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Baseball makes pitch for normalcy

Sports tries to resume games, NFL inks with officials

NEW YORK — ESPN, TBS and four regional sports networks throughout the country got back to business Monday night with the first Major League Baseball games since the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon Sept. 11.

“For a lot of people across the country, not just sports fans, it had to be a good feeling to hear the ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ being played on the ballpark organ again,” said David Carter, a principal in the Los Angeles-based Sports Business Group.

Both ESPN, which carried the Milwaukee-St. Louis game, and TBS, which cablecast the Atlanta-Philadelphia contest, engineered cutaways to various tributes, moments of silence and memorial remembrances at ballparks in Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Montreal and Denver, where the other Monday-night games were taking place.

The networks were anticipating at least a slight increase in viewership as people try to get back to their normal routines.

“Baseball is the perfect diversion in times like these for two reasons,” Carter said. “First, it’s a virtual slice of Americana, like a Norman Rockwell painting. Second, people will be able to ease their way back into baseball because it’s a passive, nonviolent sport for the most part. And there’s no clock, so it moves at a leisurely pace.”

The National Football League, preparing to resume its regular schedule of games this weekend after canceling all of the games in Week Two, has negotiated a new contract with its officials. Lack of an agreement had caused the NFL to lock out its officials in the first week of the season and hire substitutes.

College football made news when the Southeastern Conference shoved back its championship game to Dec. 8, a week later than originally planned, so that the SEC could make up the three league games postponed on Sept. 15 in response to the tragedy. The three games — Tennessee at Florida, Auburn at LSU and Vanderbilt at Mississippi — will take place Dec. 1.

A lineup of four National Hockey League exhibition games also kicked off the NHL preseason schedule Monday night.

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