Pray Ball

The return of the timeless rhythms of baseball helps us regain our balance.

That brings us, at least in this context, to New York baseball, which on September 11 suddenly lost substance and value, like everything else in the city that was a safe distance from Ground Zero. But baseball doesn¹t have to be meaningless, as so many are saying. As we embrace our grief and seek to be brave, it couldn¹t hurt to remember that New York is also the city of bygone heroes like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig and Jackie Robinson, of Mickey Mantle and Reggie Jackson. It¹s the city where Bobby Thomson hit the Shot Heard Round the World, Willie Mays made The Catch and the ¹55 Dodgers -- ³dem bums!² -- finally won the World Series. It¹s the city where the laughingstock of the National League, the hapless New York Mets, rose up from obscurity and derision to win the 1969 World Championship. Need I add that it¹s the city where the New York Yankees have won twenty-six championships, the most recent of them last October? None of that can hurt as we grope in the darkness.

For a little uplift, try baseball. Even in St. Louis and Chicago, try New York baseball. Because this fall, everyone is a New Yorker. I don¹t know what the daredevil Philippe Petit might say, but perhaps the steady rhythms and timeless comforts of the grand old game can help us maintain our balance as we undertake our own dangerous high-wire acts in the face of uncertainty. Let¹s say it again, quietly: Play ball.

Amid the horrors inflicted by the terrorists, some smaller (but not lesser) tragedies have been relegated to the back pages of the newspapers and the margins of the newscasts. On another day, the eight University of Wyoming track athletes who lost their lives in a horrendous highway accident on September 16 would have commanded headlines. Instead they are casualties of the road and of the Big Picture. But we should remember their friends and families, too. God bless.

So, too, let those who pray say a prayer for Alex Zanardi. On September 15, four days after the World Trade Center and Pentagon bombings, the two-time Championship Auto Racing Teams champion was leading the final laps of a race in Germany (CART's first European event) when he lost control, skidded sideways into the path of oncoming Alex Tagliani and was struck amidships at 200 miles per hour. Zanardi's car was sheared in half, and an hour later both of his legs had to be amputated. Only recently was the driver roused by doctors from a medically induced coma. The world Zanardi beheld upon awakening must have looked no less tragic and dangerous than when the green flag dropped.

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