Chip Scoggins: Children, not sports, warrant our embrace

  • Article by: CHIP SCOGGINS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 15, 2012 - 2:17 AM

On an unspeakable day, safety on the field takes a serious backseat to the welfare of our children. Every last one of them.

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Parents left Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., with their children Friday, following the shooting incident.

Photo: John Woike, Mct

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This column was supposed to be about player safety in the NFL. That was my original intent, at least.

The idea was to opine on how NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell preaches safety first in this era of concussion awareness, yet he fails to find problems with the league requiring teams to play Thursday night games, thus subjecting players to 60 minutes of violent collisions twice in a span of five days.

It's an important topic, for sure. It's something all football fans should care about because brain injuries and the lasting damage that players endure -- physical, emotional and psychological -- for our sporting enjoyment should not be minimized or ignored.

But as I type this, I just want to hug my three young kids.

I don't want to think about football. I can't think about the NFL or Roger Goodell or the absurdity of a team being asked to play four games in a span of 18 days. Not now, at this moment.

The shock and sadness and anger of the Connecticut elementary-school shooting stopped me in mid-sentence. It jolted me, left me shaken and incapable of caring about my opinion as a sports columnist.

Tears filled my eyes as I stared at a photo on this paper's website of a group of young kids being led away from the horror by police. They walked in a single-file line, their hands placed on the shoulders of the kid in front of them, a look of terror and confusion on their faces.

I kept wondering what was going through their heads. I kept imaging how I'd feel if they were my children and I couldn't be there to protect them.

How do those kids forget this? How do we explain this senseless violence? How do they get their innocence back?

I found myself returning to that photo over and over again because that could be my daughter or my sons. And that scares me.

Every parent probably felt the same lump in their throat and knot in their stomach Friday afternoon as they tried to comprehend the latest school shooting in this country.

All I wanted to do was jump up from my desk, drive home and smother my kids with hugs and love.

And then I think about those poor parents who didn't get that opportunity Friday afternoon. Those poor souls who sent their kids to school as they have done so many previous days. With the hope that they have a good day, study hard, have fun with friends and make it home safe on the bus. That's all we want, and it's something most of us probably just take for granted. Instead, those parents must bury their children now, which must be an indescribable pain.

What is wrong with us that this keeps happening? That we can't even send our kids to school without having to worry that our worst possible fears actually come true?

It's heartbreaking to think those innocent little kids won't get the chance to experience life. They won't get the chance to grow up and play sports and get jobs and have their own kids. They won't get to experience another Christmas morning. They just wanted to go to school.

This tragedy assuredly will spark the gun-control debate anew, and an outraged public will demand answers for something that seems unanswerable. But this is not the time for politics or agendas or finger pointing.

Kids were murdered at school. That should be the focus. Lives were lost, lives were ruined, and a school and town are forever changed.

People always say that sports provide them with a diversion from the real world. It's their escape from everyday problems, and I'm sure that's true.

But it's impossible to escape what happened in a Connecticut elementary school Friday. There's too much sadness for me to think or write passionately about anything else.

We'll revisit the NFL and how it views player safety another day. Now is not the time.

I just want to go home and spend time with my kids.

Chip Scoggins • ascoggins@startribune.com

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