Aside from the lockout, the sports radio talk this week centered on whether or not the Steelers-Giants game should even be played in the wake of super storm Sandy. In general, the consensus seemed to be that the New York City Marathon, also scheduled for this weekend, should not be held, and I was among those who thought it was both inappropriate and pulled resources away that were sorely needed elsewhere. Therefore, I was happy that they canceled it. But, the opinions varied on whether the Steelers should be traveling to New Jersey this weekend. I vacillated all week. I worry about the team going there. They’ll fly in on Sunday since the hotel they contract with has no power. It’s not like flying across the country, so that shouldn’t be too disruptive, but it is a change in routine and will mean their pre-game prep will likely be impacted. Of course, it’s hard to compare that to what the Giants players have gone through this week. Several of the players had damage or flooding in their apartment buildings and were dealing with the loss of power. Some of them have been organizing fundraisers for disaster relief as well worrying through the inconveniences of living in a disaster zone and prepping for a team that is not a roll over game. Nonetheless, I still believe they’ll play inspired ball, and that worries me too. Because the Steelers cannot afford to falter. They find themselves righting the ship after a rocky start, with a two-game win streak going, but the Ravens are still 5-2 and ahead of the Steelers in the division. Their defense is aging and took a perhaps lethal blow in losing Ray Lewis, but the Steelers are without Troy Polamalu. My crystal ball tells me there is reason for optimism, but the Ravens take on the Browns this week, so with a Steeler loss and Raven win, my crystal might just develop a massive crack down its center. However, the larger concern overall is whether the area is sufficiently recovered enough to host a professional football game, which does require police presence, a large amount of power and accommodations for fans and broadcasters, no matter who is playing and what the stakes are. What finally made up my mind on the subject was an open letter to the NHL on SportingNews by hockey writer Jesse Spector. The letter stated, “Often, in times of crisis, people turn to sports for at least a momentary diversion…it is precisely why the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the Islanders’ AHL affiliate in Connecticut, are throwing the doors to this weekend’s games open for free—come one, come all, and let hockey put a smile on your face for a couple of hours before returning to the grim tasks of real life.”
I think that is a true sentiment. Kudos to the Tigers for making the choice to open its doors for free, particularly in light of the lockout when fans were already painfully missing hockey even before Sandy. The marathon was something different – a larger disruption over a large area of devastated geography. But, I think the people of New York need Sunday’s football game. Maybe it’s my hometown team’s honor to be the opponent that will come to meet them to help allow just a little while for life to seem like it should on a late fall afternoon.