After a disaster strikes a city, when is the right moment to shift the focus from the tragedy to returning to normal?
Before making the decision to cancel, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was taking heat for his decision to proceed with Sunday’s New York City Marathon, a race that winds through all five of the city’s boroughs. An unscientific online poll showed 86 percent of the respondents opposed holding the race; many commented that it would be wrong to divert any first responders to a race when they could be helping victims of Hurricane Sandy.
Yet the New York Knicks hosted a home game Friday night and the New York Giants intended to host the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday and not much was being said about those events.
After the 9-11 terrorist attacks, baseball resumed within a few days. We all began singing “God Bless America” in the seventh inning instead of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” but the games were played.
Colorado Springs had its own disaster in June, when the Waldo Canyon Fire struck. When President Barack Obama visited, Mayor Steve Bach recalled, “we didn’t want to divert resources away from helping people.”
So arrangements were made with the governor’s office to beef up the state patrol for Obama’s visit.
“At the same time we had the Community Rising concert at the arena,” Bach said. “I thought that was positive and uplifting. The most important thing we did was get Colorado Springs Together going.”
That nonprofit effort, begun before the fire was out, was all about shifting gears to move the city forward. A Sky Sox baseball game was canceled, but the team was playing again in a couple of days.
Who has perfect pitch when it comes to these decisions?
“I’ve never been through that before,” Bach said. “It is a delicate balance and it is case by case. Life does go on.”
Bach wouldn’t second-guess Bloomberg’s decision. It’s a moot point now, anyway.
A month after Pearl Harbor, the commissioner of baseball wrote to President Franklin Roosevelt, asking whether baseball should be canceled for the duration of the war.
“I honestly feel that it would be best for the country to keep baseball going,” FDR replied.
We should never trivialize tragedy. It’s understandable if some people think athletic contests are trivial.
But our games are a part of our identity and especially in a pinch, it’s healthy for us to remember who we are.
America’s response, in 1942 and many times since, has been to say collectively, “play ball.”
Listen to Barry Noreen on KRDO NewsRadio 105.5 FM and 1240 AM at 6:35 a.m. on Fridays and follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Contact him at 719-636-0363 or firstname.lastname@example.org