300 Newtown Students Cheer on Fairfield Stags in Loss To Niagara

Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

Humanity (noun): the quality of being humane; kindness; benevolence.

On Newtown Day, better known as Sunday, January 13, 2013, the Fairfield Stags men’s basketball team hosted the Niagara Purple Eagles, inviting all of Newtown’s children to watch the game–from the good seats.

Fairfield wound up losing the game to a suddenly resurgent Niagara team tied atop the MAAC standings with the Iona Gaels. Niagara hasn’t experienced this sort of success in the MAAC since the 2008-09 season, when they earned a trip to the NIT after a 26-9 regular season, including a 14-4 conference mark.

That’s neither here nor there. This game on Sunday was more about reaching out a helping hand than it was about winning a basketball game.

More than 300 kids and their parents accepted the Stags invitation. In what I’d assume was a much-needed break for students who’ve had to endure something no person–grown or otherwise–should have to endure, the Webster Bank Arena was filled with youthful smiles of kids and parents attempting to regain some semblance of normalcy.

Prior to the game, the kids lined up to high-five the players as they made their way to the court. During the National Anthem, kids stood with players from both sides. During the game, kids were cheering and enjoying college basketball–something many have never experienced before. Some were even lucky enough to mop the sweat off the floor during timeouts.

Fairfield wanted to make sure this was an experience of a lifetime for the kids who’ve already endured more than any person should.

And the Fairfield athletic department has no plans of stopping their support with just one basketball game–senior associate athletic director Pat Murphy plans on coordinating an all-sports clinic for whatever coaches Fairfield can get. Another welcome distraction is in place as well–free admission to any Stags sporting event for anyone with a Newtown ID.

It’s nothing major, but every little bit helps.

So yes, Fairfield lost the game in what is otherwise becoming a lost season for the MAAC runner-up from a year ago. But Fairfield should be proud of the efforts they’re making to help Newtown move forward, as frivolous as it might seem.

“We are all true Americans. We got the spirit and our hearts are aching for them. We were proud to be a part of it. We are proud Fairfield asked us to be a part of it, and to let the people in Newtown know we care about them,” said Niagara head coach Joe Mihalich. Joe is a man I’ve met numerous times and is as fiery as they come on the sidelines, but his quote was spot on and sincere.

Humanity–pass it on.

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