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Outside the Lines:
Since 9/11


Here's the transcript from Show 86 of weekly Outside The Lines - Since 9/11

SUN., NOV. 18, 2001
Host: Bob Ley, ESPN.
Reported by: Steve Delsohn; Armando Salguero; Lisa Salters.
Guest: Charles Pierce, Esquire magazine.

Announcer - November 18, 2001.

Bob Ley, host - The games continue, but they've changed since September 11. Fan mail is suspect.

Unidentified Female - It looks like it was sent from somewhere -- New York, potentially.

Marshall Faulk, Rams running back - It's the sick people that decide to, you know, deliver these things. You don't know what letter was in the mail room with one of those other letters.

Ley - Blimps are gone from most major events.

Unidentified Male - It would be a penetration of the airspace that we don't need. We're just much better off without them there.

Ley - Athletes awaiting college admission are on edge.

Joe Boswell, St. Ignatius (CA) H.S. Senior - People were saying that the SAT scores were stuck in a post office, you know, there'd be some problem with anthrax.

Ley - And picking a college comes down to travel concerns.

Nikki Blue, West High School point guard - We saw the National Guard people with the big guns. That was really, really scary.

Ley - Today on Outside The Lines - the changes in sports since 9/11.

Ley - Mention sports in the context of the terrorist attacks, and the first thoughts are likely of security surrounding games. But this morning we speak less of security than the insecurities felt around sports in the past two months and one week.

Those parts of everyday sporting life changed by the new reality in America. Some such as pro teams sharing their charter flights with officials and press are curious footnotes. Others, though, such as the choice of the college are life-changing. And then there is a longstanding custom, one way the fans are able to connect with players, fan mail.

Armando Salguero reports, even fan mail is now a casualty of a fear that has grown into prudent caution.

Jennifer Weber, Executive Director, The Marshall Plan - "Dear Mr. Faulk, Seeing that many people look up to you, you have much influence."

Armando Salguero, ESPN correspondent - At Marshall Faulk's foundation in St. Louis, Executive Director Jennifer Weber reads Faulk's fan mail before it reaches the Ram's running back.

Weber - "You are being asked to identify yourself as a Jew and Israelite. It's a matter of not only eternal life and death, but also your present survival. Sincerely yours, The God of the World."

My first thought after I read the letter - I looked for anything that might have been additionally in the letter -- powder, anything that they've been warning people about. So, yes, it's a little scary.

Faulk - It's the sick people that decide to, you know, deliver these things. You don't know what letter was in the mail room with one of those other letters.

Salguero - Faulk's mail is forwarded to his foundation by the Rams, who are warning players to take precautions with their mail. Around the league, the bulk of fan mail remains unopened, piling up in obscure storage rooms and player mailboxes. These piles began to gather shortly after the onset of the anthrax scare, when the NFL asked its teams to stop delivering fan mail to players.

Tony Gonzalez, Chiefs tight end - So if you want your mail, you have to go pick it up at the end of the week and take it home then. I guess you take it home to your house. But the Chiefs stopped giving it to us out there at the stadium.

Jamir Miller, Browns linebacker - The handwriting of the letters that were tainted with anthrax are the handwriting of the writers that I get in my fan mail. So it's kind of scary, you know what I mean. And the thing is that, you know, please don't take offense to that, but due to that fact I haven't opened any fan mail.

Stuart Weinstein, Dolphins security investigator - We are holding all fan mail. We're holding any mail that is not a bill or is not easily recognizable by a player. For instance, a letter from his mom, who -- and he's using this as his address.

Salguero - The NFL has provided teams with guidelines to identify suspicious mail, such as envelopes with no return address or block-style lettering. The league is also recommending teams provide simple protections such as latex gloves for the employees at greatest risk - the mail handlers.

Mark Leone, Dolphins mail clerk - If I should start to catch cold, I'll go to my doctor; I'll be tested just to be sure.

Jason Taylor, Dolphins defensive end - It's a shame that the country's come to the point where we have to watch our mail and do some of the silly things we have to do now but, you've got to be cautious.

Brian Billick, Ravens head coach - The fact of the matter is, there is going to be a lot of fan mail that just doesn't get opened, or doesn't get to where the fans wanted it to, simply because of the times that we're dealing with.

