Wednesday, December 19, 2012

In Wake of Newtown, Winthrop Coach Makes a Stand, and Inspires Me to Voice Out As Well

By Adam Maher

Just a small preface: This is a sports blog, and I usually only write about sports here, but this story, the Newtown shooting, has pulled me out of the woodwork. I will probably lose a fan or two in writing this post, so consider this preface a synonym for "I don't care."

Sportswriting usually stays away from tragedies like the horrific massacre that happened in Newtown, CT last week. For me, the entire sports industry falls into the realm of luxury in the sense that we as human beings are privileged to play, watch and write about sports, so really, when people die, innocent or not innocent, our knowledge of sports has absolutely no purpose. After all, in wake of what happened this month, with Hurricane Sandy and now this terrible, unspeakable tragedy, who really cares that Mark Sanchez sucks at quarterback, Adrian Peterson is looking to break Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing yards record, Dwight Howard has no soul, the Knicks have the best record in the East, Brad Keselowski is a living legend, Notre Dame is ranked #1 in the country in college football, the NHL season probably won't happen this year, Tiger Woods won three tournaments in 2012, Rory McIlroy finally lived up to the hype, Title IX is amidst its 40th anniversary, and that the MLS is looking to build a new stadium in Queens (which Manchester City would pay for)?

When tragedy strikes, as bad as it sounds, sportswriters and other materialistic industry writers are left in an awkward position. What can we do to help? At the end of the day, when something like Newtown happens, is there really any purpose in sportswriting? I mean, it does give people a gateway to release from their everyday struggles and mishappenings, but really, what's the point? Shouldn't we in the sports industry all be doing something more meaningful in life than chasing players who stay the same age as we get older for a story? For a buck? Thank God I didn't get that job...

And then this guy, Pat Kelsey, head coach at Winthrop University, comes along and KTGs:

I know we've all thought, heard and said this by now, but I'll say it again: If there is anything we can all agree on in this country, it's that tragedies like what happened in Newtown, CT need to stop. Whether it's tackling the gun control problem or mental health problem I don't know, but tragedies like this, and everyday gun violence needs to end. Like Coach Kelsey says, it's up to politicians, and community leaders, but in essence, it starts with kids' parents and guardians.

Here's a sports analogy for you: Just as it is with sports fans, this country is full of gun-lovers. And just like children following their parents' favorite baseball team, it's only logical that children grow up loving the same guns their parents admire. Just as your typical life-long Yankees fan sophomore in college can list off the starting line up of the 1998 Yankees World Series team (oh, what's good, Scott BROsius), that same 20-year-old can also tell you everything there is to know about a semiautomatic .223 Bushmaster rifle. And here's a fun fact: the Yankees sold 3.6 million home tickets in 2011, while the Bushmaster rifle's parent company, Freedom Group, sold a reported $775 million worth of ammunition in 2011, meaning the Yankees would have to have sold each of the 3.5 million tickets at over $200 a pop just to come close to breaking even with the ammunition seller's national economic impact - I'm not talking about the Padres people, I'm comparing gun $ to the Yankees!

If America is truly meant to move into the next era of international politics as the economic and militarian leader of the world, and it is, how can it do so knowing that our children (our people) are on any given day a possible target down a mad man's 16-inch metal tube of death? I mean for Christ's sake people Adam Lanza fired over 100 rounds at 3,000 feet per second. How in any way shape or form should he legally be able to carry that capacity in this country?! I read earlier today that Adam used to sit in the family's $1.5 million home's basement for days on end and play Call of Duty. He had all sorts of military and gun-related posters on the windowless walls...and he also had access to the real life guns he'd slay countless COD players with in his best-selling video game... If you're Adam Lanza's mom, how could you let your mentally ill child have access to those weapons? Years and years of Second Amendment rhetoric surely is to blame.

What are we doing? How can we let that happen? Is capitalism to blame? Are we that ruthless?

The main principle in my American Foreign Policy class sophomore year at the University of Vermont said, "to act responsibly in the international political sphere, a state must first control its domestic sphere." That notion has always been one of my favorite core principles in life, because in breaking down foreign policy, the most sophisticated realm known to mankind, into the absolute simplest and most relatable terms possible, it allows us to realize that to help others, we first must be in control of ourselves. That is directly to say: If we can't help our mentally sick people grab control of their own lives, who are we to expect any level of true security in this country? If 9/11 was a wake up call to international terrorism (and in the sense that I'm talking, it wasn't until Bush left office), I hope this tragedy in Newtown will be the wake-up call to domestic terrorism, and how it's mental underlines begin oh so early in a person's mental development. And it goes so many more ways than that. Like the thousands of homeless people who have been left behind because they had no one to take care of them, or the millions of kids who are forced to sell drugs due to their "environment." Their tragedy is not one to ignore, no, not at all...

A very old family friend of mine, Noah Bokat-Lindell's name popped up in the New York Times Letters to the Editor this morning while I was breaking my fast over bacon, eggs and the fact that Gerald Henderson turned Dwight Howard's mojo into mincemeat Monday night. His words were right on the money: "Germany, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Spain, Canada, Australia and the Netherlands have a combined population of almost 391 million, as compared to the United States' less that 312 million. The total number of gun homicides in those countries in the latest year available, 2010 for Germany, 2009 for the others, was 906. In the United States in 2010, that number was 9,960, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime."

Need Noah say more?

Look, all I'm saying is that like Coach Kelsey, as someone who is at this point deeply involved in the sports industry, I don't have the power to make massive change, but I do have the power to influence everyone I know as much as I can. I don't know what the answer is; to be honest, the idea that mental health is this big an issue is still a shock to me. Sadly it took this type of tragedy for me to realize the severity of mental health and gun control issues. I never realized how lucky I am to be able to have a career that I'm working toward, to be able to say that I am working toward being a successful member of the greatest society in the history of mankind.

I hope everyone reading this post listens to what Coach Kelsey is saying in the above embedded YouTube video. We all need to work together and keep another tragedy like what happened in Newtown from happening EVER again. Because without peace, where is the luxury, and without luxury and the pursuit thereof, what is America? Let's make the change. This is the era of doing something, is it not? It's what won Obama the White House in 2008 - hope for change. And I know Kelsey says he didn't vote for Obama in 2012, but hey, he knows as well as any pro-Obama player that this is the time for real change to happen, under this administration. So let's see what you got, America. What's the plan for change? I'm in. And I promise no matter what I do in life, no matter how far I get in the sports industry, whether some FOX Sports executive buys or I end up sweeping floors somewhere on some Hawaiian golf course, I'll always remember what happened in Newtown, and I'll always stand up for what is best for America.