I intended today to post my usual pregame cheat sheet for the upcoming Sunday Night Football battle between the New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers. It’s by far the biggest game of the day and one of the most anticipated games of the season. After last week’s rout of the mighty Texans, the Patriots are again establishing their dominance as Super Bowl favorites.
But that is the last I will write about the game.
I have had my TV tuned to CNN for over 48 hours now, watching unwavering coverage of the devastation in Newtown, Conn. In the wake of the murder of 20 innocent children and six brave women trying to protect them, I have found it hard to concentrate on sports.
As a sports writer and reporter, I have had the pleasure to share my passion for these games and a culture that unites fans around America and around the world. People ask me all the time why I write sports rather than something else, and my answer is always the same. I write sports because they bring us together and make us happy.
At the end of the day, despite the outrageous contracts, the isolated incidents of heartbreaking violence or injury, and the duels between rival teams and fans, sports are just sports. The rest of the world is so serious and full of truly meaningful and often painful debates. Sports are an escape from all that, and that’s why I love to share that with others.
Today though, there is no escape; most especially for a town that is less than a two-and-a-half hour drive from where I sit right now.
There are 27 families in New England today that are grieving for women and children who were sought out and murdered.
There are dozens more parents whose children saw their teacher and 6- and 7-year-old class mates brutally murdered, shot multiple times at close range by a man in black who is the very definition of evil. These babies had to flee for their lives from a place that they had always felt safe.
There are police officers, FBI agents, medics, medical examiners and other first responders and law enforcement that had to bear the unimaginable trauma of standing in a first grade classroom surrounded by dead children.
There are thousands of people in Newtown whose entire community is standing still with this gut-wrenching grief that is nearly impossible to assuage right now. It is a state of unnatural devastation unlike anything this country has ever seen, and something that surpasses any of our worst nightmares.
I know that the whole world will continue to go on, as it should. I know that we cannot all stop in our tracks when something tragic like this happens and that we must all push forward and live our lives to the fullest in honor of those who no longer can.
But I implore our entire sports community to stop for a moment today and just be grateful to have a night to ourselves to enjoy a football game. It is a simple pleasure. It is time to spend with family or friends, to bond with sons and daughters and enjoy good food and drink. For me it is a time that I get paid to do work that I love and watch a game that I love.
That is all that matters about tonight’s game. Just be happy to have it, and spread that happiness out in thought and prayer for the members of our New England community tonight to whom football means nothing right now.
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