By Rob Ficiur
When the Houston Astros won the World Series, I was disappointed because I wanted the Dodgers to win. That was until I realized if any city “deserved” to win a championship this year, it was Houston. In September, Hurricane Harvey destroyed large parts of the city. Though the hurricane is off the front page of the news, the city and families are still trying recover what they can and get back in their homes. The flood hit closer to home when I heard of the preparations my cousin a her family made before Harvey hit. Though the news has forgotten about Hurricane Harvey, my cousin and others still can’t live in their homes because of the damage. The first ever Houston Astros World Series championship could be a positive boost of energy, and a positive community experience for a region that was under siege this fall. The day after the World Series parade, the same hurricane recovery chores still awaited the city.
In all these disasters and tragedies sports takes a back seat to recovery. For some people sports can be part of the recovery and rebuilding of community. In 1942, as the United States entered the war in Europe and in Asia, the baseball commissioner asked US President Franklin Roosevelt, if they should go ahead with the season.
Roosevelt’s answer, “I honestly feel that it would be best for the country to keep baseball going,” …. Everybody will work longer hours and harder than ever before. And that means that they ought to have a chance for recreation and for taking their minds off their work even more than before.” In times of disaster and conflict sports can be a unifying diversion from real life.
Of course, neither sports casters or sports fan chose which team will win a championship based on what has happened in the local disasters. Once in a while the “right city” gets a break and wins big while in their period of recovering from a major disaster. The following are examples of when a city might have deserved to win a championship during a bleak time in their city.
1. Boston Red Sox 2013 World Series
During the 2013 Boston Marathon a terrorist set off a bomb. Three people were killed. The city went into lockdown. Like other terror attacks citizens were shocked at the violation of their city and event.
The Boston Red Sox next game was postponed because of the marathon bombing. The city was on lock down until officials could be sure they had the situation under control. When the Red Sox played their next game, both Boston and the visiting Kansas City Royals wore special uniforms/logos. The Red Sox wore white home jerseys with “Boston” on the front instead of the customary “Red Sox” while Kansas City players and staff wore a “B Strong” patch on the front of their jerseys. After the games the unique shirts of both teams were auctioned off for funds to support victims of the bombing.
Boston Strong became the mantra of the Red Sox and the community as they found ways to grieve and recover from the attack. Five months later, the Boston Red Sox won their third World Series title in the past decade.
2. New Orleans Saints 2009 (2010) Super Bowl Champions –
When Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans in September 2005, sports was relegated to its rightful spot on barnburner of importance. While the city took months and years to rebuild and recover, the NFL Saints played the remainder of the season in Baton Rogue and San Antonio.
While the Saints were playing home games away from home, the legitimate question came up as to whether the New Orleans Saints would ever play again in that city. Repairs the stadium eventually cost $185 million. Even the most fervent sports fans know that this money could have been used many other ways to rebuild a battered city.
The Superdome was rebuild. Thirteen months after Katrina, the New Orleans Saints to play in their city. In my (fading) memory I had thought the New Orleans Saints won the next Super Bowl after their return. Why was I confused? Eight years after Hurricane Katrina we visited New Orleans. There were some areas of the city where houses had not yet been reclaimed since the Hurricane. Eight years after Katrina the world had had dozens of tragedies to report on – but this city was still not back together. In real life, it took the Saints four years to win their Super Bowl. The fact that the Saints returned to New Orleans at all; and that they won shortly after the hurricane was good news for a still recovering city.
3. San Francisco Earthquake 1989
The 1989 World Series was originally called the Battle of the Bay series – pitting the Oakland A’s and the San Francisco Giants. After Oakland won the first two games at home, the teams moved 11 miles to San Francisco’s Candle Stick park. Just before Game #3 began, a 6.9 magnitude earthquake struck the bay area. Because the World Series was about to be broadcast across the country (and world) it was the first chance North Americans had to see live coverage of an earthquake. Oakland suffered the most damage of any city in the quake – other than San Francisco. The 1989 World Series went through the longest delay between games. The area had to deal with interstate highways that collapsed into rubble, fires and other devastation.
A week later, when the series resumed the Oakland A’s won the next two games sweeping the series. The Earthquake Series is remembered for the quake not for the play on the field, except in Oakland where the team won its first championship in 14 years.