Sunday, September 11, 2011

Column from 9/11/01

When the usual calls can't be made
Author(s):    Joe Bush
Date: September 14, 2001
Page: 1
Section: Sports Extra
As fate would have it, this column was going to be about the place of sports - high school sports, in particular - in relation to the ebb and flow of life.

The idea was sparked by Batavia varsity football coach Mike Gaspari and his immediate reaction to a dropped touchdown pass in a tight game against a conference rival last Friday night. Just typing this seems silly; I'm watching people hanging out of World Trade Center windows, caught between a choice of horrible deaths.

Gaspari hugged the teenager, even complimented him on everything up to the attempted catch. The message was clear and absolutely appropriate, that the kid is worth more than points, and the fact that it is being written about is a shame. It is being written about because it is unusual. In a decade of sports coverage, I have seen one moment of such humanity for every five moments of ugly berating.

Life does not spare athletes and coaches, and I was going to relate the proof I had met and written about since 1991 - a wrestling coach whose wife delivered stillborn twins, kids who played on despite the recent deaths of family members, a football coach whose wife battled and succumbed to cancer. Yes, sports had been a way for all of them to cope, because familiarity is comfort and exercise is release.

I'm typing this mid-day Tuesday, from a hotel room in South Bend, Ind., where the Kane County Cougars opened the Midwest League Championship Series on Monday night. My high school duties must be done as well, and the plan was to type this and to call area football coaches to preview five of this weekend's games.

I delayed doing both because I watched news coverage of the chaos in New York City and Washington, D.C. Not watched, absorbed.

Shall I call football coaches now, ask them to recap last week's successes and failures, to detail how they will attack this week's foes? How important will it be to win? Anyone injured? Who will replace them?

No. Maybe Wednesday. Maybe I'll give it a rest until next week. They may want to talk about these things, but I don't feel like asking the questions.

New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani just said that he never thought he'd live to see what he saw Tuesday, and tears filled my eyes when I watched a woman break down saying that when she looked where the WTC Towers used to be, she saw lives.

If we remove the human instincts to sympathize and be horrified, we can say that we in the Chicago suburbs who did not have friends and/or relatives in New York or Washington or on one of the destroyed planes were affected only in the sense that tall buildings and federal buildings downtown were evacuated and perhaps some of us worked there, or that our flights were canceled.

So, most of the daily routine conceivably should continue, including coaches planning for football games and reporters inquiring about that planning. The news media is one of the industries, like the emergency infrastructure, that raises its intensity during catastrophes.

We can't remove those instincts. I cover games. My intensity is not necessary. I won't be calling coaches today.

- Joe Bush can be reached by telephone at (630) 587-8741 or by e-mail at
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