Though fans crave athletics as a noble distraction from the rigors of ordinary life, sporting events have frequently been interrupted when tragedy impedes the ability to enjoy competition. While the hardship occasionally affects the participants directly, it is often fans and surrounding environs that are most impeded. In these cases, a decision must be made if the event should be cancelled, postponed, or even moved out of sensitivity to suffering victims.
When Hurricane Sandy struck the New York/New Jersey region on Monday, October 29, sports quickly became a distant thought on the minds of residents. For even the most rabid of fans, ordinary survival and the devastating aftermath proved far greater concerns than the outcome of a game. Mother Nature has a way of minimizing the significance of sports that even our actual mothers could never do.
Despite the damage suffered throughout the 5 boroughs of New York City, residents are attempting to return to normal life as swiftly as possible. Indeed, local politicians have already realized the importance of sporting events in signifying the ability of overcoming the woes of Hurricane Sandy. With that goal in mind, organizers have decided to proceed ahead with the planned ING New York City Marathon as scheduled on Sunday, November 4, 2012.
The decision is not without controversy, as many residents fear resources will be diverted to support this unessential aspect of life. Yet, the famed annual race brings an estimated $350 million into the Big Apple every year. It further puts the city on the map for countless competitive runners throughout the world. Though the course may be slightly diverted, and an estimated 20% of its annual 50,000 participants may be unable to compete, Mayor Mike Bloomberg believes the marathon will assist healing.
Here is a look at other American sporting events and how they endured similar tragedies.
Baseball After September 11, 2001 -- Occurring during the middle of the annual pennant races, baseball shut down in the aftermath of 9/11. In addition to the suffering on the East Coast, the tragedy brought the nation's transportation system to halt. It simply was not possible to compete under such circumstances. After 6 days, the games resumed on September 17 and legendary broadcaster Jack Buck's words of healing before a St. Louis Cardinals game will long be remembered. The first contest in the affected New York area occurred on September 21, when the New York Mets hosted the Atlanta Braves. Mike Piazza's dramatic 8th inning game-winning home run became one of the more beloved moments in franchise history.
The 1989 World Series -- Only hours before Game 3 of the 1989 World Series, an earthquake struck San Francisco and the site of the contest at Candlestick Park. With the stadium shaking from the tremor, viewers soon learned that much of the surrounding area had been devastated. Ironically, both the San Francisco Giants and the visiting Oakland A's were from the very region touched by the tragedy. A section of the Bay Bridge, which had earlier transported the visitors to the ballpark, even collapsed and sent motorists to a horrific death. Game 3 was postponed and the World Series was eventually moved back 10 days. The dominant A's were undeterred by the delay and swept the Giants in 4 games.
Hurricane Katrina and the New Orleans Saints -- Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005, but the devastation for the City of New Orleans lasted for weeks. As high winds swirled, Lake Pontchartrain flooded the city and thousands of residents sought shelter in the Superdome. The building that still houses the New Orleans Saints could not withstand the horrors of the storm and required lengthy repairs, like the rest of the city. The 2005 Saints were forced to flee New Orleans for an entire season and played home games in Baton Rouge and San Antonio. The team's first home contest was even shifted to Giants Stadium in New Jersey on September 19. The city eventually defied the odds by saving its stadium to welcome back the Saints just a year later. The franchise returned the favor with a playoff season in 2006 and a Super Bowl title 3 years later.
NFL Football on November 24, 1963 -- Just 2 days after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the NFL made the much-criticized decision to play professional football in 7 games across America. Though the rival AFL cancelled its own slate of games, Commissioner Pete Rozelle cited the late president's well-known love of the sport in justifying the decision to play ball. The games were not televised and many were sparsely attended. Yet, week 11 of the 1963 season proceeded fairly normally, although participants and fans both nursed heavy hearts. The Chicago Bears played to a 17-17 tie against the Pittsburgh Steelers on that day, but would win the NFL Championship a month later.
Yahoo! Sports, CBS News, MLB.com, Pro-Football-Reference.com, Star-Telegram.com.
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Jeff Briscoe is a regular contributor for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. He talks baseball and more on The Sports Train radio show in Southwest Florida.