On Sept. 21, 2001, the New York Mets played the Atlanta Braves at Shea Stadium. It was the first major sporting event in New York since the Twin Towers went down. Our hearts were still pinned under the rubble.
Two firefighters, an EMT and a cop threw out the first pitches. Liza Minnelli sang "New York, New York" for the seventh-inning stretch. And in the bottom of the eighth, with the Mets down 2-1 and a runner on base, Mike Piazza launched one over the wall in left-center. The Mets were up 3-2, and that's how it stayed.
The crowd let out this huge bellow of release, and everybody waved American flags, and all over the country people wept at the highlights. But here, 10 years later, I'll be honest. I've been a Braves fan all my life. And as a Braves fan, that moment kind of sucked.
In an essay for ESPN.com in 2002, the late David Halberstam dismissed the healing power of sports after Sept. 11. I'd like to gently suggest that sports does heal, and in fact did heal on that very night when Piazza hit that home run. And not only did it heal those Mets fans, and all those people just rooting for New York, but it also healed people like me, who couldn't help but wonder, on that magic night, what this all meant for the race in the National League East.
Let's be clear. Watching a ballgame couldn't fix what happened on Sept. 11. Hell, killing Osama bin Laden didn't fix it. The hurt went too deep. As a nation, though we are back up and moving, we will always walk with a bit of a limp.