As the NFL Lockout meanders its’ way through days numbering over 100 now, the league must be fully aware of the repercussions that await it should a new collective bargaining agreement not be reached in time for the scheduled start of the season. Fact is, I believe we will have professional football at some point this fall, but more importantly is what’s at stake should the league and players not be able to come to an agreement. While the NFL is scheduled to kick things off with the now traditional Thursday night game on September 8th featuring the Packers and Saints, the more crucial date is actually on opening Sunday. Why? Because it will be September 11th and not just any September 11th mind you, it is going to be the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks brought against our country in New York City, Washington, and Pennsylvania. Nothing brings this nation together like its’ sports in times of great fear, sadness and loss. Many will tell you that while playing football the week after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination may have been wrong, they will also tell you that it helped heal the nation and gave people a 3 hour outlet from the real world. Our generation saw this following 9/11/01 when the sports world took a break only to come back with a vengeance of flag-waving football and baseball players. We saw fans and players in tears during the national anthems played throughout American stadiums from coast-to-coast. Missing the opening weekend due to the lockout would be a public relations nightmare and the owners know it as do their wallets. The players are keenly aware as well, but let’s be real. Opening Sunday in the NFL on 9/11 is special in many ways including the financial ones.
We must also recognize that in the 10 years since that fateful day, thousands of American soldiers have paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation. Missing this opening weekend would be a sign of disrespect to them as well. Many of the wounded and others who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are planning to be in attendance that day because they are fans too, not just to be recognized as soldiers. Football has become the ‘national pastime’ in this country for numerous reasons. It contains everything Americans are about from the blood, sweat, and tears to the hard work of the players. Americans have always related to their heroes because they can see similarities that create a sense of pride and euphoria unlike any other sport. My eyes will fixed on the city of Baltimore on September 11th this year as my Steelers play their hated rivals the Ravens on opening day. Sure I’ll be pissed if the lockout cancels what is sure to be an amazing opening week game, but my level of ‘pissed’ will be even higher should this opening week not happen due to greed, lack of compromise and a complete and utter disregard for the fans. As the so-called ‘day of doom,’ July 15th approaches, I sincerely hope the owners and players recognize that the lockout has the potential for long-term damages should we miss opening Sunday. It would be a disgrace on so many levels should the 10th anniversary of 9/11 be met with empty football stadiums and bickering sides. Our nation was built on compromise. I hope the owners and players can follow that lead and soon.
Marc ‘SteelDad’ Uhlmann