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A blue Christmas for Sports Santa

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Normally, in the years that I’ve written a Sports Santa column, I’ve tried to be witty, maybe even humorous, poking fun at college and pro coaches and athletes who do stupid things or offer gift ideas for celebrities and area coaches.

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This year I’m having a hard time feeling good during the holidays. Shootings have ruined what should be the most festive, beautiful season.

I guess I’m suffering from a bad case of survivor’s guilt.

First was the Little Falls shooting incident in which two teenagers were killed during an alleged burglary. Next, it was the killing of a police officer in Cold Spring.

Those creepy incidents preceded two more — the killing of two people in an Oregon mall by a gunman who then killed himself. Next was the horrific massacre of 20 students and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., by a disturbed individual who then turned one of his weapons on himself.

A day after Newtown, a Star Tribune columnist had planned to write a column about NFL player safety, which is a hot-button issue. Instead, his column was about how he wanted to leave work, go home and hug his three young kids.

I felt the same as well as millions of American parents that day. I wanted to leave work, hug my 17-year-old son, tell him I loved him and tell him I was happy that he was safe.

The blue mood endured.

After one of his monologues last week, David Letterman wondered on “The Late Show” if this is what America has come to — parents dropping off their children at school now have to worry their kids might not come home because of a school shooting?

I don’t know enough about guns to offer suggestions about what should be done. I don’t know enough about mental health to suggest what needs to be done in that regard.

I do know something has to give in this country. An incident like Newtown can’t happen again. The problem is unless something changes it might happen again. How can we prevent another such tragedy?

I was watching the Sunday Night Football game at a friend’s home Dec. 16 when NBC cut away from the game to televise President Obama’s remarks at a prayer vigil for victims of the shooting at Newtown. None of the five of us said a word during Obama’s approximate 20-minute speech.

“We can’t tolerate this anymore,” the president said. “These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change.

“We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true. No single law, no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society, but that can’t be an excuse for inaction. Surely we can do better than this.

“If there’s even one step we can take to save another child, or another parent or another town from the grief that’s visited Tucson and Aurora and Oak Creek and Newtown and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before that, then surely we have an obligation to try.

“In the coming weeks, I’ll use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens, from law enforcement, to mental health professionals, to parents and educators, in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this, because what choice do we have? We can’t accept events like this as routine.”

Another reason for my malaise this holiday season is the death of my cousin Linda’s husband. Alex Langer, brother of former Miami Dolphins and Hall of Fame center Jim Langer, died Dec. 11 while working in the driveway at his home near Rice. Linda was scheduled to retire next month. They were a few days away from both being retired.

Alex was an affable guy, one of my favorite people to visit with at family functions. He was 67. Way too soon.

Despite all the death, grief and sorrow that has taken place in the last 30 days, life somehow goes on. I hope all of us can still find a way to have a Merry Christmas.

MIKE BIALKA, sports editor, may be reached at 855-5861. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bertsballpark.

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