What can you even say on the worst week America's had in years? Well, let's take a second to thank Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz for doing all he could. It wasn't much, a drop in an ocean of despair this weekend in the northeast, but the small thing he did was quite beautiful.
Word reached Cruz over the weekend that one of the children in Newtown, Conn., Jack Pinto, had held him up as his favorite player and his hero. Jack's parents, he learned, were even considering burying their son in his replica of Cruz's Giants jersey.
It's a silly word, "hero", to use about sports players as often as we do, and Cruz apparently agreed because as the Giants took on Atlanta, he wrote on his shoes, "Jack Pinto is my hero" and "RIP Jack Pinto."
"We see the effect we have on kids, and it's humbling," said Cruz, who earlier this year began performing a small salsa dance to celebrate touchdowns as a way to honor his deceased grandmother, a dance teacher. "It's a real honor to be a role model." Cruz said he will meet with Jack's family this week to give them the shoes.
Sadly for Cruz, the Giants put up their worst game of the year, losing 34 - 0 in a game that was supposed to be a possible playoff preview. The Giants, who once looked like shoo-ins for the playoffs, now must play perfectly in the season's final weeks to make the post-season.
But Cruz's gesture will be remembered longer than the score. He could only do so much, but he did all he could. That's a role model.
Sunday Night's showdown between San Francisco and New England was probably the most anticipated game in the 2012. Both teams are Super Bowl contenders and have blown out opponents all season long. The Patriots, with Tom Brady, arrived fresh off a thumping of Houston, while the 49ers arrived in Boston with both a fearsome defense and an emerging star at quarterback in Colin Kaepernick.
And then something really important happened.
A few plays into the first quarter, NBC switched from game coverage to President Barack Obama's address of a memorial service in Newton, where he gave a speech that will echo across America for years to come. Speaking for 18 minutes, the president left no doubt that he intends to bring changes to America's gun and mental health policies.
"We cannot tolerate this anymore," he said. "These tragedies must end, and to end them, we must change."
More will be said about this in many places besides here, but those are the words of a politician declaring political war, knowing he need not worry about re-election. After appearing to be near tears early in the speech, Obama closed the speech by reading all 20 names of the slain children with a steely, almost unnerving resolve.
Many athletes, including NFL figures, took to Twitter to hail the speech like former Steelers' coach Bill Cowher who said "Thank You Pres Obama for a sensitive, heart felt message to ALL . It's a blessing to live in the USA. Let's all try 2 make it a SAFER place."
Of course, this being the Internet, not everyone was a fan. When NBC switched to Obama's speech (while keeping the game on MSNBC and NBC Sports Network), some Twitter users had decidedly different reactions. Most simply bemoaned missing parts of the game as Obama spoke, but Deadspin collected a sampling of the ugly, racist undertone behind many of the "football" tweets.
(E!, NBC, MSNBC and the NBC Sports Network are all part of the NBCUniversal family)
Ironically, San Francisco won the game in a wild, hard-hitting shootout, 41 - 34, long after Obama had finished. Kaepernick led the 49ers to an eye-popping 31 - 3 lead as San Francisco twice intercepted Brady to set up scores. But Brady, visibly livid on the sidelines, led the Pats all the way back in the second-half to a 31 - 31 tie, only to see San Francisco pull away by going 100 yards in two plays on a 62-yard LaMichael James kickoff return and a 38-yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree.
We've gone the whole season without remarking on the historic season Adrian Peterson is having for Minnesota. After this weekend, we had to change that.
Peterson ran over, through and past the hapless St. Louis Rams for 212 yards in 36 - 22 victory, bringing his rushing total to the season to 1,812 yards. The single season NFL record is 2,105, just 294 yards away with two games to play. By itself, an amazing accomplishment. But Peterson is less than a year removed from a major knee injury that has often required two years of recovery for other players.
Thanks almost entirely to Peterson, the Vikings are currently on track for a playoff spot if they win their last two games against Green Bay and Houston, two of the NFL's best teams. However, with playoff spots already locked up, those teams might choose to rest some of their players in the final weeks, easing Minnesota's—and Peterson's—path.