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Aaron Falk: In the wake of Sandy Hook shootings, sports a distraction

Published January 5, 2013 4:37 pm

They may be frivolous, but have a place in wake of events such as the shootings at Sandy Hook.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

It was a rare moment of serenity in a violent game. Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson took a handoff from his quarterback, started to veer left and then cut back right, through the middle of a mass of men, without being touched on his way to a 94-yard touchdown.

Scrawled in black marker on his white shoes were 26 names: women and children who thought they were in a safe place, but who fell victim to violence we wish were still unimaginable.

One of those names was Emilie Parker's.

Perhaps you've seen her blue eyes staring back at you from the pages of this newspaper. The 6-year-old lived in Newtown, Conn. On Dec. 14, she went to class at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Late last month, Emilie's family buried her in Ogden, where her parents were raised, where they met and fell in love, where her father, in his youth, got a job dressing up as Oggie, the mascot for the city's minor league baseball team.

At a service attended by hundreds, Robbie Parker recalled how his daughter comforted her crying sisters, hugging them sweetly so he could finish making them dinner.

"Emilie lightened our burdens," he said.

In the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook, we have all had to search for something like that — something that might ease our grief, our anger, our confusion.

Maybe you've found that in sports.

After the shootings, there were moments of silence and quiet tributes paid on football helmets and basketball sneakers. But the games themselves offered an escape, a return to normalcy.

Still, we cannot let ourselves forget that this happened.

On Monday night, some 40 professional soccer players will be in Newtown. They will sign autographs for locals and play games with the town's children, who returned to classes last week for the first time since the shooting.

"We want to make sure we help them realize that they can still enjoy life and try to help put the devastation behind them," Real Salt Lake defender Kwame Watson-Siriboe said.

Houston Dynamo President Chris Canetti, who grew up about 30 miles from Newtown and organized the event, added: "We want to bring smiles to the kids' faces and give them a diversion from the awful reality that faces their community."

For a glimpse of that reality, for their community and ours, drive down Harrison Boulevard in north Ogden, along the route a hearse took from a child's funeral. Pink ribbons are tied to mailboxes, utility poles and the chain link fence around Ben Lomond High School, where there is a wide-open field and no Emilie Parker to run, free and untouched.

afalk@sltrib.com

Twitter: @aaronfalk