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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, September 12, 2001

America's bloodiest day
This is no time for fun, games

 • On somber day, O'ahu teams continue to practice

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Staff Columnist

Suddenly, it seemed so insignificant whether Michael Jordan came back to play in the NBA.

The near-breathless headlines trumpeting his return from a three-year absence were rendered beyond inconsequential by the tragic events that were taking place even as newspapers began thudding on Hawai'i's doorsteps yesterday morning.

And in Washington, D.C., where he is to play with the Wizards a few 3-point shots away from the gaping hole in the Pentagon, it mattered least of all.

There are days when this country and this community — or at least what seems like a good part of them — are absorbed in sports, eagerly awaiting the outcome of an athletic contest. Days when news from the sports world dominate conversations, capture imaginations and allow us to escape reality of life for a while.

This was not one of them as sports shows turned the microphones over to the only news that really mattered and the horror of events took gripping hold.

If only it were otherwise and we could go back to the fun and games where everybody lives to play another day. Back to when the heroes of the moment could be quarterbacks and sluggers and didn't have to be firemen, police, doctors and nurses. To a time when the president was throwing out the first pitch instead of addressing a cowardly act of terrorism.

Unfortunately, when we peered at our computer screens and crowded around televisions at work yesterday the consuming news had nothing to do with home run totals.

We looked up from Barry Bonds' pursuit of Mark McGwire in shock and sorrow. We forgot about the electricity of the pennant races and felt boiling outrage.

Once again, America is a nation at war. Not a war in the way we have traditionally viewed it, perhaps, but a new, chilling 21st century version in which the casualties, non-combatant civilians, are already expected to number in the tens of thousands.

We, in the sporting media in particular and the sports world in general, have too long used the word "war" as a wholly inaccurate synonym for competition. We have lost sight of the sense of pain and suffering it is meant to convey. We've done so because we have been mercifully blessed with an absence of knowing the real thing up close.

War on our shores is something not seen in 60 years. The flames of war in our capital hasn't occurred since 1812. As such, cancelling the games of yesterday and beyond was an altogether appropriate and necessary response as we mourn the dead and come to grips with the enormity of what has happened.

Someday not too far off you hope there will again come a time when it is the collision of NFL rivals or a baseball pennant race that will occupy the headlines and bring us a diversion from reality.