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Savran: Right or wrong not the reason

Saturday, September 15, 2001

In the journal of the everyday, it is the fine print. But since it is our domain, yours and mine, we engaged in the debate:

To play or not to play.

Unfortunately, the debate was conducted within incorrect parameters. Sides were chosen on the singular premise that games should or should not be played.

Should or shouldn't implies there was a right and wrong.

This wasn't a matter of right and wrong.

What mattered most was that these decisions, whatever they ended up being, were made for the right reasons.

Many believed play should have continued so as not to allow the terrorists to believe they have disrupted our lives. Ladies and gentlemen, our lives have been disrupted forever, in ways we have yet to experience and, at present, cannot possibly envision.

Disrupted in practical, everyday manifestations that will affect us tomorrow, next month, next decade.

Does anyone believe that whoever is responsible for these unimaginable acts would consider the cancellations of athletic events an additional, empirical victory on top of the twisted, evil victory they have already claimed?

Playing games as a means to display resolve is an empty, meaningless gesture.

Some NFL officials have stated, "The public looks to the NFL as a beacon, a monolith, an example of national stability."

No, it doesn't.

The public looks at the NFL as a vehicle for vicarious thrills, civic pride, an avenue of spirit, a repository for frustrations they can't release acceptably anywhere else.

While there is great value in that, people should look to their governments for stability, not sports enterprises.

Sending an "all is well" message isn't a reason to play games. It's an excuse to play them.

Some suggested the games should be played because America needed a diversion, an escape, a respite from the horror.

Maybe.

But maybe we should show enough discipline and maturity to absorb and examine what has happened without the benefit of a movie or a concert or a game.

Maybe we should find our own diversion.

One we discover for ourselves, not one laid out for us.

And there are just as many wrong reasons not to play the games. Such as canceling because of logistical problems or because a league is fearful of a potential public relations backlash.

Some wanted the games canceled because of security issues. That's certainly reasonable. But are we going to feel any safer next Sunday? Or the Sunday after that?

These terrorists plan months and years ahead. If, God forbid, there is such a plan to bomb a stadium, it's already in place.

I remember seeing a documentary on television concerning the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. Those responsible had been living in the country for more than a year before the crime was committed. They had infiltrated the community, anonymously blending in, with their target and target date already decided.

We are now learning that the same was true of those involved in this attack.

My point is, tomorrow's proximity to the horror of Tuesday doesn't necessarily increase the risk.

Players have said they don't want to play because they don't want to fly. I appreciate that, but if the FAA has opened airports and allowed commercial airlines to resume flying, obviously they consider it safe.

In addition, teams generally -- and pro football teams always -- fly on chartered planes, so they aren't subject to the same security risks.

Which is not to say that heightened security at the nation's airports isn't in order.

It's another obvious way in which our lives will forever change.

For the better.

Which brings us to the central issue.

If players didn't want to play in games, if coaches didn't want to coach in them, if fans didn't want to watch them, it should have been out of respect for the gravity and the enormity of the situation. Not because of travel, profit, logistics, image or a gesture of defiance.

Cancellations should have been made on the basis of respect, not fear or false bravado.

That is not to suggest that if games had been played this weekend it would have been a sign of disrespect.

Again, that would frame the debate in camps of right or wrong.

That isn't at all the debate.

The only debate should be: Whatever was done, was it done for the right and proper reasons?


Stan Savran is the host of a sports talk show from 8 to 9 p.m. weeknights on WBGG-AM (970).

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