A large photograph of Rangers Captain Mark Messier appears beside two jerseys in the exhibition "Comeback Season: Sports After 9/11."
Photo by Jin S. Lee

Comeback Season

The special exhibition, Comeback Season: Sports After 9/11, explored how sports helped the country unite and start to heal in the aftermath of the attacks.

An American flag and other memorabilia is on display as part of the sports-themed exhibition "Comeback Season: Sports After 9/11."
Photo by Jin S. Lee

About the Exhibition

Sports have long claimed a central position in American life. In the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, as they had during previous moments of crisis, sports helped to shape a national response to events far beyond the playing field.

Almost immediately, there were questions of propriety. Should games go on as planned? When would it be acceptable to resume competition? Sports figures spoke of their unwillingness to move too quickly, their desire to provide solace to the country, and the responsibility to honor the victims. They would go back to the games, they said, when it would help.

In the months that followed, sports set an emotional cadence for a grieving nation. Ballparks, racetracks, and arenas offered fans a place to come together and cheer. The rituals of sport were extended to commemorate those killed on 9/11 and honor those who protect us. In stadiums around the country, millions found a path forward, combining reverence for the fallen with devotion to the games.

This was the comeback season, reminding a nation that what we have in common is more powerful than what divides us.

Presentation of Comeback Season: Sports After 9/11 was made possible in part through the support of the Anheuser-Busch Foundation, Major League Baseball, and the New York Mets/Jeff Wilpon.

Video: Comeback Season Exhibition Trailer


Objects on View

This special exhibition immersed visitors in unforgettable sports moments through displays of artifacts and cherished memorabilia, and stories from athletes, coaches, and fans.

Miniature football

Collection 9/11 Memorial Museum, Gift of the Office of Chief Medical Examiner

Among the objects recovered after the 9/11 attacks, these mementos attest to the significance sports held for so many, whether as fans or athletes, caught up in the events of that day. This toy football was recovered from the Deutsche Bank building across the street from the World Trade Center site.

A worn and dusty white and blue foam football from the 9/11 Memorial Museum's collection rests on a black surface.

Helmet with NYPD lettering worn by New York Mets player Mike Piazza after 9/11

Collection 9/11 Memorial Museum, Gift of Livio Forte

When Major League Baseball resumed, the New York Mets wore caps representing New York City’s first responders. Mets player Mike Piazza cut the letters from an NYPD cap and glued them to the catcher’s helmet he wore behind home plate. 

A black baseball helmet with NYPD lettering worn and a blue bill was worn by New York Mets player Mike Piazza after 9/11 and was donated to the 9/11 Memorial Museum's collection.

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