Everywhere we looked on television and online Sunday with the Associated Press and elsewhere there were mentions of Newtown tributes. In St. Louis, Rams running back Daryl Richardson and Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfeld — who both wear jersey No. 26 — joined hands in silent tribute to the fallen 26. Cruz would write "R.I.P. Jack Pinto" and "My Hero" on his shoes in Atlanta. Jack, a first-grader who loved to wrestle, loved the Giants' wide receiver, too. Cruz told reporters that Pinto's family told him they were planning to bury the boy in a No. 80 — Cruz's number — Giants jersey.
"I don't even know how to put it into words," Cruz said after the Giants' 34-0 loss in Atlanta. "There are no words that can describe the type of feeling that you get when a kid idolizes you so much that unfortunately they want to put him in the casket with your jersey on."
The Giants wore the letters S.H.E.S. in tribute to the school on their helmets. The Jets will do something similar Monday night in Tennessee. The Patriots had a more elaborate Newtown town seal and black ribbon affixed to their helmets. Team president Jonathan Kraft told NFL.com the Patriots would be donating $25,000 to the victims' families.
Both teams were affected deeply.
Giants coach Tom Coughlin held a moment of silence at the team meeting Saturday night.
"It's very difficult to get past the senseless killing of children," Coughlin told Rachel Nichols of ESPN. "There's tremendous evil in our world."
Unlike Coughlin, who said after the Giants' loss that his players were greatly upset about the tragedy, Bill Belichick made no mention of it in his postgame press conference.
It turns out the Kraft family owns a Rand-Whitney box factory in Newtown near the school. Jonathan Kraft told NFL.com he had called to talk to a retiring employee Friday. Instead of a party there were counseling sessions and the company was giving space for staging and for the media.
"The players have been really affected by it," Kraft told NFL.com. "You never hear guys talk about current events, but the guys were talking about it on Friday afternoon and Saturday in the building. A lot of guys have young children. A lot of guys have guns."
One group that did not have guns Sunday night was the Patriots' Endzone Militia. They wore their 18th century outfits. They did not carry the muskets they shoot off after New England scores. The move showed fitting tribute and sensitivity. Yet through all this, it would be John Prior's words that haunt me. As important as the gestures are, they seem so inadequate. I don't want to go off like Bill Maher did in a tweet over the weekend: "Sorry but prayers and giving your kids hugs fix nothing; only having the [courage] to stand up to our insane selfish gun culture will."
I believe in those hugs I saw at Gillette Stadium Sunday night. I believe in the prayers said as those flares were set off. But I believe, too, much more can be done to help the mentally ill. And I believe more must be done to get rid of semiautomatic rifles and 30-round clips that serve no other mission than to kill people.
The tribute I saw Sunday night at Gillette Stadium was somber and it was fitting.
Yet in Joe and Jennifer Ward's twins and in John Prior's beautiful daughter, I saw our state's future, too. We don't need more tributes.