Salguero - Kurt Warner's mail does get opened. Like his teammate, Marshall Faulk, Warner answers his fan mail through his foundation, sending autographed cards with a testimonial about Christianity.

Kurt Warner, Rams quarterback - The Lord's placed me here for a particular reason and, you know, my main purpose isn't necessarily to throw touchdown passes, but to make a difference and to change lives. And this is one way that I have an opportunity to do that.

Salguero - The NFL is trying to find a company that can inspect its unopened fan mail, a search with no timetable for completion. And while that search continues, only players who specifically request their fan mail from their respective teams get it. Those players, like Faulk and Warner, refuse to let their bond with fans be severed.

Aaron Glenn, Jets cornerback - I think I'm going to continue to read it, because the fans are the ones that really makes sports, period. And I think they deserve to be responded to.

Zach Thomas, Dolphins linebacker - It doesn't scare me at all. I take my mail, and I have no fear and things like that. So, you know, I think, like you said, it's a little blown out of proportion. And let's just get back to our normal lives and not let this -- let anybody control us.

Ley - Throughout sports, all teams are taking precautions. Fan mail may need to turn into e-mail. The NFL's Web site is promising player responses to selected fan e-mails. And the Buffalo Bills Web site is offering fans a chance to e-mail their favorite player.

Now a scene familiar in many American households - waiting on SAT scores. They do, of course, affect college admissions and scholarships. The tests are administered by the Educational Testing Service in Princeton, New Jersey, where mail service is disrupted by anthrax-related post office closings.

Nearly 8,000 test scores are in limbo, including those of an anxious linebacker in California.

Recorded Message - To hear your scores, press "4" now. One moment while we connect to our database.

Ley - It's a phone call Joe Boswell has been making constantly for nearly a month, hoping his latest SAT scores will lift him from St. Ignatius High in San Francisco, to Dartmouth and the Ivy League.

But like so many things in the post-9/11 world, what was once simple is now complex.

Recorded Message - Your scores for the requested test date are not available at this time.

Joe Boswell, St. Ignatius HS - As soon as they said I could call by phone, I called by phone that Friday. Because coaches were sort of getting on me about my scores, because my previous scores were so low. So I wanted to get my new scores as soon as possible.

Judy Boswell, Joe's mother - I heard a book thrown across the counter, and I said, what's up. He goes, "They don't have my SAT scores again, and it's getting late, and I'm really worried about it."

Ley - College admission, already an unnerving process, has become even more anxious for this lacrosse player and middle linebacker.

Joe Boswell - My scores were not so low that they couldn't take me, but so low that they could only take a certain number of designated people. And in order for me to move into a category where I would be more eligible, or likely to get into the school, I'd have to get a higher score.

Ley - He spent six months being tutored to retake the SAT, and feels he did improve his scores. But his test sheets are trapped in a New Jersey post office closed by anthrax contamination.

Joe Boswell - So the longer this waits, that gives other people chances -- that gives the coaches chances to fill their slots with other players. So it sort of takes away my chances. The longer I don't have an SAT score that's presentable for a school like Dartmouth, the less chance I have of getting in.

Ley - Chasing his football dream, he realizes this problem is minuscule compared to those at Ground Zero, or facing the threat of anthrax.

Joe Boswell - Well obviously in the grand scope, people losing their SAT scores is nothing compared to what actually happened on September 11. But it's just amazing to think that something that happened so far away could affect us, and could affect high school students who are just trying to get into college right now.

Ley - Joe Boswell has registered to take the SAT yet again, on the first day of December. It's not known exactly how many college-bound athletes are among those 7,800 high school students whose test scores have not been scored, and may never be.

Well, adjustments have been made in sports travel. On several occasions, NHL game officials have flown on team charters in order to make their next game. The NBA had announced a policy urging teams to allow media to fly on planes. The first instance is believed to have been this week. The Nets of New Jersey play Tuesday night in Indianapolis. Air service in New York City had been disrupted by Monday's fatal crash in Queens. Five New Jersey sports writers traveled to Indianapolis on the Nets' charter.

Steve Adamek, Nets beat writer, "Bergen Record" - It creates a bit of an ethical problem, because the teams are offering you a favor. And there is the theory that if they offer you a favor, then you owe them a favor back; like writing nice things about them, you know, positive news coverage and things like that.

