Holding the NYC Marathon is a bad idea; postpone it by one week
With New York reeling after Hurricane Sandy, it's not ready to host the marathon
The city needs its police and volunteers to help recovery from devastating storm
Sports often have restorative power, but this event would be better a week later
A few days ago, right after Hurricane Sandy hit, I tweeted that if the New York City Marathon is held as scheduled on Sunday, it will be the most miraculous sporting event in history.
This was a dumb tweet for two reasons. Obviously, the most miraculous sporting event in history would be any NFL game in which the Chiefs have a lead. Also, the marathon will be one of the stupidest sporting events in history.
As of this writing, organizers are still planning to hold the marathon. As Aristotle once asked: "What the ...?" Do they not realize what is going on in New York right now? Are they not able to get on the Internet? Oh, right.
We don't even know how many people died in this storm yet. There are widespread power outages, decimated houses and devastated families. New York needs as many police officers, firefighters and volunteers as the city can handle. This is just not the time to hold a marathon.
I am a big believer in the restorative power of sporting events. We saw it after 9/11, with the Giants-Bills Super Bowl after the 1991 Gulf War began, and many other times. For all our cynicism about the modern sports world -- some of it well-founded -- the games still serve a greater purpose beyond just being games. They bring people together even more than music (because music is a matter of personal taste) or art or movies or complaints about the condition of public restrooms. Big sporting events are the nation's living room.
But this marathon is different. This is a big, complicated event that requires a lot of person-power, in a city that just can't handle a big, complicated event that requires a lot of person-power right now.
The Knicks and Nets cancelled their game this week. That's a class picnic compared to the marathon. Participants run through all five boroughs -- that's one of the coolest aspects of the event. Staten Island is not ready for this. Neither is Brooklyn or lower Manhattan.
There is a simple solution to this (or at least, a solution that seems simple to me): Postpone the marathon by a week. That would make a huge difference. With another week, the community could have the relief effort under control, electricity should be restored, hospitals should have a handle on what is happening, and the city should be ready for the marathon. In a week, the marathon really could be what organizers want it to be: A celebration of a community that is coming back.
I'm sure there would be complications. It would affect the timing of runners' training regimens, and there would be a lot of last-minute adjusting and organizing. But there are always complications. This whole hurricane has been one big catastrophic complication. New York is a city that expects complications.
The weather in New York this Sunday is supposed to be clear but cold: A high of 49 degrees and a low of 31, with 15-mile-per-hour winds, according to The Weather Channel. On Nov. 11 it should be better: High of 56, low of 45, with 8 mile-per-hour winds.
I don't know if New York will really be ready by Nov. 11, either. But by postponing it a week, the city would have a much, much better shot. Postpone it a week, and ask either President Obama or President-elect Romney to come celebrate a city that never sleeps, but isn't fully awake just yet.