Lindy’s was packed, I was pumped. I figured being at a bar with a bunch of obnoxious New Jerseyans was the next best thing to being at Yankee stadium.
But when I sat down I noticed something was slightly off. People were staring at the TV’s, but there was no barroom baseball banter. No one was calling the Yankee roster overpaid devils, and no one was calling the D-Backs bench cowboys in softball uniforms. I was confused.
I followed the awed stares of the patrons up to the televisions and what did I see? Not replays of Jeter diving for a ball, not Schilling whiffing the side. I saw the Wizards.
The what? I sauntered up to the bar and asked Jim if he was going to put the game on. “I was waiting for someone to ask me that,” he said.
“You’re the first.”
I was confused. This is America’s pasttime, it was a bid deal. What could be more important than the World Series? I looked up at the TV and saw what I thought was the answer: Michael Jordan.
At first I was annoyed that no one was watching the World Series. But as my eyes shifted back and forth from game to game, I noticed something other than Jordan or Clemens, basketball or baseball.
Tuesday night, the tattered flag from the World Trade Center stood proud over Yankee stadium. Patriotic signs almost outnumbered Jeter signs, and President George W. Bush set a national tone by attending the game and sending out the first pitch. Bush is the first president to throw out an opening ball (and the first to throw a strike) at a Series since Dwight Eisenhower in 1956 at Ebbets field. And what an appropriate time to do it.
A few miles south the sport was different, but the feeling was the same. Instead of introducing the Knicks and Wizards in usual NBA fashion, both teams lined up on opposing fouling lines with members of the armed services, police, fire and postal departments. The Knicks canceled their usual pre-game glitz. Instead of blasting “We Will Rock You” or “Who Let The Dogs Out,” a police drum corps played at player introductions.
As loud as Jordan’s ovation was, the servicemen drew louder cheers. Fans, players and Wizards coach Doug Collins sang along to “God Bless America,” and the daughter of a New York firefighter that died at the World Trade Center sat next to Spike Lee in his famous courtside seat.
So not everyone was focused on America’s pastime that night. We were all focused on America.