But it's also a security thing. I mean, since 9/11 air travel has changed. And certainly for us traveling on a day-to-day basis -- first flights out in the morning, weather problems and security have made a significant difference.

Ley - Next as we continue - The sight of these majestic airships over stadiums now is rare, and the NFL wants to keep it that way, regardless of what the airship industry or the FAA says.

Ley - The Downtown Athletic Club, home of the Heisman Trophy, was a place of refuge in the hours after the collapse of the Twin Towers. The building suffered structural damage, forcing next month's presentation of the trophy to be moved uptown to a Times Square hotel.

In the aftermath of the attacks, the National Football League changed the logo of its upcoming Superbowl XXXVI in New Orleans. Gone is a New Orleans flavor, in favor of a more patriotic and national motif.

More than artwork has changed in sports since the 11th of September; minds and hearts have changed. In the case of one young women, a change that has totally recast the course of her college career.

Here's Lisa Salters.

Lisa Salters, ESPN correspondent - 17-year-old Nikki Blue has been rated the best high school point guard in the nation, averaging 34 points a game for the West High Lady Vikings in Bakersfield, California. So it comes as no surprise that she was recruited by dozens of universities.

At the beginning of the school year, Blue had narrowed her decision down to five schools, and she didn't seem to mind that most of them were thousands of miles away from home. She says then, her only priority was picking a program that had a chance of winning a national championship.

What school were you leaning towards, before September 11?

Blue - Connecticut.

Salters - Why?

Blue - Because they're a No. 1 program, and I wanted to be part of a No. 1 program.

Salters - But on September 11, Blue's priorities changed.

Pat Shiloh, Blue's high school coach - That morning, before I even left for school, she called me on the phone and said, Ms. Shiloh, I'm not going anywhere.

Salters - What did you mean?

Blue - I'm not leaving California.

Salters - For a visit?

Blue - For school, period. I don't want to go nowhere; I didn't want to fly on an airplane after that -- nothing.

Salters - But a month after the terrorist attacks, Blue did get on an airplane. It was a recruiting trip to the University of Connecticut.

Blue - When we walked into the airport, they said, keep our IDs out; and they checked the IDs four times. We saw the National Guard people with the big guns. That was really, really scary. My mom, she started freaking out.

Sabrina Hunter, Blue's mother - While we were flying there was an alarm that went off in the plane when someone went into the bathroom and started smoking. All the flight attendants started running up and down the aisles, slamming on the doors -- "Open up, open up!" Could you imagine how I felt?

Blue - Every little bump, I'm scared, you know. Every time someone gets up and walks, I'm looking at them. You can't relax.

Shiloh - We had other visits planned. We had -- after the UConn visit, we had Georgia, Rutgers, Arizona. All those visits were planned after that, and she canceled all of her visits.

Salters - So just a week after returning from UConn, Blue announced her highly anticipated decision - She would play, not for the Huskies, who have already won two national titles in the last six years, but for UCLA. The Bruins won just six games last season; but UCLA's campus is a mere two-hour drive from Blue's home.

Blue - After September 11, then I thought about my family being close to home.

Shiloh - And I kept telling her -- that's all I would say, is Nikki, just make sure you're making the decision for the right reason.

Salters - So what would the wrong reason be; fear?

Shiloh - Fear.

Salters - If September 11 hadn't happened, where would you have chosen?

Blue - Who's to say? I can't say right now. I have no idea.

Shiloh - Yes you can.

Blue - Probably UConn; probably.

Salters - But September 11 did happen.

Blue - It happened.

Salters - And things change.

Blue - You're right; sure did.

Ley - Nikki Blue's case is hardly unique. This year, according to recruiting expert Mike Flynn, more talented women's basketball players stayed closer to home then before. Minnesota and Arkansas are two schools that Flynn says enjoyed unusually productive recruiting years.

One familiar sight in sports has been largely missing since the 11th of September, and totally missing from NFL games - blimps overhead. The airships traditionally provide panoramic video in exchange for on-air mentions. Since the attacks, blimps have been banned from airspace near most major airports, and allowed elsewhere, but only with distance and altitude restrictions.

