Coach Pikiell described her to me. He said she was one of his neighbors, a “great lady,” caring, friendly and generous. Maybe I would recognize her if I saw her. He told me she has come to games and often sits close to the bench. She is a friend to many, a mother and grandmother. And like all grandmothers, she lights up with pride when she speaks of her grandchildren.
Tuesday night we played a game vs. Sacred Heart in Fairfield, CT. It was a surreal and somber moment just before tipoff as we remembered the victims of the senseless tragedy that took place in Newtown, just 30 miles away from where we stood. Our coaching staff first heard of the shootings right after practice last Friday and we immediately turned on the television and reacted with horror as the events of the day unfolded. It hit close to home for many of us who have connections to the area. Both Coach Pikiell and his wife, Kate, grew up a few towns away. I lived in and coached in Connecticut for five years. We have friends there, relatives, people we care about. It was impossible to process what was happening. Think of your worst nightmare as a parent; multiply that by 100, then multiply that by a million.
As coaches, we live in a completely insular world, especially during the season. We think of our team, our opponents, and then we think more about our team and more about our opponents. I am somewhat embarrassed to admit my naivety on many of the political issues that surround this tragic event. But as a coach, I do know when it’s time to do better, work harder, overcome obstacles. Maybe I’m just simplifying complicated issues, but don’t most difficult problems start with a very simple pretext?
I know what we don’t need: more committees, research groups, or subcommittees to the research group. If I was President, I would appoint a “Commissioner of Common Sense” who is charge of the “Department of DoBetter.” Fiscal Cliff, not our problem; we drove off the Common Sense Cliff years ago.
No partisan politics in my department. This agency would figure out pretty quickly that we don’t need a video game called “Bulletstorm” or “Resident Evil.” They would inform Wal-Mart that it is a great place to buy Preparation H but the wrong place to buy a semi-automatic rifle. My agency would take a look at the $820 million spent on landing a rover on Mars and figure out it may be smarter to spend some of that cash keeping our schools safe here on earth. My mailman gets it, the grocer gets it, the dog walker gets it, why doesn’t Washington? I don’t need some dude in a custom-made suit to tell me about the obstacles of gun control or the many challenges of the mental health system. Lose the jacket, loosen the tie, roll up your sleeves and work harder, damn it. Do better; we are burying first graders for God’s sake! Let’s start acting like the great nation we are supposed to be. We are quick to recognize and celebrate all that we have accomplished in this country, it’s time we acknowledge something is so very wrong. Google “school shootings in the US” and you will find we are by far the world leader in that macabre category. There have been six school shootings since 1997 that resulted in five or more deaths accounting for a combined total 95 fatalities of innocent people. After each one of these tragedies there has been plenty of rhetoric but little action. This time it has to be different, it must be different.
We defended pretty well on Tuesday, made just enough free throws and left Sacred Heart with a win. There wasn’t much of a celebration on the bus. Our thoughts were with Coach Pikiell’s neighbor who was in Connecticut too, but she wasn’t at our game. She was in Newtown, mourning the loss of her granddaughter who was killed in her classroom last Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School.