Monday, May 2, 2011

Baseball, the Mets and bin Laden

Fans at the Phillies-Mets game react to bin Laden's death.
It's hard to believe it's been almost a decade since Osama bin Laden became a part of our lives with the Sept. 11 attacks. In a strange echo of that infamous day, his death, announced last night by President Barack Obama, is dominating WFAN sports talk radio in New York.

It's not unusual to hear the announcers on WFAN mention non-sports topics. But I can think of no other such topic that has dominated the station. In fact, some of the best reporting I heard on Sept. 11, 2001, was on the station. First, there was Warner Wolf, a veteran TV sportscaster who lived near ground zero. He described the first tower falling on the Don Imus show.

But most astonishing to me, was an interview with tennis commentator Bud Collins, who had been covering the U.S. Open, which ended the day before. Known for his loud sports jackets and bombastic opinions, Collins showed he was a keen observer in a stressful situation. He really did paint word pictures of the dazed people fleeing the World Trade Center area. His descriptions of soot-covered people wandering north in Manhattan clutching briefcases, still wearing ties are unforgettable.

Last night's news inserted bin Laden into the baseball and sports world once more. ESPN's coverage of the New York Mets contest against the Philadelphia Phillies included shots of the crowd chanting "USA! USA! USA!" And Bobby Valentine, who was the Mets manager in 2001, was there to comment on it. Valentine was known for the work he did to help after the attacks. And his Mets did their part on the field in the first game played after baseball resumed its season by coming back for a dramatic win over the Atlanta Braves.

Now, here we are again. Maybe because WFAN is in New York it is natural that the focus would be on bin Laden, but it's reassuring in some small way to know that sports announcer and fans who get so wrapped up arguing the tiniest points, can pause and talk intelligently about something that really matters.

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