Kalani Simpson


By Kalani Simpson

Thursday, September 13, 2001

America attacked

Definition of courage
doesn’t include sports

THIS is courage. This, these images flickering before you on the TV screen. The ghosts in gray dust.

People stumbling, sprinting, bleeding, but living, with horror all around them. Those who had rushed in to help, answering the call, only to have the sky collapse down upon them, burying them from above. The cries, the screams, the disbelief, the shock at sights that just could not be. People who had to live this. People who had to watch this happen, and could only stare, then run. This is courage.

The word is overused and misused on these pages and in this column. You can make mistakes like that in times of peace. It's OK then. You can complain about smaller things. You can argue over quarterbacks and outside hitters. You can glorify a simple game.

But courage isn't hanging in the pocket. We see that today. It's not playing with a concussion. It's not going for it on fourth down, nor, certainly not, taking a strong stand about it in print.

For goodness sakes, in sports there is no "adversity." It takes moments like these to show us this. To show us just how wrong we were.

There is no courage in sports, not really. Not today.

Courage is the CBS newswoman who has to grip Dan Rathers' hand just to get through telling the story of what happened to her. It's the firefighter who saved her life, the sky going dark as night, covering her body with his, to help withstand the force of another explosion. How she could feel his heart beating into her back.

It's running down the stairways in a calm and orderly manner, stopping to help those who fell behind. It's holding hands and picking people up, and stumbling through the darkness and into the light. It's huddling together, inviting strangers in out of the man-made storm. It's lying under layers of rubble, and fighting to stay alive. It's whispering in the back of an airplane bound for catastrophe and saying goodbye by cell phone. It's having to take that call.

It's crying, crying, crying and then carrying on.

It's waking up again the next morning and realizing once and for all that it wasn't a terrible dream.

It was a movie, these horrific images on our screen, a book. But it wasn't. The blood is real, the death is real, all of it, all too real. The courage is real. And oh, how awful it all is.

There is no adversity in sports, not after watching this. No courage. Maybe never again.

Courage is working deep into the night, past exhaustion, already too numb to cry or rage, already knowing what it is that you'll find in the ash.

It's firemen, dead on their feet and fighting back tears, talking about comrades who they had seen for the last time only minutes earlier.

It's fathers and daughters, mothers and sons, relatives and friends who now face the day, a new and shocking day, with unbearable loss.

Courage isn't easy to watch. Not the real kind.

All over this country they might play sports this weekend. They might not. We were lucky once, when that mattered, when we could look at the accomplishments of a Joe Montana with awe. But not today. Today we have seen too much.

Here's hoping we can return to those carefree days when sports were important. And that no more of us has to experience what real courage is really like.

Kalani Simpson's column runs Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays.
He can be reached at

E-mail to Sports Editor

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