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Commentary: Sports give hope, escape to those affected by tragedy

One of the world’s most wanted men, Osama bin Laden, is dead, courtesy of an American bullet to the head. He’s dead after a dramatic and high-stress raid by American soldiers on a Pakistani mansion. Because we’re talking sports here, let’s say bin Laden was a on the receiving end of a Navy SEAL facial after a fast break.

On a more serious note, many who knew people killed Sept. 11, 2001, talked about how they now have closure.

I remember being in my pre-algebra class that day. I remember being consumed with horror watching the Twin Towers fall, the Pentagon smoking, and seeing the wreckage in Shanksville, Pa.

But I also recall the impact it had on the sporting world. No baseball. No weekend football. Those cancellations shocked me the most, to know that something so profound had happened that it could rob America of its favorite leisure activity. Incidentally, 9/11 led to the first November World Series and first February Super Bowl.

But when sports came back, they returned with their usual flair for the dramatic. Mike Piazza of the Mets hit a go-ahead two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth against the Atlanta Braves, a dinger that offered some New Yorkers a brief reprieve.

The Yankees, led by Derek Jeter, the newly christened Mr. November, came within a half-inning of winning one of, if not the, greatest World Series ever.

New England, a squad led by pretty-boy quarterback Tom Brady and a group of misfits on both sides of the ball, won the Super Bowl. It beat the St. Louis Rams, known as the “Greatest Show on Turf,” on a field goal as time expired. That’s a textbook American underdog story pulled off by a team called the Patriots.

That’s what sports do: They give us an escape. They give us hope. They take our breath away. They’re the site of unbelievable circumstance.

So, when word got out that bin Laden had met his maker, the country exploded with reaction. “USA!” chants broke out during Sunday Night Baseball in Philadelphia, which featured the Mets and the Phillies. The news of bin Laden’s downfall broke when a team from New York and a team from Pennsylvania were tied, 1-1, in the bottom of the ninth inning. You can’t make that up.

And Ohio State students celebrated the only way they knew how: by jumping into Mirror Lake, thereby turning a football tradition into a massive expression of patriotism and joy. Buckeyes transformed Mirror Lake into a sea of red, white and blue.

So, whether it’s a home run, a field goal or a jump shot, sports can mean something different to anyone. And that’s the beauty of it all.

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