Memorial Day is a holiday of mixed emotions.
It's a time to celebrate the unofficial start of summer with friends and family, barbecues and ballgames. You can't turn on the television without seeing something exciting happening in sports: NBA and NHL playoffs, baseball and softball in full swing, PIAA track and field, NASCAR and the Indianapolis 500, just to name a few.
But it's also the time of mourning and tribute: the time to remember fallen heroes who have made the ultimate sacrifice; the true heroes whose character and patriotism prompt them to enlist for the toughest job in the world, defending our nation.
Pat Tillman is the ultimate example, having traded in his lucrative NFL career to become an Army Ranger; he was killed in Afghanistan in 2003, reminding us that war does not discriminate, even for the most invincible of athletes.
Perhaps it is fitting that for generations Americans have celebrated our freedom, our military, and our patriotism through sport. In fact, sporting events have long served as a backdrop for our nation through times of tragedy and triumph, with displays of grief, unity and pride.
Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1942, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt wrote the "green light letter" to the commissioner of baseball, stating his belief that the sport should continue through World War II.
The President believed that baseball provided a much-needed distraction from the trials of war. But people didn't forget the war when they went to the ballpark. It was during that baseball season that the National Anthem began to be played before every major league baseball game, a tradition that continues to this day.
We saw similar observances after 9-11. Administrators questioned whether high school football games should be played in the days after the deadly attacks. But the games became more than athletic contests: they were the opportunity for communities to come together and show support and strength for each other and for our country; the chance to prove our spirit had not been defeated.
It's hard to forget the image of the field-wide American flag unfurled at Beaver Stadium when the Penn State football team took the field for the first time after the terrorist attacks, and equally hard to forget the sound of more than 90,000 fans singing "God Bless America."
The patriotic song was also sung during the seventh inning stretch during the World Series in the weeks following 9-11, replacing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." The images of stadiums full of Americans banding together dressed in red white and blue couldn't erase the tragic images of the attacks, but could remind us of our own resilience and resolve.
For as passionate as we are about our sports teams, our love for the Steelers or the Nittany Lions pales in comparison to the love we have for our country. In that sense, we are all on the same team, and Memorial Day is a good time to remember.
Goodman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column appears in the Mirror's sports section on Tuesdays.