As we honor the 10-year anniversary of Sept. 11, we are reminded of the real place sports should occupy in life. This weekend between college football, the NFL and Major League Baseball, literally millions of fans will flock to stadiums across our country. Fans will talk smack, athletes will perform seemingly superhuman feats, and some teams will win while others will lose.
Also this weekend, however, ceremonies will be held. There are few settings more moving than being in the midst of up to 100,000 fans capable of creating noise close to intolerable but standing in silence. On this weekend, these moments when a roaring crowd on the edge of frenzied combustion comes to a screeching halt, we will all remember how 9/11 similarly brought our hectic lives to a suddenly reprioritized stop.
Suddenly when baseball stadiums should have been filled with nervous fans anxiously enduring a pennant race, and football stadiums should have been filled with hopeful fans on the cusp of new seasons, they instead became eerily cavernous. Silent.
On Thursday, my grandfather, a veteran of World War II, passed away. My family’s life came to a screeching halt as we all said our silent goodbyes. As his body, draped in an American flag, was placed on a gurney and wheeled down the hallway of the Utah State Veteran’s Nursing Home with “Taps” playing in the background, residents, workers and visitors stopped and honored the fallen former soldier, my grandpa.
Some residents feebly attempted to salute the honor that will likely soon be theirs. Nurses joined our family in tears. After our small and unfortunately not uncommon ceremony, our family went our separate ways to begin preparations for the funeral services.
On my way back to the car, I looked at my phone and found a text message in which one of my friends was talking trash about the local college football team that I choose to support. This is a message I normally enjoy and take in stride, so I cannot nor do I fault my friend for sending it, but suddenly I didn’t care. No part of me was motivated in any way to respond to the message as I normally would have.
It didn’t matter anymore. Sport was put in its rightful place.
This weekend, many of us will have the opportunity to stand in silence in a setting made for the exact opposite. Next week, one of college football’s greatest rivalries will be renewed when Utah travels to BYU. The change of date for the game from November to September will change the implications of this game, but it won’t change the hatred (hatred is a strong word, which is exactly why I use it) between the two fan bases and teams. Maybe playing this game in the footprints of Sept. 11 is just what this rivalry needs.
Here’s hoping that the change in date makes this rivalry even greater — by making it more civil. Cougar fans, be welcoming to the Ute fans who come into LaVell Edwards Stadium next week. Ute fans, be loud but be gracious. Enjoy the lighthearted trash talk. Treasure the atmosphere. But be civil.
With Sept. 11 barely in the rearview mirror, let’s remember sports for what it should be: something that brings community together instead of tearing it apart.
In a world where we are fighting a war in which soldiers are dying, and in a rivalry wherein one of the schools and many of the fans on both sides believe in something they claim to be far more important, this rivalry should be one of the best, but only because we remember the people who have sacrificed and are now sacrificing for our freedom to be able to enjoy it. Grandpa wouldn’t have it any other way.
Trevor Amicone is the sports director at 88.1 Weber FM and host of the sports talk radio show, "Fully Loaded Sports with Trevor Amicone." To check out more blogs, go to trevorstoptens.com