Bin Laden’s death draws reaction all across sports world
By Howard Fendrich
WASHINGTON ó Before the top of the fourth inning on Military Appreciation Night at Nationals Park, the public address announcer encouraged everyone at the baseball stadium to cheer for the active or retired members of the service who were in the stands Monday, recipients of free tickets.
As Lee Greenwoodís ěGod Bless the USAî blared through the ballpark, and the message ěThank You for Your Service and Sacrificeî dominated the HD scoreboard, a group of military personnel seated a few rows behind home plate waved their red Nationals baseball caps.
Thousands of fans rose to applaud. Members of the Nationals, spread around the diamond, preparing to play defense ó and wearing what the team called ěpatrioticî uniforms, with stars-and-stripes curly ěWsî on the chests of their blue jerseys ó provided their own standing ovation. The World Series champion San Francisco Giants stood in the visiting dugout and bullpen, clapping, too.
Talk about a coincidence: Less than 24 hours after President Barack Obama announced that terrorist leader Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. forces in Pakistan, the Nationals honored the military ó an event the team said it began planning in the offseason and announced to the public a week ago.
ěThatís amazing, the way the timing worked out for that,î Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said before the game. ěReally a great opportunity for our fans … to honor our military vets and wounded warriors. Those who are here tonight are going to be beaming with pride about what took place last night.î
As part of Military Appreciation Night, military personnel were allowed to receive up to four free tickets; a member of the Army threw out the ceremonial first pitch; a member of the Navy sang the National Anthem; two red Coast Guard helicopters did a flyover before first pitch; and other uniformed military personnel jogged out as if to play defense position before being joined by the real ballplayers.
In addition to meeting baseball players, some members of the military in attendance also got to shake hands with NASCAR driver Kyle Busch, who was at the stadium.
ěItís funny how things work out sometimes: The day after we take down one of the biggest individual terrorists in the world, we can come out here and kind of celebrate it,î Washington pitcher Tyler Clippard said. ěFor it to fall on the day after is sort of ironic.î
While Washingtonís players are used to being in the nationís capital, of course, the Giants were excited to be in town ó they toured the Supreme Court before Mondayís game. After playing four games in Washington at a historic time, they now open a three-game series at the New York Mets on Tuesday.
ěWeíre in our nationís capital here, and we get that kind of news, and now weíre off to New York ó Ground Zero,î San Francisco pitcher Brian Wilson said. ěItís going to be quite an emotional week for a lot of people ó baseball being one of them, playing Americaís sport here.î
Tweeted tennis star Andy Roddick: ěWords cannot do justice to the amount of thanks we should bestow upon those whose life mission it is to keep the world safe. Thank you.î
Rory McIlroy, the 21-year-old golfer from Northern Ireland, posted on Twitter: ěBye bye bin Laden!! Good riddance I say!!î
ěThe biggest thing Iím happy for is that the troops that were in there all came back in one piece. Thatís dangerous. Thatís the No. 1 thing,î Atlanta Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said.
All over ballparks and arenas, there were sights, signs and sounds it was an extraordinary day.
A day after Phillies fans shouted ěUSA! USA!î when the news spread during the New York Mets-Philadelphia game at Citizens Bank Park, Flyers rooters echoed the chant before the NHL playoff matchup against the Boston Bruins.
At Fenway Park, a large American flag was draped over the 37-foor Green Monster before Boston hosted the Los Angeles Angels. Members of the military lined up along the warning track in front of the wall and helped carry the flag off the field.
The Red Sox and Angels stood along the foul lines in for a moment a silence to honor the 9-11 victims and those who have been killed fighting for the country. The PA announcer also asked fans to thank those who have risked their lives.
Bin Ladenís death drew reaction from a trio of Yankees who were with the team when the terrorist attacks occurred on Sept. 11, 2001.
ěAll I said was, ëJustice,íî closer Mariano Rivera said. ěJustice prevailed. You do something like that, somewhere along the way, youíre going to pay, and this was the time.î
Said longtime star Jorge Posada: ěIím happy for the city of New York. I think the firemen and the policemen, and everything that we went through. I think this is one of those steps that we needed to cross, and itís good to see.î
Captain Derek Jeter said he was in ědisbeliefî when he heard the news.
ěI donít know if this puts closure. Iím sure thereís no closure to someone losing a relative or a loved one, but in some sense I guess it is, from what Iíve seen in a lot of the interviews with people that lost family members. It sort of brings some closure to it. Not total closure, but some,î he said.
New York Jets coach Rex Ryan said he was watching ěCelebrity Apprenticeî with his wife Sunday night when NBC broke into the program to announce Obama was about to address the country.
ěThat thing came across,î Ryan said Monday, ěand I thought, ëWhoa, this must be some big news here.î
The Jets open their season ó if there is one this year with the NFL lockout currently in place ó at home on the night of Sept. 11 against the Dallas Cowboys. Ryan said itís an honor to play that night, especially since so many fans who were personally affected will be at the game.
ěQuite honestly,î he said, ěI was happy we got him.î
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