NEW YORK, NY – All across the country, Americans paid heartfelt tribute to the dozens of NFL players who were hurt while honoring 9/11. From Seattle to Tampa Bay, people gathered in crowds or sat on their couches to pay their respects to the brave football players who risked life and limb Sunday to play football in honor of the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Football stadium crowds 80,000 strong witnessed incredible acts of tribute and sacrifice on the part of the nation’s highest-paid football players. Stephen Jackson, the St. Louis Rams’ running back, bravely took the ball in memory of the victims of 9/11. He was tackled by a Philadelphia Eagles defensive lineman also honoring 9/11, and tweaked his hamstring.
“It’s hard to watch, all those broken fingers, torn ACLs, and dislocated shoulders,” said St. Louis resident Martin Green, who attended the game. “But you have to, because they’re sacrificing for us.” Mr. Green displayed the Rams jersey he wore in honor of those players who sustained injuries honoring the victims of the terrorist attacks. “Stephen Jackson, if you’re reading this, thank you.”
Texas Governor Rick Perry ordered all state flags lowered to half mast in honor of the twelve combined football players from the state’s two NFL teams who are listed as “questionable” after playing football on 9/11. “In this day of remembrance, we recall that our country was built upon the sacrifices of our brave men in uniform,” said Mr. Perry. “We have the hardest-hitting, hardest-tributing, hardest-honoring men in the world. We hold in our hearts those who gave some in memory of those who gave more than some. All, really. Go Texas.”
Television stations and other media outlets presented wall-to-wall coverage of Americans’ reactions to, and reflections upon, the NFL’s day of tribute to the victims of 9/11. “[Professional football players] gave us what we care about most on this earth – some football,” said a teary-eyed Brooklyn bartender who asked not to be identified because, “Today isn’t about me. It’s about Giants-Redskins honoring 9/11.” Many stores reported selling out of replica flags of the flags carried or worn by NFL players for several hours Sunday in honor of the victims and survivors of the terrorist attacks.
Companies like Campbells Soup, Reebok, and MasterCard announced that they will be donating, free of charge to the NFL, television commercial time to honor and glorify football players. “The nation deserves to know who these brave men are, and how much they remember on our behalf,” said Reebok VP Tyler Siderman. “Honoring these men hurt in the line of paid athletic duty while honoring those who lost their lives to the terrible terrorist attacks is just the right thing to do.” MasterCard will be starting a charitable fund, “The Heroes’ Heroes Fund,” to pay for the medical care for football players who hurt themselves on 9/11/11 honoring the memory of the victims of 9/11/01.
Preparations are already underway for next year, which will mark the first anniversary of the tenth anniversary of the NFL’s honoring of 9/11. Also Sunday, friends and family of the victims of 9/11 gathered to mark the tenth anniversary of the death of their loved ones.
Blue Bell, PA – The FBI and officials from Major League Baseball are investigating an anonymous changeup which was mailed to Ryan Howard’s suburban Pennsylvania home. In his house during an off-day Monday, the slugger inadvertently opened the package, and struck out.
No one has stepped forward to claim responsibility for the changeup, which the FBI has classified as “nasty.” MLB spokesperson Tim Wilson said the league’s intelligence office had picked up no “unusual patterns of chatter” among the nation’s independent pitching leagues. “That does not rule them out as the perpetrators,” Mr. Wilson said at a hastily-called press conference outside the batting cage at Citizens Bank Park. “We cannot say if this was the work of a lone reliever, a kid trying to make a name for himself, or an organized pitching staff.”
The FBI confirmed that the changeup was mailed in a nondescript brown box containing trace amounts of resin and chewing tobacco. Early scouting reports state that the pitch exhibited late downward break, moving away from left-handed Howard as he stood on his front porch, suggesting the anonymous pitcher was right-handed. “Howard is known for having trouble laying off these pitches. Frankly, he never had a chance,” said Mr. Wilson. “However, the pitch was at or near major league caliber, so we are not dealing with an amateur arm here,” he added. “Any major league hitter who opened that box would have been in danger of whiffing.”
Howard reported looking foolish after the unexpected strikeout, but was otherwise unharmed. “I am fine and I thank the Phillies and our fans for their support,” Howard said in a prepared statement issued through the team. “Despite not seeing any fastballs today, the sender pulled a string and I struck out. I feel fortunate my girlfriend Krystle did not open the package, or Shane [Victorino], who could have tweaked his wrist trying to check his swing.”
