Nine Innings From Ground Zero

Nine Innings From Ground Zero is HBO’s new documentary on baseball in the weeks following 9/11, where this game fulfilled some of its brilliant promise — “they’ll watch the game and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters…. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again.” — even in our city’s and nation’s dark hour. It’s a wonderful documentary. Watching it, I remembered some things I had forgotten: Jeter’s flip to Posada to stop the A’s and turn the tide, and the consecutive miracles at Yankee Stadium during the Series, possibly the greatest pair of games played, if only because the city’s emotional burden rested on the Yankees shoulders, and they came through in such dramatic fashion. I remember staying up late to watch these long games, and not regretting the lack of sleep at all. I don’t think I learned anything I didn’t already know when watching Nine Innings, but it re-emphasized the lesson that life will go on, that we would still play baseball in the fall even in the shadow of war.

During Game 7 of the World Series, we were in Massachusetts for a wedding rehersal dinner, and I really, desperately needed to hear what was happening. On the way to the hotel-restaurant, I picked up a cheap little radio and hoped for reception, with the darkness of the dining hall hiding the earbuds. But the dinner ended before the game ended, and there was a TV in the restaurant’s bar where various guests dropped in to get a new drink and lingered for a while: the Yankees took the lead, Mo was on the mound, and this fairy tale of the team from New York winning the Series in the year of 9/11 looked like it was going to come true.

But in the end, we come back to the cliches of baseball and life: baseball and life aren’t fair, not always, and miracles can’t keep happening or they wouldn’t be miracles. The font that ran so freely in Games 4 and 5 ran dry, and disaster for Mo came suddenly and out of nowhere. In the end, I think I just sighed — oh, well, wait till next year, three in a row is enough — because I couldn’t be crushingly disappointed by the results, not after the gifts the Yankees gave the city throughout the postseason. And that was enough: life goes on, and baseball is still played in the fall.

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