A week has now passed since the unconscionable mass slaughter of innocent elementary school children in Connecticut, and somehow I almost feel guilty discussing the topics of local and national sports. Many say that sports is a necessary distraction from the turmoil of every day life, but for those like myself, who happens to be the father of a child in elementary school and just at the age of the shooting victims, it’s still difficult to fathom what exactly happened last Friday, and most especially why. More importantly, it puts into focus the truly important things in life, the love and safety of your family.
Consider the trivial matters we concern ourselves with in the world of local sports: Should we pay Josh Hamilton $15 or $20 million per year? Should we let Andrew Bynum go after this season without an extension? Will we have a hockey season at all? Will the Eagles really fire Andy Reid? Such questions and discussions seem so important and interesting to debate until life reared its ugly head as it did in Sandy Hook. While we wonder what Eagles, Phillies, Flyers or Eagles jersey will be under the tree Christmas morning, there are dozens of parents and siblings in Newtown that have gifts most likely wrapped already and no children to give them to.
In the meantime, we follow the wacky escapades of our local sports figures: Andrew Bynum’s bowling skills, DeSean Jackson‘s rap skills. We read about how the Flyers’ famously bizarre millionaire goalie is still as crazy as ever, even overseas. We debate endlessly about the Eagles given their epic collapse this season. We wonder when and if Ruben Amaro Jr. will pull off the trade of the off-season as always. Given the gravity of the events in Newtown, can these topics seem more insignificant now?
But yet, even with all the sadness and shock still simmering over the tragedy, sports is still the ultimate healer of these types of wounds, serving as a needed outlet to escape from the madness that has seemed to envelope everyday life lately. Consider the way you felt when baseball returned after the 9/11 attacks back in 2001. The sight of American flags being unfurled throughout the Vet, the image of the ultimate tough-guy Larry Bowa‘s face streaming with tears, the celebration when Scott Rolen slugged a clutch home run, the cracking voice of Harry Kalas in his opening comments regarding the tragedy…Even in New York, which suffered the most on that date, most Mets fans cherish Mike Piazza slugging a majestic home run in the first game played at Shea Stadium after the attacks.
The ultimate example for me of the intersections of sports and real life, and how they can change your perspectives, is the case of New York Giants receiver Victor Cruz, and his visit to the family of 6-year-old Jack Pinto in Connecticut this past week. Cruz is a player that I, as well as most Eagles fans, have come to despise on the gridiron. How angered were we when we heard the salsa music being played after one of his TDs earlier this season on national television?? But what Cruz did, from writing Pinto’s name on his game-worn shoes and gloves, to visiting the family as well as other relatives of victims, signing jerseys and hats, and tossing the football around to kids. Last Monday, little Jack Pinto was buried in a replica jersey of his hero, Victor Cruz…
Will I continue to make Cruz the focus of my ire on the football field come game day, especially against the Eagles? Of course I will, as will countless other Eagles fans. But I will also never forget and respect what he did for those families in an age when many athletes are worried about their next paycheck or their next JumboTron highlight play that will lead the Sportscenter plays of the week.
And as much as I will always love my sports and raise my little female Philly fan to be as committed as I am, I’ll never forget that despite the fact that sports endures, life is fleeting.