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September 11 Attack Had Sobering Effect on US Sports World - 2002-08-31

The sports world was deeply affected by the September 11 terrorist attacks, with several events canceled, rescheduled or delayed. As the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks approaches, VOA's David Byrd has this look at how the attacks on the United States reverberated through athletic competition.

When terrorists commandeered four aircraft and crashed them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania, the National Football League season was just beginning and Major League Baseball was in the midst of the race for the World Series.

One event scheduled to start that day was the American Express golf championships at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis, Missouri. But as PGA spokesman Mike Bodney said, the attacks made competition impossible.

"Taking a look at the bigger scheme of things, this is obviously an important event for our friends at American Express and everyone here at Bellerive," he said. "And the PGA Tour and the Federation; and it has huge ramifications around the world. We are trying to and will make decisions that we believe are in the best interests of everyone involved with the competition here this week."

The biennial Ryder Cup golf competition between the United States and Europe was scheduled for late September, but was postponed until this year. The move also forced a change in the format, with the Ryder Cup moving to even-numbered years from now on. Last September, U.S. Captain Curtis Strange said moving the event paled in comparison to the devastating losses suffered by the victims of the attacks.

"The Ryder Cup matches are a big deal in golf. But when we look at what just happened, the tragedy and the enormous loss of life in New York City and the Pentagon and just everything that has happened, the plane in Pennsylvania, I mean it is, when you look at it, it is small potatoes [not important], it really is," he said.

The National Football League was in the second week of its season, but NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue decided to cancel that week's games and reschedule them for later in the season.

"We made our decision with the unanimous support of our owners and our players," Mr. Tagliabue explained. "It was a very intensive period of consultation. We wanted to be sensible, sensitive and right. Not necessarily quick or certainly not superficial."

The NFL's move led to the first ever Super Bowl championship game played in February rather than January.

Major League Baseball also suspended play for nearly a week. Commissioner Bud Selig said at the time that calling off play was the only right thing to do.

"We are in uncharted waters. And it always takes things like this to understand that canceling a game or so is not very important to a lot of people right now. So we'll just do this and try to make decisions with far more important things at stake than games," he said.

In the end, the New York Yankees made it to the World Series again, but after winning the previous three, they lost in seven games to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The tennis world was also affected, even though the last major tournament of the year, the U.S. Open, ended just two days before the attacks. The U.S. Davis Cup team rescheduled its match series against India and the U.S. women's Fed Cup team did not defend its title in Spain because of security concerns.

For the first time in its history, the European Football Union postponed an entire slate of matches in the Champions' League and the UEFA Cup.

But the sports world also played a part in trying to heal the wounds of September 11. One feature was the tattered flag from the World Trade Center receiving special honors at the World Series, the Super Bowl and the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. It flew again at this year's U.S. Open Tennis Championships in New York as a reminder of that tragic day.

Part of VOA's series on the September 11 terror attacks.