PORTAGE — Thirteen words can sound so meaningless 364 days out of the year. But on September 11, those 13 words hold much more substance than usual.
"Please stand and remove your caps for the playing of our National Anthem."
The public address announcer uttered those 13 words before Michigan City's 2-1 win over Portage Wednseday night, and everything just felt different. Before the first notes of the national anthem blared through the speakers, a deep silence overtook the stadium.
A group of over 20 Wolves players lined up, hands over their hearts, and turned to their right to face the American flag hung half-mast just past the Portage scoreboard. Given their age, none of them remember where they were when the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks occured, but they know the brevity this day holds.
"It's just surreal, knowing those things can happen," said Michigan City midfielder Nicholas Bednar, who scored a goal and drew a penalty kick. "To be able to perform on days like today, it's pretty cool."
On the surface, the game between the Wolves and Indians was just that. A game.
But so was the Mets-Braves game on Sept. 21, 2001 at Shea Stadium, where Mike Piazza hit one of the most famous home runs in the history of baseball.
So was the New York Rangers' home opener on Oct. 7, 2001, where captain Mark Messier donned the New York Fire Department's captain's helmet during pregame festivities.
So was the Jets-Patriots game in Foxborough, Mass., where two archrivals came together and embraced.
And can anyone really say George Bush's first pitch at Yankee Stadium in the 2001 World Series was just another first pitch?
The point is, sports can bring so many people together. They're one of the only things in the world that can unify republicans and democrats; the affluent and the poor. And 18 years ago, this country needed sports to distract us, to give us hope, to help us temporarily recover from one of the worst tragedies in American history.
And while head coach David Harris' players have no recollection of that fateful day, he makes sure his team knows that playing soccer not only tonight, but in general, is a blessing.
"Today, we try to stay humble," Harris said. "We know that, because people who do (what the first responders and military did), that we can do stuff like this. You're just lucky to be able to come out here and do these kinds of things. It makes you appreciate them more, the stuff you get to do freely."
Michigan City 2, Portage 1
The Wolves' Nicholas Bednar scored and drew a penalty kick.