Three words: the buzzer beater. The buzzer represents time as the clock runs down in the fourth quarter with moment left in the game. You have the power to beat time. We spend our whole lives chasing this feeling, and sports give us the ability to actually beat the clock and conquer time.
The buzzer beater in basketball is one of the most dramatic and speaks to the power that sports has on human beings. Take this scenario, for example: a scored basket counts for 2 points. Team A has possession of the ball and is down by one point. The clock is down to the final ten seconds.
They get the ball to the best shooter on the team.
The player shoots the ball.
The buzzer sounds and the ball is suspended in midair. It is headed right for the basket. In that moment, there are only two possible outcomes. Either the ball goes in and the team A wins the game by one point, or the ball misses and team A loses by one point. When that ball is in the air at the height of its arc, time is suspended. You are not thinking about your last breakup or most recent heartache. You are not thinking about the last mass shooting or some other horrific global event. You are not worried about what happened yesterday or what might happen tomorrow. All you are worried about is the ball and the hoop.
Sports is a part of the American fabric and has been so for over a century with leagues such as the MLB, NHL, NBA, PGA, and NFL. It is the heartbeat of the nation.
At 8:46 AM on September 11th, 2001--as Flight 11 careened into the North Tower--that heartbeat stopped. The world was suspended in that moment like a ball at the peak of its arc. Instead of a team winning or losing, however, our continent was on on the brink of joining a world war. The days to follow were both surreal and terrifying like a nightmare that just keeps going.
Slowly and steadily, sports was there to wake us up and the nation’s heart was finally beating again. The MLB season was in the middle of a postseason race when the towers fell. The league thought it necessary to take some time off for safety purposes. On September 21st, just ten days after the attack, baseball was back in New York city. The New York Mets were playing at Shea Stadium against the Atlanta Braves. The stadium was filled. A long ceremony was held before the game to recognize both the police fire departments of New York as well as the many lives that had been lost. The ceremony ended and the first pitch was thrown--but the game felt different; it was changed. People were on edge and nervous. For 8 long innings, we thought that the world of sports was never going to recover. And then it happened. In the bottom of the eighth inning, New York Mets catcher and American sports hero Mike Piazza stepped up to the plate. Down by one run and with one runner on base, Mike Piazza hit a deep fly ball to center field. In that moment, as the ball was flying deep into the outfield, no one was thinking about their fear, the terror, or the towers. For that split second, all anyone was thinking about was the ball and whether or not it was going to be a homerun. It was, and Shea Stadium felt normal for a moment. That moment ended, and the stadium was once again full of tears, except this time, the tears were due to the reminder that sports had given them: normalcy can found even just ten short days after a horrific event.
Never underestimate the power of sports and its ability to allow us to forget, and remember.