Off The Wall: When Sports Become Insignificant

Steve Skinner’s living room is lined with old copies of Sports Illustrated. One by one, he’s taking them Off the Wall. 

I was prepared to put the finishing touches on an “Off The Wall” article about a football hero of mine when the events of the past couple of weeks seemed to make anything I had to write about sports, or sports heroes seem insignificant by comparison.

What seems more appropriate now is to write a piece  I was going to save for next September. The feelings I had back on 9/11/01 are eerily similar to ones I feel now.

First, there was the shooting at a mall outside Portland, Oregon on December 11th. That event left two (who by all accounts were people highly regarded in the community -  kind, generous, and loving, and that had families who deeply cared for them) dead. Less than a week later another tragedy that struck the very core of our society took 26 people – 20 of whom were children –  long before their time.

In both instances the cowards that stole these souls from us, killed themselves leaving investigators to try to figure out why anyone would conceive of such heinous acts.


Why would a person take out whatever deep-rooted troubles they have on two people doing their Christmas shopping, or on small six and seven year-old children with not a care in the world other than what Santa was going to bring them in less than two weeks?

In 2001, I asked the same type of questions.  Why would anyone take a plane full of innocent people whose thoughts were only on their destinations and fly it into the World Trade Center, or into the Pentagon ultimately killing thousands?

We may never know the real answers because those that conducted the spineless acts punctuated them by taking the easy way out rather than accept the responsibility for what they had done.

Even though we may personally not be connected to the tragedies, we all still feel touched by them. When I heard about the planes that hit the towers on 9/11, my first reaction was that of disbelief. As the day wore on, that turned to anger at the perpetrators then to sorrow for the victims and their families.

This week, I feel the same.

It is in times like these that sports takes a back seat among all the aspects of life. Suddenly the fervor I have for my New York Giants and New York Yankees is tainted. It just doesn’t mean as much because there are lives, and generations of lives, that senselessly no longer exist. They were people who one day may have sat alongside me in a stadium and celebrated with me when our teams were victorious. Those future moments have been stolen.

Life will go on.  I know that. It will move forward for the victims’ families because it has to. The best way to honor the innocent that have fallen is to carry their memories with us where ever we go and in whatever we do. Show the cowards that took them from us under the guise of carrying out some faulted god’s will, or because of “mommy” issues that their acts did nothing more than make us stronger.

Tom Coughlin's hat with the memory of Sandy Hook Elementary victims written on it.

So, every day going forward we now carry the victims close to our hearts.  People like Joseph Sisolak — my second cousin who died in one of the towers in 2001, and who was an avid sports (Joseph loved to golf ) fan — will never be far from our memories.

Today, I’ll sit down and root on my Giants, and tomorrow I’ll work on my next article. Like America itself,  I am now a little less innocent and a little less naive. As they have after moments like this in the past, the Giants will wear decals on their helmets in honor of the victims at Sandy Hook Elementary school.  It’s not much, but it is their way of saying we won’t forget and you are always with us, a way of acknowledging lives unfolding and ending outside the field of play.

The September 24th, 2001 issue that is on my wall is the one Sports Illustrated I cherish the most. I bought it at a news stand the day it came out and never opened it. Immediately it was framed and I hung it on my wall. I’ve never read any of the articles within its pages and I never will.

For me it isn’t about what is written.  Rather, it reminds me the next time I’m lamenting the plights of my favorite teams that there are bigger things in life. Whether the Yankees or Giants win or lose, they will live to fight another day. They will have either the next day or the next week to try again, to get better. Others aren’t so fortunate.

Steve Skinner writes for TheFanManifesto. He can be followed on twitter at @oswegos1.  The entire FanMan team can be followed on twitter at @TheFanManifesto, or liked on facebook by clicking here.





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