Luke Graham's column appears periodically in the Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4229 or lgraham@SteamboatToday.com.
Find more columns by Luke here.
Steamboat Springs It’s hard to think that Sunday marked the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Each person can recount where he or she was that day, what it meant and the emotions associated with it.
It was a life-altering event.
Even then, I was a sports nut. It was the one thing I understood better than most. But sports certainly took a backseat at that moment. It was hard to justify caring about a game when there was much more to think about.
But the great thing about sports resides in its association and parallels with emotion.
For me, seeing sports and life intertwine happened on Oct. 30, 2001. Up until that point, sports seemed like an afterthought.
Then the World Series returned to New York City for Game 3 with the Arizona Diamondbacks and New York Yankees.
Images of security outside the stadium were as expected. Guys with assault rifles were everywhere. Medal detectors greeted fans. There was a sense of fear that seemingly was everywhere.
Just that sports were being played miles away from ground zero was something else.
Then the first pitch happened.
As the story goes, former President George W. Bush was in the cage warming up. Traditionally, the first pitch before games is thrown out in front of the mound. But Yankees great Derek Jeter walked up to Bush and told him he had to throw off the top of the mound.
“Or else they’ll boo you,” Jeter said.
As Bush walked out to the mound, there was an audible sense of excitement. The crowd was loud and proud.
When Bush reached the mound, he stood there defiant and confident. He slowly raised his right arm and gave a thumbs up.
He then wound up and delivered a strike to ringing chants of “U-S-A, U-S-A.”
Despite what people may have felt about Bush, at that moment, he stood for what Americans felt.
He walked out, embraced the moment and delivered. He was the first sitting president to throw out a first pitch in a World Series game since Dwight Eisenhower in 1956.
It was one of those goose bump moments. At that point, baseball was the outlet a lot of people were looking for. It also showed the power of sports. Sure, it was just a moment, but when Bush walked to the mound, took it in and delivered a strike, it made us feel better.
It was a way to say we may be down, but we’re not out. We may have been rattled, but we’ll remain strong enough to move on.
So as 10 years has passed in short time, it’s important to remember there always are things more important than sports. But also remember sports moments — like Game 3 of the 2001 World Series — can help us define who we are.
To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com