When driving home from Indianapolis to my hometown of Trumbull, Connecticut, I travel through Newtown, which is a little over a dozen miles from where I grew up.
On Route 25 in downtown Newtown, which is also known as Main Street, old Colonial-era houses line each side of the road, and a flagpole sits right in the middle of the street. They even have a General Store, a block from their Town Hall, which I've always found to be endearing. Newtown is a picturesque, sleepy, New England town - the kind you would find in a 1950's catalog.
It's hard to imagine Friday's tragedy happening in a place like that.
In the immediate aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting incident on Friday, I heard other sports talk shows and callers arguing about guns, religion in schools, and the lack of mental illness awareness in our nation. I'm not saying there isn't a need to talk about those issues. However, we normally talk about silly topics like Andrew Luck's neck beard and the New Orleans NBA franchise changing their name to the "Pelicans". Others may disagree, but I didn't find it prudent to fully delve into the shootings on a sports talk show. I would have felt irresponsible doing so. I expressed my sympathies on Friday, and tried to move on.
I wanted to focus on sports because they can be a distraction during times of tragedy. I remember in the wake of September 11th when George W. Bush, the most polarizing President of my lifetime, delivered a perfect strike before Game 3 of the World Series at Yankee Stadium. I remember Steve Gleason’s blocked punt during the Saints’ Monday Night win over the Falcons in their first game in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina. A first pitch and a punt block didn’t erase the lives lost and the damage done, but I like to think that they helped us heal. Seeing fans hold up S.H.E.S (Sandy Hook Elementary School) signs in NFL stadiums yesterday, hearing of Bob Kraft's generosity, and Victor Cruz's gesture to Jack Pinto's family, warmed my heart.
We need those moments when our country is consumed in grief.
That’s not to say that I wasn’t focusing on those children, and their heroic teachers on that day. I also thought about Newtown, and about Fairfield County in general, where I had a safe and happy childhood. I'm sure those other children did, too, until Friday's unspeakable tragedy. Newtown is a place full of good, caring, and hard-working people, and I can't pretend to understand the grief that consumes their community right now. None of us can.
The flagpole in the middle of Main Street in Newtown, Connecticut
How do you discuss children being murdered? How can you encapsulate what those families are going through? How can we argue with each other on a day like that day? No, I didn’t find it insensitive to talk about sports on Friday. Instead, I viewed it as a respite; something to block out the darkness of a horrific tragedy if even for a short while.
I wanted to talk about sports because while twenty-seven innocent lives were inexplicably taken away in a quaint Connecticut town, I couldn’t bring myself to talk about anything else.