Steve Delsohn now on the security and the politics of banning the blimp.

Unidentified Male - Here we go, we're going to be on the air here in just a few seconds.

Steve Delsohn, ESPN correspondent - Jim Maloney belongs to a small fraternity. In the United States, there are less than 40 pilots who fly these enormous airships.

Maloney - Like my boss always says; he says there are more astronauts than there are blimp pilots.

Delsohn - But the blimp industry has changed since September 11.

Unidentified Male - The F-16s are going to swoop down on us.

Unidentified Male - They're coming down on us?

Unidentified Male - Yes.

Maloney - Normally, during the fall, we're busy covering college football games, the professional football games and baseball playoffs and World Series.

Delsohn - There weren't any blimps at this year's World Series; and they still have not returned to NFL games. After the attacks, the Federal Aviation Administration banned the blimps and other private aircraft from entering what is called Enhanced Class B Airspace, a 20 to 30-mile ring surrounding most major metropolitan airports.

Al Lerner, Cleveland Browns owner - Hopefully they'll read the bulletins and pay attention to what they're supposed to do and not do, and stay the hell out of that airspace during game day.

Delsohn - Unfortunately for the blimp companies, this makes 25 of the NFL's 31 stadiums off limits. And according to the NFL, it doesn't want aircraft at any of its stadiums. And neither do NFL fans, anxious about another terrorist strike.

Milt Alherich, NFL V.P. of Security - Well, I can tell you what our fans are telling us about different types of aircraft -- tow-banners, news operations, helicopters and blimps operating around their stadiums. We're getting very positive feedback that they're not there. So the suggestion to us is that this is a good rule, a very good rule. And we'd like to see it continued.

Delsohn - In the meantime, blimp operators can apply for special waivers to cover individual events. One of those waivers was granted when the FAA said Goodyear could cover a Cleveland Browns game on September 23. But the waiver was revoked when the Browns' head of security, Lou Malleti objected. Malleti is a former director of the Secret Service.

Lou Malleti, Browns head of security - Yes, that's right, I objected; strongly objected. We wanted to know what's in our airspace. We don't want it open. If you open it, I mean, who knows what you're getting in there.

Delsohn - In addition to current concerns about security, the blimps have been stigmatized by the 1977 movie "Black Sunday." In that fictitious film, a terrorist hijacked a blimp and tried to crash it into the Superbowl.

Alherich - We're aware of it, of the work. And obviously it was fiction, and we think it is a very, very unlikely scenario. But it weighs on our fans' minds. And obviously, when you have that kind of anxiety produced, it seemed to be that the blimps should be among the types of aircraft that are kept slightly away from our stadiums.

Delsohn - But Maloney says these airships, of which there are roughly a dozen covering sporting events, don't pose a threat.

Maloney - A blimp is not something that somebody can just jump in and fly. It takes a whole ground crew of at least 13 guys to ground-handle it. It takes a pilot with experience to fly it. So it's not likely that anybody is going to be able to use the blimp in a terrorist act.

Delsohn - So for now the Goodyear Blimp, one of sports' most omnipresent icons, is only appearing at college football games, and only in stadiums outside the restricted airspace in major metropolitan areas.

For Outside The Lines, I'm Steve Delsohn.

Ley - The FAA may this week consider easing blimp restrictions, possibly allowing them to fly in airspace near major airports. They may still, though, have to be either three miles from or 3,000 feet above a stadium. However, no easing of airspace restrictions is expected in New York City, Washington or Boston. The National Football League says that while airspace restrictions are important for the safety of fans, it would respect any changes made by the FAA.

Next - A number of sports figures, including the new head coach of Texas Tech -- their thoughts on the changes in sports since the 11th of September.

Ley - A World Series for the ages, and one that represented more than baseball to a nation recovering from shock, a nation in war.

Sen. John McCain (R), Arizona - It gave them a chance to appreciate New York City by expressing their appreciation to their players. It gave them a chance to appreciate one of the greatest series in history.

Ley - The first November, World Series, 2001. Joining me Thanksgiving afternoon, 4 p.m. Eastern for the glory of this World Series in the context of these times.

Sports' role in the national mindset in a time of new priorities. It was first manifested on the baseball diamond and then, of course, recognized around the country on NFL Sunday.

