MORRISSEY: Connecticut tragedy reminds us some losses far worse than others
BY RICK MORRISSEY email@example.com December 15, 2012 8:11PM
Gun-control supporters take part in a candlelight vigil near the White House on Saturday. | Mandel Ngan~Getty Images
Updated: January 17, 2013 6:26AM
Deep down, I think we all know the anger, elation, passion, angst, time and effort we devote to sports is pure, uncut silliness. But that doesn’t stop us from calling for the coach’s head, railing against the horrible injustices of the college bowl
system or wondering what the general manager could have been thinking about that trade for the dead-armed pitcher.
Once in a while, we pause to ask ourselves whether we’ve lost our minds. But then we notice the ref missed what clearly was a fumble, and we’re back to our anesthetized selves. And most of the time, that obliviousness, that numbness to the real world, is a good thing.
The only force that seems to be able to stop us in our tracks is tragedy.
The Packers-Bears game, the one we’ve put on a microscope slide for the better part of a week, doesn’t look quite as life-changing today as it did 72 hours ago. It looks small and empty as I sit here trying to process the madness that happened Friday.
What happened in a Connecticut town defies understanding. How is it that someone could massacre 20 children? What would possess a man to kill innocents, some who probably pronounced R’s and L’s as W’s, many who believed Santa Claus was keeping a list and not beyond checking it twice?
Why would someone do that?
Twenty kids, enough for a kickball game at a park. I see the left fielder on his knees, preoccupied by something in the grass. I see all of them at play, unable to keep still, joyous. Twenty kids.
And we were worried about what? Jay Cutler’s neck?
The tragedy Friday makes the Jovan Belcher murder-suicide look tiny. Whether that incident had to do with relationship problems, mental-health issues or head trauma, well, we suddenly have moved on, haven’t we? That horror made us pause. This one made us screech to a halt, the way 9/11 did. But at least we could understand what might make terrorists plow airplanes into buildings. Twenty children gunned down inside a school, though? No. We’ll never understand that.
‘‘Perspective’’ is one of the most uttered words in sports and one of the hardest to find being practiced. Coaches and athletes put in hours and hours at the office. They spend days and weeks away from home. They talk about team as ‘‘family,’’ which makes sense in a twisted way. I’ve known football coaches who worked 16 hours or more a day and rarely saw their children. Up at 5 a.m., home at 10 p.m. It still goes on, and it’s heartbreaking. So is the number of athletes who don’t take responsibility for the children they helped create.
Perhaps you’ve seen an athlete at a news conference, his young daughter on his lap as a shield or an image-softener. Perhaps you’ve questioned whether he’s the committed parent he wants the world to believe he is.
When the blackness of Friday arrived, I wanted to scream at all of them: Be there for your kids. What you’re chasing is fleeting, and what you’re losing can’t be recaptured. Pay attention to What’s Important.
And they will — for a day or two.
It’s not just athletes; it’s all of us. Lawyers. Businessmen. Media members, too. Put down the iPhone. Stop tweeting. The planet isn’t going to stop rotating if you pause to listen to your child’s wandering thoughts. Really. Nobody is going remember that you waxed poetic in 140 characters about a pitcher’s pickoff move. It doesn’t matter in the least which way the high school star is leaning with regard to his college choice.
The NFL takes its role in U.S. culture very seriously. Presented with a heartstring, it rarely passes up the chance to pluck. But we need a long moment of silence before the games Sunday to remember those kids, the six adults who died with them and the duty we have to protect the most vulnerable among us from people and guns.
I have no doubt we’ll be back in full froth moments later, lost in the Packers-Bears rivalry and what it means for the future of Lovie Smith. For three hours, we’ll get a reprieve from thinking about those poor children. That’s good.
Meanwhile, in backyards and in parks, kids will huddle up just like the pros and whisper pass routes. They shouldn’t have a care in the world, but I wonder now. There has been too much perspective delivered much too soon in life.