Bosco’s Corner: Sports takes back seat after attacks

By The TimesLedger

Everyone has a story. As with the assassination of John F. Kennedy or the tragedy of the Challenger, everyone will always remember where they were, how they heard, what they saw when the World Trade Center was destroyed and thousands of innocent people lost their lives.

In the wake of such enormous tragedy, it is impossible to think of sports. All across the United States professional and college teams canceled games, from the New York Jets to the Queens College Knights. High schools followed suit as well, not because there was a security risk, but because no one could have possibly been expected to play sports at a time like this.

All high school football games in New York City were canceled this past weekend, as were just about every other sports contest you could think of.

When I called Holy Cross coach Tom Pugh, who is vice president of the Catholic High School Football League, for the position of the league regarding the cancellations, I found out his story, not just the facts about football games.

Pugh was working at Holy Cross when the two planes struck both towers. Pugh, like a few others at the Flushing school, needed to see what they were hearing and went up to the school’s tower, from which he could see the Manhattan skyline.

And there they were, two towering buildings clearly on fire, visible all the way from the Flushing-Bayside border.

My story about how I learned about the disaster is probably like many others’. While on my way to work it came over my car radio, reports that there had been a plane crash. At first, like a lot of other people I’m sure, I thought it was just a freak accident, like the plane that crashed into the Empire State Building all those years ago.

I raced to my mother’s house in Bayside, ran inside and turned on the television, just in time, it turned out, to see the second plane come screaming in. And then I saw the explosion, which at once confirmed any doubts as to whether this was one horrible accident or a planned terrorist attack.

Within minutes the world had changed and my job seemed woefully insignificant. I was left the task of putting together a sports section that day, which seemed like the last thing I wanted to do. It just didn’t seem important anymore.

And it came as no surprise that the Catholic High School Football League, the Public School Athletic League and the Catholic High School Athletic Association all canceled games in the following days in the wake of the tragedy.

There was really no other choice.

“You don’t want to put a team on the field,” Pugh said. “Every school has been touched by this tragedy. It is a time to grief. I think it was too soon to play a game that weekend. I agreed with it.

“There are teams in our league that have firemen as coaches,” he added. “I have two.”

Here in the world of sports we use words like determination, heart, courage and sacrifice every week to describe what players do on the field. And while those descriptions may be appropriate in context, they cannot compare to the bravery we have seen this week by the police, firefighters, emergency technicians and countless other who gave of themselves without thought. It reminded me of how great a country we are privileged to live in and made me humble and grateful all at once.

The deep wound this nation has suffered following the attacks of Sept. 11 will heal in time, sports on all levels will resume and fun will be had. But right now as I write this, it all seems so trivial.

It is important that we as Americans move forward, despite what we may be feeling. We must face our fears and beat them back. Sooner or later this conflict will come to an end and no doubt more innocent people will lose their lives in the struggle.

But when the dust clears at the end of this long day ahead of us, I plan to be sitting on the sidelines of a football game or courtside for basketball, doing the job I have been paid to do. In the grand scheme of things, writing about local sports may not be of greater importance then, but it will mean something again.

And I can’t wait for that day.

Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 130.

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