Has there been in a way -- a change in the way that Americans have viewed and appreciated their games now?

Jeff Greenfield, CNN host - The blunt answer for me is no. And I think, in fact, that why that's a really important question is that it raises the specter that we sometimes are placing too much notion on sports or any other diversion as some kind of antidote to this dreadful reality.

Bob Knight, Texas Tech men's basketball coach - There's no greater catharsis for human emotion and feeling than sports. It has a tendency to take your mind off things, and maybe get us back thinking.

Bobby Valentine, Mets manager - I think what we're dealing with is a bunch of very good entertainers understanding that the country that they are entertaining in is a little different than it once was. And that life will go on, but it will go on in a changed way. And we'll still cross the street, we'll just look both ways before we do.

Ley - And to pick up there, we welcome Charles Pierce of "Esquire" magazine. His article in the current edition - "162 Reasons It's Good to be an American Man." And among the reasons -big foam fingers, the jump shot, and the syntax of Yogi Berra.

Good morning, Charlie.

Charlie Pierce, writer at large, "Esquire" Magazine - Good morning Bob.

Ley - Where do you come down on this? Jeff Greenfield says no, others say, well, it is different now.

Pierce - Well I think, you know, the fundamental question that we carry as American citizens is - Do we govern or are we governed? And that comes to a very sharp point, I think, in this situation. I believe sports is a diversion, but not a distraction. I mean, if it's damn it, I'm going to take my grandson to the Alabama Arbor game because my grandfather took me, then that's one thing.

But if it's, go ahead, do what you want, govern us. Feed the Constitution to the Cuisinart, don't bother us, we're at the ball game, then I think sports plays a role that's darker and more corrosive and, I think, ultimately a little malignant.

Ley - Well, let's step back a couple of months. It was said we saw a different side of athletes after the 11th. That it was such a tragedy, what happened to the entire country. That the disconnect that existed between fans and athletes, that gap had been bridged. Is that something permanent?

Pierce - I don't know. I don't know that the gap was ever, in terms of reality -- I don't know if the gap was ever that wide. I think it was a much more demonstrable gap between people who come to us through the media and people, those people that we create in our own minds.

I do think that people, you know, are expecting somehow more of the athletes, while simultaneously, I think, expecting a little bit less of themselves as citizens. And I find that a little bit troublesome.

Ley - What do you think about the importance that has been imbued to the past World Series; overdone?

Pierce - Oh, no. I think -- the one thing about sports is that, in terms of a lot of things in the national Zeitgeist, sports is a canary in the coal mine. It happens in sports before it happens anywhere else. And the one thing sports is -- does possess, are regularly scheduled large gatherings, usually for celebratory purposes. And the World Series was the first one of these.

Ley - One of your great reasons to be an American male - Superbowl Sunday. You described it how?

Pierce - Well, I said it's the first national holiday dedicated to the purposes of sitting around on your own fat whatever.

Ley - Yes. What do you expect of this one, 10 years after the last one that had occurred in wartime?

Pierce - I expect that it will be a patriotic pageant, a little bit, perhaps -- a little Bluer than it was in 1991, where it was actually sort of a national mood of triumphalism. I don't think that mood is here now. And I think that that's a measure of the difference -- monumental difference between the atrocities of September 11 and the Gulf War.

Ley - Charlie Pierce, thanks a great deal. We'll look for you on ESPN Radio as well.

Pierce - Thanks Bob.

Ley - Thanks.

And this reminder, that Outside The Lines is online. Type the keyword OTLWEEKLY, or follow this address. And your e-mail, of course, is always welcome. Our address online

Ley - A reminder, this program re-airs on ESPN2 at 10:00 a.m. Pacific. And tonight we've got the Rams and New England at 8:30 Eastern, right after "NFL Primetime" at 7:30 Eastern. I'll be back with Robin Roberts in 30 minutes with another edition of "SportsCenter." A report from Las Vegas as Lewis reclaims the heavyweight championship. We will unveil the new top 25 in college football.

Next up -- John Saunders is in for Dick Schaap and "The Sports Reporters" from the ESPN Zone in Times Square.

I'm Bob Ley. Bye-bye.

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 Outside The Lines
ESPN's Bob Ley details how the sports world has changed since 9/11.

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