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9/11 Sports Memories

Photo by Samuel Branch on Unsplash

Immediately after the September 11th attacks, America was in a state of shock and remorse. Americans turned to sports to help them lift their spirits and give them something to cheer about. In the weeks and months after 9/11, America would witness some remarkable unforgettable sports moments.


At the time, the NFL had just completed the first week of the 2001 season, which meant the NFL had a difficult decision to make, whether to allow games to go on as scheduled the weekend after the September 11th attacks.


As the team was about to start practice, New York Jets head coach Herman Edwards noticed that the team’s hearts and minds were not really there and could not focus on football.  The Jets then huddled together and decided that if the league was going to play that weekend, the Jets would not play and forfeit their Week Two game in Oakland.


The league had a conference call after consulting with teams. The NFL decided it was best to delay the season by a week and give the teams a week off to allow the players and coaches to be with their families and friends and grieve together.


MLB also took a week off following 9/11. The New York Mets returned home on Friday, September 21st, for their first home game in New York against the Atlanta Braves after the terror attacks. Prior to the game, there was a moving salute, and members of both teams came out onto the field and hugged each other, showing they all cared about one another. 


As the game played out, the Mets entered the bottom of the 8th inning trailing 2-1. As fate would have it, Mets star catcher Mike Piazza stepped up to the plate representing the go-ahead run. What he did would give not only Mets fans and baseball fans but also New Yorkers goosebumps, as he hit a go-ahead two-run home run, giving the Mets a 3-2 lead, a lead the Mets would not relinquish. The Mets would go on to beat the Braves 3-2 in their first game back in New York since 9/11. For so many, it felt like so much more than a baseball game. The Mets gave New Yorkers something to cheer about and help heal their broken hearts.


New York’s other baseball team, the New York Yankees were on a run of dominance as they had won four out of the previous five World Series, including the previous three consecutive World Series. 

The Yankees would defeat the Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners who had won a record 116 regular season games in the playoffs which meant the Yankees would be returning to the World Series for the fourth consecutive season. 


The Yankees would be facing the Arizona Diamondbacks, a franchise that came into existence in 1998. America would witness one of the greatest World Series to have been played. The World Series would kick off in the desert with the Diamondbacks taking a 2-0 series lead. 


The World Series returned to New York on October 30, 2001, for Game Three of the World Series. This game would be remembered for one iconic moment, as President George W. Bush threw out the first pitch for a perfect strike. It felt poetically appropriate, that the World Series was back in New York just six weeks after 9/11.


The next night in Game 4 would be when things would get crazy and appropriately it was being played on Halloween. The Yankees entered the bottom of the 9th trailing 3-1 and were down to their final strike and were staring a 3-1 series deficit in the face. The Yankees looked to be given up for dead. Just then, Tino Martinez would hit a two-out, two-strike, game-tying two-run home run tying the game at 3-3 and sending the game into extra innings.  As the game moved towards the end of the bottom of the 10th inning, the clock would strike midnight which meant, for the first time the World Series would be played during the month of November.


At 12:01 AM, Yankees captain Derek Jeter stepped to the plate and gave New Yorkers another unforgettable moment, as he hit a walk-off game-winning homer, giving the Yankees a 4-3 victory and helping them tie the World Series at 2 games apiece.  Derek Jeter was instantly given the nickname Mr. November.


As Game 5 rolled around later that night, baseball fans didn’t know what to expect after such a dramatic game the night before. Nobody would believe what would happen next. The Yankees were once again trailing in the Bottom of the 9th inning 2-0 when Scott Brosius stepped to the plate and yet again, the unthinkable happened as he hit a game-tying two-run home run, once again sending the game into extra innings.


In the bottom of the 12th, Alfonso Soriano hit a walk-off single giving the Yankees a 3-2 walk-off win and sending the series back to the desert with the Yankees leading the series 3-2 needing just one more win to win their fourth consecutive World Series title. The Diamondbacks would win in blowout fashion in Game 6 forcing the series to a decisive Game 7. In Game 7, Alfonso Soriano would hit a go-ahead solo home run in the top of the 8th giving the Yankees a 2-1 lead.


The game would enter the bottom of the 9th with the Yankees leading 2-1 with closer Mariano Rivera on the mound. This unbelievable World Series would see an unforgettable finish. The Diamondbacks would rally off Mariano Rivera as Tony Womack hit a game-tying RBI double. Later in the inning, with the bases loaded, Luis Gonzalez hit a walk-off RBI single giving the Diamondbacks a 3-2 victory and their first World Series title in franchise history.


America had just seen one of the greatest World Series of all time. In February, America would witness an unforgettable Super Bowl. Super Bowl XXXVI would feature an amazing halftime performance by U2. During their performance, there was an American tribute with all the 9/11 victims’ names being scrolled on the screen.


Super Bowl XXXVI would feature the fourteen-point favorited St. Louis Rams who had won the Super Bowl in the 1999 season and the underdog upstart New England Patriots behind second-year starting quarterback Tom Brady. The Patriots would build a 17-3 first-half lead, however, the Rams mounted a fourth-quarter rally to tie the game at 17-17, leaving the Patriots a little over a minute left on the clock. The Patriots would mount a drive in the final minute setting up yet another thrilling finish and unforgettable moment as Adam Vinatieri kicked a game-winning 48-yard field goal giving the Patriots a 20-17 upset victory and their first Super Bowl title in franchise history.


It seemed fitting that after 9/11, the team holding the Vince Lombardi trophy was named the Patriots and was wearing red, white, and blue, the colors of our country’s very beginning. Patriots owner Robert Kraft made an appropriate postgame statement: “We are all Patriots, and tonight the Patriots are World Champions. America Will Always Fight Back And Will Never Die! 

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About the Contributor
Brendan Connelly
Brendan Connelly, Contributing Writer
Brendan Connelly is a contributing writer for Cape Fear Voices.

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    Charles BinsSep 29, 2023 at 2:49 pm

    Even though I’m a Yankees fan, I enjoyed your story, Brendan. Sports is the heart of America and your piece captured the heartbeat.

    If you are not already familiar with it, you might want to check out Whitney Houston’s rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” at the Super Bowl after the start of the first Gulf War for another patriotic moment.