasters — coming out of New Orleans (one of my favorite cities to visit). I just pray that things get under control and start to inch towards something better as soon as possible. It’s hard to write about sports, art or entertainment when so many more important things are going on around you.

Let’s try to talk about sports, though; and let me say that in times of trauma, depression or lack of hope, there’s no better escape than a good ballgame. Aside from the uncomfortable visual of people pouring out of the Superdome in New Orleans and being bussed to the Astrodome in Houston — or in New York City’s case four years ago, seeing Shea Stadium instantly converted into a hub of charity and volunteerism — eventually the “games must go on,” for better or worse. Yeah, I’m sure football is the last thing on the mind of anyone from New Orleans at the moment; but there’s something to say about the air of normalcy that a game each Sunday brings starting each September … and in situations where everything’s lost its meaning, every bit of normal helps.

So while I know that there are a lot of more important things to think about right now, this is a sports column, and I can’t help but be curious about what will happen with the New Orleans Saints once the season starts, and if they’ll be in any position to help their community — even psychologically or as a temporary distraction. I read an AP story today that, despite initial reports that the Saints would play their scheduled “home” games in San Antonio, said the team is trying to get approval to play somewhere in Louisiana, possibly in Baton Rouge, which wasn’t hit nearly as hard as N.O. My reaction: what a great idea. Even though it’s a relatively small gesture in the grand scheme of things, I bet it will help those affected by the hurricane that are somehow able to get to a television set on a Sunday to be able to flip away from the bad news and to a simple football game.

I don’t remember the date without looking it up (edit: it was September 21, 2001), but in the first professional sporting event held in NYC after the terrorist attacks, the last thing on my mind was baseball … yet a lasting impression was made on me by the way that game ended. Mets. Braves. Mike Piazza hitting a game-winning home run late in the game. The crowd going INSANE. The Mets didn’t make the playoffs that year, falling three or so games short, but it didn’t matter. The other New York baseball team even went as far as the World Series, and didn’t win. And that didn’t really matter either.

The games were played. Respectfully. Without much fanfare. But played in part to give the fans a few hours of escape from the reality of what had happened in their home-city.

One can only hope that a few weeks or a couple of months from now, those who call the Gulf Region of the United States their home will be in a position to even remember that there’s a football season going on … and that the home team can help by providing a distraction, if even for just a few moments. Even the slightest bit of normal can go a long way in situations like these. In the meantime, let’s continue to hope, pray and help however we’re able.

Until next time …

peace. love. moe.

– Matthew