It has been less than a week since Hurricane Sandy slammed into the nation’s East Coast, flooding major parts of New York City and New Jersey, killing at least 54 in the area, and leaving thousands of residents without power or clean waters. And yet, in two days, the New York City Marathon will go on as planned, winding its way from Staten Island through Brooklyn to the Upper East Side and Queens before finally ending in Central Park.
Despite calls to cancel the marathon, it must go on, at least according to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “I think it’ll be a great testament to the city’s resilience,” Latif Peracha, who will run in the marathon for the first time, told Fox News.
Sports have often been a symbol of our nation’s resilience. The continuance of the 1989 World Series, played between the Oakland Athletics and San Francisco Giants, 10 days after a massive earthquake shook the Bay Area showed that we could carry on through natural disasters; the return of sports in the immediate aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks, and the return of the New York Yankees to the World Series, showed the world we could carry on after devastating attacks on our own people.
The New York City Marathon continued in 2001 too, an allusion Bloomberg made in deciding not to cancel it. “If you remember going back to 9/11,” Bloomberg said, “I think Rudy (Giuliani) made the right decision running the marathon.”
But this isn’t 9/11, which occurred nearly two months before that year’s New York City marathon and 10 days before the next baseball game was played in the city, and this isn’t a situation in which sports should show the rest of the nation, or the world, how tough and resilient our biggest city is.
First responders in New York are still digging through the aftermath of Sandy to find bodies, and the death toll is rising by the day. Now, hundreds of police officers will be forced off that job to secure the marathon route. Thousands of the city’s residents are without power, but according reports, the generators that will be devoted to on-site tents throughout the marathon route could power 400 Staten Island homes. Thousands more in both New York and New Jersey lack clean water, but on Sunday, marathon runners will be tossing back quick swigs of water to stay hydrated, dumping water on their heads to stay cool, and tossing half-filled cups into the street below them.
Games across the city, from the NBA’s debut in Brooklyn to the MLS playoffs in northern Jersey, have been postponed or moved over the same concerns. Those are far smaller operations that require fewer security officials and less resources than the all-day marathon.
Sports have helped Americans cope with crises, providing an outlet to return to normalcy in the wake of disaster. They have demonstrated the resilience of our people and our values. But running the New York City Marathon this week, devoting attention and resources away from people who need them to carry on, isn’t resilient. It’s ridiculous.