Web Exclusives: The Varsity Typewriter
a PAW web exclusive column by Patrick Sullivan '02 (email: pas@princeton.edu)

October 10, 2001:
Sports in the aftermath of September 11, 2001
By Patrick Sullivan '02


Let the records show it.

In many ways, a sports column appears trite in the tragic aftermath of the events of September 11, 2001. I consider it a formidable task to entertain the now-dwarfed realm of college sports, especially given the fact that the topic furthest from my mind should be the central focus of my words: sports. What does a columnist write when there were no athletic contests to analyze, no athletes to applaud, no last second heroics to describe?

He writes precisely that.

I applaud Princeton's decision to cancel all sporting events throughout the remainder of the week and weekend following the cowardly, despicable attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and in Pennsylvania. I heartily endorse the symbolic gesture of an empty football stadium on a perfect Saturday afternoon, or the unity of the teams that attended memorial services instead of practices.

I completely disagree, however, with any rescheduling of these postponed games, races, or matches.

Let the record books log a year when the football season was nine games instead of 10. Let the current and future student athletes and fans of Princeton athletics remember a year when they collectively and symbolically shortened their seasons out of a deep sense of respect and national mourning. "Let all with one accord" remember fondly our deceased and missing friends and alums.

Don't reschedule a single contest.

The havoc of these terrorist attacks was no rain-delay — it was utter cancellation and paralysis, not just the "postponement" of normality, from Wall Street to the runways of our airports to the green expanses of Princeton Stadium.

Emblazon that upon our collective memories.

Like many Americans, I understand the importance of "returning to normal activities," something our university administrators and national leaders have stressed as a first step in rebuilding a sense of routine, and in that return to normalcy, a heightened sense of comfort. So start from this day forward, but don't attempt to trivialize last Tuesday's attacks with rescheduled games. Make that missed football game against Lafayette a symbolic memorial to those who were killed, and a moment of silence on the record books for those who are still missing, and those heroes who continue to work around the clock to fight fires and search for survivors.

The log should record that Princeton athletes, like countless other professional athletes throughout the nation, are Americans before football players, runners or golfers. Last week, ESPN.com and the New York Times recounted instances of well-known athletes like Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter or Keyshawn Johnson of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers contributing time and money to the relief and rescue efforts. Nobody complained of shortened seasons, or the big game they missed. Not one owner, manager, or athlete. Not one fan.

In a similar gesture, countless Princeton teammates spent the days following the September 11 comforting one another, reaching out to friends and attending candlelight memorials and scholarly panels in an attempt to understand and cope with the tragedy. Saturday's big game, that important footrace, that pivotal tennis match undoubtedly took a distant second to the more immediate, and certainly more important, issues of the day.

Record in the annals of Princeton athletics that during the year 2001, student-athletes chose to honor their country and mourn their collective losses through the symbolic cancellation of a week of sports.

Go, Tigers.

Patrick Sullivan can be reached at pas@princeton.edu.