Opening week of the NFL season is scheduled to fall on the tenth anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks. There were rumors that the league could pair up the two New York teams, who meet this season. Instead, the league opted for the New York Giants and Washington Redskins to open the year in Washington, and to close opening day on September 11th with the Jets playing at home in primetime on Sunday Night Football against the Cowboys.
Dan Wetzel of Yahoo sports thinks the league does right by scheduling these matchups.
By pulling the two cities most affected and allowing the finale to be just outside Manhattan, where the majority of the casualties occurred and where so many indelible images of that day flashed across our television screens, was a perfect choice by the league.
I agree that the league scheduling this matchup is appropriate. It’s easy to over-romanticize the importance of football. I don’t want to use the September 11th anniversary as some pre-textual reason why the NFL and the players must reach an agreement. Don’t get me wrong, they should reach an agreement, absolutely, but I’m not going to politicize that date and say that should be the reason they get together. They should have reached an agreement for numerous reasons.
If they are ready to play on September 11th, we will have them and all of this non-sense this offseason will be forgotten, and it will be part of a nation-wide communal remembrance. It’s good to cry, and that day will be full of it. In this world with 600 channels and smattering of loose connections with our cell phones and text messages and facebook friends, football will be part of a larger gathering that ties those loose connections to remember. The cancelling of sporting events in the immediate aftermath of tragedies shows respect and that the sporting event is just a game and should take a seat behind real tragedy. Some of the most controversial decisions have involved failure to do this–the NFL not joining the AFL in cancelling games the week after John F. Kennedy’s assassination, CBS keeping the national title game on schedule hours after Reagan was shot and in critical condition both come to mind.
Years later, though, sports can appropriately be part of the rememberance, because it is one of the communal things that we do. Just as churches and schools and other communal activities will help us get together to honor the memory, so can sport.
In fact, the only thing that I think the league missed on as part of this date was not having the Giants-Redskins game lead off the day as a stand-alone game for a few minutes. It is currently scheduled for the FOX late afternoon game and is the game that most of the nation will get in that slot. I think it would have been appropriate to have it kickoff before all others, and delay the start of every other game by 10 minutes for the rest of the day, to allow us to open together to start the day (and delay our need to start watching all our separate games) and then come back together to close the day as well.
[photo via Getty]