Out of sight but not out of mind

Dec. 23, 2012 @ 10:09 AM


We're only a little more than a week removed from the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., but the effects are still prevalent.

Moments after losing to Ohio State, Winthrop basketball coach Pat Kelsey took advantage of a platform to speak his mind.

Kelsey, a 37-year-old first-year head coach used his post-game press conference as a time to plead for change in America.

"The last thing I want to say," Kelsey began, as reporters scrambled to turn their tape recorders back on Tuesday night anticipating more comments about the game, "is I'm really, really lucky, because I'm going to get on an eight-hour bus ride, and I'm going to arrive in Rock Hill, South Carolina, and I'm going to walk into my house, and I'm going to walk upstairs, and I'm going to walk into two pink rooms with a 5-year-old and a 4-year-old laying in that pink room, with a bunch of teddy bears laying in that room."

"And I'm going to give them the biggest hug and the biggest kiss I've ever given them. And there's 20 families in Newtown, Conn., that are walking into a pink room with a bunch of teddy bears with nobody laying in those beds," he said. "And it's tragic."

Kelsey's passion and description of a scene that included his two young daughters evokes intense emotion. Even as a young man who only has mere dreams of having a family one day I was touched.

Kelsey continued by saying how our country's leaders need to step up and make change happen.

"Parents, teachers, rabbis, priests, coaches — everybody needs to step up. This has to be a time for change," he said. "And I'm going to be an agent of change with the 13 young men I get to coach every day and the two little girls that I get to raise. But hopefully things start changing, because it's really, really disappointing."

And it is disappointing, but what Kelsey did is beyond admirable. I wrote a few weeks ago how sports provides an escape from the world we live in, but sometimes we can't use sports to hide from reality. This tragedy needs to be in the front of our minds.

Kelsey took advantage of the stage he was on and said what needed to be said. Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim did the same thing this past Monday.

"If we cannot get the people who represent us to do something about firearms, we are a sad, sad society," Boeheim said Monday. "If one person in this world, the NRA president, anybody, can tell me why we need assault weapons with 30 shots — this is our fault if we don't go out there and do something about this. If we can't get this thing done, I don't know what kind of country we have."

These men are in positions where their views and opinions are heard across the country. They may just be basketball coaches, but their words have an impact. They know this and they're using their power the correct way. For decades sports has done everything to separate themselves from politics. But now in the wake of Sandy Hook, just weeks after a murder-suicide conducted by an NFL player and an intoxicated manslaughter charge by another, coaches and athletes have a chance to use the platform they're given for more than selling tickets and self-endorsement.

And for those such as Kelsey and Boeheim, good for them. And as we all enter the final days before Christmas, take the time to remember how lucky we all are. Merry Christmas.