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Through sports, we see the first collective reaction to Osama Bin Laden’s extermination: Local fan’s reaction
When Osama bin Laden's calculated attack of the United States came to fruition on September 11, 2001, our nation was left to wonder how we stand up, dust ourselves off, tell our enemies that they can not and will not shake our unwavering resolve, and continue on with living life in freedom from tyranny, lunacy and religious and political extremism. We had never been in that position. It was difficult to know how to react. Would it be disrespectful to continue on immediately? How much time would be appropriate? What are the first steps?
The NFL canceled a week's worth of games. Major League Baseball followed suit. Those were appropriate courses of action. There needed to be time to grieve. There needed to be stark recognition that we are vulnerable to attack on domestic soil when that notion seemed preposterous to most of us. Who would dare?
But there also needed to be an international sign that we would not allow these cowardly, reprehensible actions to change us. We would see those signs all over our country in the common restart of American lives. Businesses moved forward. Kids went back to school. We returned to work with heavy hearts.
The New York Mets and the Atlanta Braves met at Shea Stadium in New York on September 21. Although baseball had continued days earlier, an event of that size in New York after 9/11 was, for me, the telltale sign that as a nation, we would move on. It spoke to our enemies with a simple message. "You will not change our way of life." I wept when the Philadelphia Phillies took the field at Veteran's Stadium days earlier, the first official game since the attacks. I'll never forget the shot of then coach Larry Bowa, a rock of a man whose reputation was the hard guy, weeping during the national anthem. I'll never forget the gentleman who was affectionately and eventually named Flag Man walking the concourse of the stadium with a huge American flag in support of the victims and our troops, who would soon be pressed into long action with one goal—to stave off those who care so little for human life that they are willing to take their own in order to kill the citizens of a nation based on freedom.
It's been too long to have waited for the news we heard last night. For the victims of 9/11 and their families, a sweet justice was finally served. In as much as the dead body of that lunatic stands as our revenge on him as an individual and al Queda as an organization, the symbolism of his death far outweighs his lifeless, weighted body sunk to the bottom of the Arabian Sea. I used the term unwavering resolve in the first paragraph. It took close to ten years to track this maniac down in lands that are not condusive to operating security forces. We did not waver. Our military's resolve paid dividends and should serve as a warning to those fanatical militants remaining, be it in al Queda or Hamas or any other group, that we will hunt them down as well. We will not stop till it is safe for anyone who chooses to live free can do so without threat. The message is crystal clear.
I received word last night via text message while watching the Mets and Phillies on ESPN's Sunday Night baseball. It was a few minutes before ESPN revealed the news on their telecast. They had no choice. Those that had not been informed watching that game no doubt wondered why the chants of "USA, USA!" rained down from the stands at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. Shots of the grandstands showed people arm in arm, sharing the news through their cell phones, holding up articles beaming with the headline that bin Laden was dead. The Phils and Mets were tied 1-1 in a game that would go 14 innings, but that was an afterthought.
Met fans like to come down to Citizens Bank Park. Usually, they're treated with all the verbal affection that we'd treat bin Laden with if we ran into him on the street. Philadelphia fans, of which I am one, have an often overblown reputation. We are hard. That is certain. Philly is a blue collar town with hardworking people who have seen tough times. They wear their heart on their sleeves, and often times, that passion spills overboard into the absurd. Philly is not the only city that happens in, by the way. That passion, however, extends beyond our love of our sports teams. In the city that gave birth to this nation, we take pride in our role in its history, and stand patriotically with people from all cities across America. And in this case, especially New York.
When it comes to the fields and courts of athletic battle, we loathe New York. They treat us with marked disregard. It's a great attitude to have because it drives us nuts. That's our schtick. It plays out passionately and often comically. Most people from Philly have a lot of friends in New York. It's our proximity to the Big Apple that made us feel so badly for the families of the victims of 9/11 and their children. Many of us suffered losses ourselves. It was awesome to see Mets and Phils jerseys joined together in unison chanting our country's letters last night. It, in part, triggered that type of reaction nationwide. People took to the streets in Washington, New York, across the nation on college campuses. We will remember where we were when that person died like we'll remember where we were when he killed so many others.
The world is a little safer today. I'd be ok if God opened up heaven's door and let the thousands of bin Laden's victims wander into hell to take a quick shot at him. Two fan bases came together just down the turnpike from New York close to 10 years from the day terror reigned, and during that meeting, the news that we struck a blow to that terrorism made enemies friends for one night. I'd team up with New Yorkers for that reason any day of the weak.
Pete Lieber is a freelance writer and a Philadelphia sports enthusiast. Follow him on Twitter at @Lieber14.
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