Disclaimer: This is the opinion of only me, and does not reflect that of anyone else affiliated with The Sports Fan Journal.
The most prevalent taglines, mantras, and yes, buzz words after a chaotic event all revolve around two words: toughness and resilience.
And despite what you’ve heard about quite a few of my fellow NYC residents, we don’t hold a monopoly over such grit. No one place does. While we definitely have a fair share of trials and tribulations, and a unique personality based on our collective ideas and backgrounds, there are no mythical titles won for enduring tragedy.
And that is all the reason why the decision by organizers and Mayor Michael Bloomberg to still carry on with this year’s running of the New York City Marathon is beyond a terrible idea.
You have to forgive me if I think the decision itself smells of the worst kind of grandstanding in recent memory.
The Marathon is an annual celebration of athletic achievement as much as it is one of personal motivation and urban diversity, that of us natives, adopted newcomers and our neighborhoods. It is also the single most taxing event on the City’s calendar by far, combining some logistical challenges that come about in parades, street fairs, block parties and from our notoriously horrible roads.
Now just add the aftermath of the widest Atlantic hurricane on record which broke trees, ripped apart boardwalks, tore homes, snapped electrical wires, flooded roadways, caused fires… swept away memories and took 160+ lives (and counting) from Canada to Cuba.
Sandy killed 38 people in the Boroughs, including nineteen from Staten Island, where the Marathon begins at the foot of the Verrazano Bridge.
More than most, I love the redemptive power of sports. I love the symbol that sports can represent for social good, whether for influencing a greater acceptance of the forgotten or mistreated, for shaping civic pride, or for the temporary kinship built between completely random people for at least a couple of hours.
However, there have been countless examples where the games and the leagues have assessed immediately grave situations, and for common sense, the greater good (or both) made the decisions to take hits on the chin. Even for the millions that the Marathon generates for New York, it’s absurd to think that it will come close to being a revenue-generator it has always been. Sometimes, the best course in business – sports or otherwise – is to accept the sunken costs.
Surely, the clean-up efforts and restoration of transportation have far more important purposes, so the suggestion a few believe that recovering will be expedited solely to run the Marathon is nothing but the anger talking. While it’s understood that Marathon organizers are making adjustments to not interfere with relief efforts, those adjustments aren’t going to stop television cameras from displaying images of destruction and despair as runners pass by.
There’s no need for the City or any of the marathoners to put up a brave face like someone going out with friends days after a hurtful break-up. If this is some manner to prove that, to borrow from Mayor Mike, “New York is open for business,” this is the wrong experiment to test that theory. Yes, it’s tough to postpone, and it would be disappointing to cancel the Marathon outright. Unfortunately, it’s going to go as planned, regardless of criticism, because common sense is losing out to ego.
Overcoming adversity should not be a badge of honor or a marketing slogan. If the City’s government and its people are trying to prove something, it’s proving that the citizens who need a helping hand the most will get it.