Friday, April 19, 2013

Boston Teams Won't Play Today, But For All The Wrong Reasons

Boston's baseball and hockey teams have both postponed tonight planned contests. A statement from the Red Sox read: "Tonight's Boston Red Sox game at Fenway Park has been postponed to support the efforts of law enforcement officers. The Boston Bruins said their game against Pittsburgh will likely take place tomorrow. The move reminded me of another Boston/American tragedy, The Kennedy Assassination. The Red Sox made the right decision but for the wrong reason. The Bruins played in Boston on Wednesday, three days after the Boston Marathon terrorist attack. The Bruins didn't say why they were postponing their game today. The reason the Bruin's shouldn't have played and Sox should have suspended the game transcends cooperation with police. The reason is the sad circumstances of the deaths and injuries AND that this could have happened to any one of us as we participated in one of our unique American rituals.

Would the 49ers have played a football game following a deadly terrorist attack on the parade held for the World Championship San Francisco Giants? Would the New York Giants take the field following a deadly tragedy during the Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York? Would the Rose Bowl be played if someone intentionally plowed into spectators at the Rose Parade? I'm not saying life should stop, but can't we sacrifice just a couple of days of sports in light of the circumstances? A lot people probably won't use the time to reflect, but at lease we would think about why we weren't at the game, or watching it on TV.
John F. Kennedy

Later this year, the country will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. There has been almost endless accolades given to then NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle for NOT suspending or postponing any games and playing a full schedule that Sunday.  "It has been traditional in sports for athletes to perform in times of great personal tragedy. Football was Mr. Kennedy's game. He thrived on competition," said Rozelle. Was that really the case, or did Rozelle decide to play games because the league stood to lose a lot of money. And by adding, "football was Kennedy's game," Rozelle cued us to recall an old cliche, "the President would have wanted it this way."
NY Giants/Nov. 24, 1963

Rozelle's decision set the insensitive tone for how sports reacts in all tragedies ever since. If we can't stop pro sports when a president is assassinated, then when would we or why would we? The only reason MLB didn't play games following 9-11 is that all air travel, except for the Bin Laden family, was suspended. As soon as it resumed, so did games. The New York Mets beat the Pirates 4-1 on the 17th. Today is the 18th anniversary of the terrorist attack on the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City. One-hundred sixty-eight people died in the bomb blast including 19 children. No MLB games were played that night but not out of deference to the victims of Oklahoma City. A 232 day player strike ended on April 2nd that year and the season didn't begin until April 26th.
Well, its 2013 and nearly 50 years have passed since we lost our 35th President to an assassins bullet and his puppeteers. There wasn't a team in Boston in 1963, and Dallas had just lost the Texans to Kansas City earlier that year. Given Pete's proclamation, it may not have mattered if there were franchises in those cities. I believe the games should not have been played, and shouldn't be played today. The are things more important in life than football. Things like, life. And this was the President of the United States! The Cold War was colder than ever, and the failed Cuban-American invasion of Cuba was barely a year old. And let's not forget the Russian missile crisis. The world had just been on the brink of nuclear annihilation.

What would anyone lose through a four day suspension? The people who went to those games would have lost that nagging guilty feeling.

Suspending games for just a few days would have been the right thing to do, world destruction, not withstanding. The games should not have been played out of respect for the office and out of respect for current events and respect for the President anad his family. It's unclear why the NFL got all the attention. In the four days following the Kennedy assassination, the NBA played its regular schedule.

Nov 23, 1963 New York Knicks 108, Detroit Pistons 99          at New York
Nov 23, 1963 St. Louis Hawks 133, Cincinnati Royals 121 at St. Louis
Nov 24, 1963 Cincinnati Royals 122, St. Louis Hawks 113 at Cincinnati
Nov 26, 1963 Philadelphia 76ers 115, Baltimore Bullets 113 at Philadelphia
Nov 26, 1963 Los Angeles Lakers 119, New York Knicks 112 at New York
Nov 26, 1963 Cincinnati Royals 123, San Francisco Warriors 112  at New York

The NHL also played a regular schedule, which consisted of half as many games.

Sat, Nov 23, 1963 Boston Bruins 1 Toronto Maple Leafs 4
Sun, Nov 24, 1963 Montreal Canadiens 3 Chicago Black Hawks 7
Sun, Nov 24, 1963 Toronto Maple Leafs 3 New York Rangers 3

The Bruins played the NEXT DAY! Fifty years later the Bruins will not play their regularly scheduled game, but the reason has nothing to do with mourning the dead victims or the wounded, many of whom will never walk again. The decision by the Bruins and the Sox was also clearly not a league decision, but one left up to the teams. If we can't give up our precious hockey, football, basketball and baseball games for a few days to remember and learn from such tragedies what does that say about us, and could our inability to sacrifice a night at a ballgame and show compassion, even for other Americans, be a reason Americans are targets for such unspeakable crimes.

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