Safety first is right call for major sports

Terrorism Strikes America

Pro Football

September 14, 2001|By Mike Preston

BO KNOWS the Terps, Bo knows the Orioles, Bo knows the Capitals and Bo knows the Ravens. Bo also knows Vietnam and about war.

So when NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue yesterday decided to postpone 15 games this weekend, 54-year-old Robert "Bo" Boyer of Baltimore gave Tagliabue his unyielding support.

Major League Baseball officials, waiting to hear the NFL's decision, also postponed games this weekend, drawing more applause from Boyer.

You see, Bo also knows common sense.

Amid all these discussions about why should or shouldn't these games be played, what is and isn't proper respect, when and how long to grieve, and is sports actually a diversion from the murderous attacks in New York, Boyer reminds us of what President Bush said Wednesday.

These attacks were an act of war.

The only problem is that our government hasn't told us yet exactly who we're fighting, and until then safety is the No. 1 priority.

Don't let the games begin.

"Our intelligence people haven't gotten to the bottom of this yet," Boyer said. "They don't know to the fullest extent who was involved and what actions we're going to take. They don't know if there is more to come and if these people are still on American soil. And I hate to say it, they haven't said if some of our own people are involved. They definitely should not play these games."

Boyer, a Baltimore City native who resides in Parkville, grew up rooting for the Orioles and Colts. He is a sports fanatic who goes to 15 to 20 college and professional football games a year. He has season tickets for the Capitals and University of Maryland men's basketball.

Boyer likes to travel and spends about $5,000 to $7,000 a year rooting for his favorite teams. He couldn't wait for the Ravens to make their debut on Monday Night Football against the Minnesota Vikings, the first appearance by a Baltimore team since the old Colts played a Monday night game in 1978.

But that all changed Tuesday morning when Boyer, like millions of other Americans, watched terrorists hijack planes and deliberately crash them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, possibly killing thousands. A fourth plane may have been targeted for the White House.

Boyer knows about war. He served as a paratrooper in Vietnam in the 82nd Airborne. Before one attacks, one has to know the enemy. It pays to be cautious, and to stay safe.

"This is war," Boyer said. "So you just can't go out there leaving yourself exposed if you don't have all the facts. You can't have these teams flying in the air. Just think if Ohio State is playing Michigan. If they landed one of those planes filled with jet fuel in the stadium of about 70,000, it could wipe out the whole crowd. I don't think our security forces at these stadiums are ready for what may happen. Strictly from a safety standpoint, they shouldn't play any more games until the intelligence people say they can play again."

Safety should have been at the root of Tagliabue's decision yesterday. During the past two days we have heard all the pros and cons about athletes returning to the field. Those who oppose NFL games on Sunday say there shouldn't be entertainment while authorities are still searching for possibly thousands of victims.

They say that this is the time for the country to mourn and grieve, come together, and playing games would be insensitive.

Meanwhile, there are those like Ravens head coach Brian Billick who would like to play and return to normalcy, which would be a show of strength and also tell the terrorists that they cannot dictate our actions in America. That's a course some of our political leaders have recommended as well.

But we should look at our past sports champions and realize the best teams were usually the ones most prepared. America wasn't prepared for this war on our own grounds, and we can't be prepared in four days.

Major League Baseball and NFL officials made the smart move. They huddled, and came up with a safe plan for the fans and players.

Ravens owner Art Modell, one of the league's oldest and most prominent owners, also said he took into consideration the proximity of Baltimore to the Pentagon.

"Safety played an important role," Modell said. "Important, it was very important."

Boyer said he had no plans of going to the Monday night game in Baltimore after Tuesday's events. He was shocked that some of the colleges are playing scheduled games.

"We've already lost thousands of lives," Boyer said. "To lose any more without being cautious would be senseless. From now on, there should be zero lost lives. Most of these college games are viewed by younger crowds, it's more economical to go there. If the terrorists hit a spot like that, there would be even greater concern."

The tragedy of Tuesday morning will probably change security at major sporting events. Boyer remembers the tight security at Super Bowl XXV in Tampa, Fla., during the Persian Gulf War.

He has seen similar methods in European airports.

"We'll eventually see the military people at gates, the dogs sniffing any bags and packages," Boyer said. "There is a new type of war that has hit here. But our first priority should be the safety of the people."

The NFL and Major League Baseball made those moves yesterday by canceling the games.

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