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To play or not to play-that is the question

Monday night I sat with friends lamenting the fact that Barry Bonds had hit his 63rd home run, putting him in position to set the single-season record. I don't know about anyone else, but I miss Monday night. Now we sit on the other side of worst attack on the United States in our nation's history. I spent the early part of Tuesday morning in an absolute panic trying to figure out where in Western Pennsylvania that plane crash-landed. My entire family lives in the area. The rest of the day was devoted to tracking down everyone I know who lives in New York. Most work in the financial sector, and most work in lower Manhattan. I didn't account for the last person until around 9 p.m. He was on the first floor of the World Trade Center when the plane hit. Thankfully everyone I know survived. Sadly, I'm sure not everyone at Duke was so lucky. Wednesday morning, this campus, and this country woke up and asked the awful question, "What now?" The sports world found itself in the same predicament. Faced with an abysmal situation, virtually every major sport has canceled events through Saturday. They did the right thing. I understand that a lot of people don't feel this is the right decision. There is a widespread belief that by canceling sporting events, we give the terrorists exactly what they want. We allow them to alter our lives; we allow them to force us to live in fear. Bobby Bowden and George O'Leary suggested as much when they argued that the ACC should play on. On top of this is the argument that, more than anything else, America needs a distraction right now. I understand both of these arguments, but in this case, they are misguided. As I write this, officials are still sorting through the rubble. There isn't a body count yet, but it is going to be staggering. I'm not mentioning this for shock value--I don't think most of us can even be shocked at this point--but rather to point out the terrible fact that it is going to be days before everyone who lost a loved one is notified. As I said before, I didn't lose a loved one in this tragedy. But someone on this campus probably did. I don't know about anyone else, but I am mortified at the possibility of someone finding out that their father, or mother, or sister, or best friend from high school is never coming home, at the same time the people down the hall are screaming at the TV during the Miami-Washington game. This situation is not without precedent. In 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas on a Thursday forcing, NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle to make a rapid decision. Rozelle decided that the deceased president would want the NFL to play on. So the NFL did not allow terror to alter its schedule and, collegiate athletics adopted the same policy. Upon his retirement, Rozelle was ask if he regretted anything from his brilliant career as commissioner. He had one answer. I think you can guess what it was. It's not just history supporting cancellations. The NFL Players Association stated that if necessary, the season could be cut to 15 games, as long as they wouldn't have to play this weekend. Vinny Testaverde, quarterback of the New York Jets, said that he couldn't understand why playing was even a consideration. I don't believe in canceling these games out of fear. However, I do believe in showing respect for the dead. Thousands of innocent Americans died this week, simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. If it wasn't a loved one of yours, it very well could have been. In addition to those innocent victims, America has lost some of its bravest. Hundreds of firefighters and policemen were killed trying to rescue those trapped inside the WTC. I know that the world must go on, but acting like nothing happened won't make this go away. We owe the families and friends of those who perished in this tragedy a weekend to grieve. I think they deserve that more than the rest of us deserve a distraction. We will bury our dead and we will, to the best of our ability, move on. America will survive a weekend without televised athletics. I think most of the nation just got a reminder of how precious friends and family truly are. Go spend some time with them. We can pick up where we left off next week.


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