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The SportsThink Weekly Review #96
September 11, 2023: 9/11
Welcome new readers! The SportsThink Weekly Review highlights my favorite sport-related reading of the week. Most articles are recently published, but some are not; the only rule is that I’ve read them within the past week. Some are relevant to my day job as a professor teaching courses on the business, history, and philosophy of sports. Others are just plain interesting, relevant to my lifelong obsession with the games we play. I also occasionally share articles and assorted musings on Twitter. The newsletter is free, but comes with two requests. 1. I’m always open to suggestions, so send me the good stuff that you read! 2. If you enjoy the newsletter, please share it with other folks who might enjoy it as well. Finally, I try to focus on non-paywalled writing, but if you find yourself unable to access anything, just hit reply to the email and I’ll do my best to get you a copy. Thanks for reading!
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Hi everyone, hope you’re doing well. Let me take a brief moment to celebrate Saturday’s awesome performance by the Longhorns and emphasize the fact that we are undefeated since my daughter was born. There are no coincidences.
On to the business at hand. I had a few things saved to share, but they can wait. It is, after all, the 22nd anniversary of September 11, 2001. I have this belief that we’ve evolved to exaggerate the importance of events in our lifetime. We don’t want to believe that we’re living in mundane times. I’m 40 now and I wonder what from my lifetime will get more than a passing mention in the history books. The fall of the USSR. The pandemic. And of course, 9/11.
For all but the youngest readers of this newsletter, we all know where we were that morning and we all have our versions of life before and after. I was about 10 days into my freshman year at Haverford College outside of Philadelphia, surrounded by a good quarter of a student body who were New Yorkers or who lived in the outlying “burroughs” of northern New Jersey, eastern Connecticut, etc. As surreal as it was, it was all very real for all of us, but more so for others. It seemed like every other person had a parent or brother or cousin who worked in the city.
Two decades later, the memories get jumbled. I remember a lot of ugliness, but also a lot to celebrate. The forays into jingoism and the Freedom Fries all feel somewhat quaint, almost pastoral. Let’s not get it twisted, I’m not here to sugar coat history: my dad had to go to federal court in Washington, D.C. to get off the no fly list. The judge was not particularly apologetic while doing the right thing. Basically, “your name is Huseyin and you fly internationally a lot, sorry dude.” It broke his heart. There are few prouder Americans than immigrants who rolled the dice to make it here. Even after that it was a good decade before either of us could come back to the country without a little extra love from the Homeland Security boys. But still, give me the general post-9/11 vibe over this current moment where we are at each other’s throats because someone on TV or online tells us to be.
So here’s President Bush, throwing the first pitch at Yankee Stadium during the 2001 World Series. I always appreciated the fact that he didn’t draw out the moment and make it about himself. He took the mound at a good clip and threw a perfect strike. Even during the photo-op with managers Joe Torre and Bob Brenly, you get the sense that he’s ready to get out of the way.
(I say this apolitically, but when John Kerry threw out a pitch at Fenway on the campaign trail in 2004, he did from in front of the mound. In retrospect, it’s funny that any of us thought he had a chance.)
Of course, the sports world greatly overstated the role of ballgames in some sort of nebulous national healing process. But it’s foolish to think that there wasn’t something in getting back on the field, getting back to life. For all of the over-the-top displays, I found myself really moved by legendary Phillies play-by-play man Harry Kalas. I’m guessing most of y’all will remember the Bush pitch, but you may not have seen this one. I think it still holds up. A very tasteful and decent perspective on the value of playing ball.
Not much to say after that. In the words of Bill and Ted, “Be excellent to each other.”
As always, thanks for reading. Back to our regularly scheduled programming next week. Please continue to share the newsletter, I so appreciate it!
See you next week,