Commissioner Bud Selig asked all players, especially those susceptible to breaking pitches and fastballs out of the zone, to take extra precautions when opening their mail. “Should any player receive a package they think could contain a backdoor slider, a 12-6 curve, or an Uncle Charlie, we ask them to notify their team immediately,” said Mr. Selig. “Don’t be a hero.”
Howard’s teammates were supportive of their star slugger. Ryan Madson, Howard’s teammate, is known for possessing a devastating changeup which falls off the table against lefties. Madson was briefly detained by the FBI, then released. Cliff Lee said he was glad Howard had not been mailed any chin music. Manager Charlie Manuel said the incident reminded him of Stubby Overmire, a Detroit Tigers pitcher from the 1940s considered to be the best correspondence pitcher to ever play the game. Victorino, who was at Howard’s home at the time but did not witness the strikeout, said he would take precautions in the future and never open his mail with two strikes.
Boston – The Boston Celtics’ locker room has descended into chaos in the month since Kendrick Perkins was traded to Oklahoma City. Perkins, a famously conscientious teammate, was traded just before his turn to clean the showers, a task Jermaine O’Neal had failed to do the previous week. Rajon Rondo attempted to recalibrate everyone’s chores, but accidentally assigned Glen Davis both recycling duty and washing the dish towels. Davis responded by refusing to do any cleaning, and then got into a testy conversation with Von Wafer over whose turn it was to buy a new Brita filter. Paul Pierce sent the entire team an e-mail saying he “had noticed some chores weren’t getting done,” but only three players showed up for Pierce’s requested team meeting.
Now, a month later, the chore wheel is hidden behind a takeout menu, no one is showering, and everyone is using paper plates because the dishes are all dirty. The only part of the locker room which remains clean is the recliner chair, which Kevin Garnett vacuums obsessively and prevents anyone else from using.
Columbus, OH – An NCAA panel reported that the Ohio State football program circumvented minimum neck-having requirements by stuffing the roster with neck-having students who never saw the playing field. The 40 Ohio State football players who saw the most game minutes last season had an average neck length of 1.9″. Yet the program as a whole averaged a 3.2″ inch neck, and the bottom of the depth chart maintained a 4.8″ neck length. The NCAA’s neck requirement is calculated by median roster neck length, measured twice per academic year. Teams must maintain a 3.0″ median neck length or face sanctions.
Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said he was “proud of our program and proud of our necks” while criticizing the NCAA’s neck measurement system. Neck length is measured by stacking 1/4th-inch metal discs from the top of the collarbone to the back of the jawline. The century-old method has its critics, but the NCAA defends it as providing reliable results difficult to forge. Tressel denied the existence of neck prejudice within D-I football: “I’m neck-blind. I don’t see necks when I’m evaluating talent. I’ll send a kid out there with a slender neck, lumpy, tree stump, whatever. I want arms and legs and chests, is what I care about.”
Investigators cited anonymous reports that assistant coaches regularly invited “giraffes,” or male students with half-foot necks, to informal team dinners. Such tactics are violations of the NCAA neck-blind recruitment policy. Sanctions would cost Ohio scholarships, which would harm its ability to attract elite arms and legs. This would be the second Ohio State violation in the last 10 years. In 2003, Ohio State was cited for not offering ten percent of its scholarships to athletes who could see their feet over the horizon of their pectoral muscles.
NFL linemen average two holding penalties per game, and linemen who had been called for ten or more “severe” holding penalties were 275% more likely to balk at, ignore, or react angrily to hugs encountered off the field. “We compared the linemen to a control group of kickers and quarterbacks,” said lead researcher Dr. Ken Klinman. “Presented with a family member standing with arms out in a hug position, the linemen were unable to reciprocate. In the worst cases, some patients used deft footwork to push past and tackle a research standing farther back in the room.”
MRIs revealed that portions of the brain which normally light up at the onset of a hug or good cuddle remained dark in the linemen. The UPenn study theorizes that the trauma involved in being repeatedly penalized for holding someone imprints in the linemen a fear of holding anyone. The NFL says it is still reviewing the study, but believes that any such residual effects could be traced to a variety of sources, and that nobody cares about linemen anyway.