Thursday, December 20, 2012


Victor Cruz had never heard of Jack Pinto until last Saturday night. The wide receiver
of the New York Giants learned through Twitter that Pinto, who was killed in the Newton
tragedy, idolized him. The 6-year old boy pretended to be Cruz during football games
in the backyard and even had his own Giants jersey with number 80 plastered on the
front and back of it.

Cruz was clearly moved when he found out that he was Pinto's favorite player. He
wrote, "Jack Pinto, my hero" and "R.I.P." on his cleats for the game against the Atlanta
Falcons on Sunday.  Paying tribute to someone this way has long been vogue with
professional athletes in all sports, but it often brings more attention to themselves than
it does to the people they are memorializing. It doesn't take much effort, either.

But unlike most athletes, Cruz did more. On his off day, the Giants receiver traveled
to Newtown, Ct. from his home in New Jersey to visit Pinto's family. His agent didn't
inform reporters, camera crews, or post information about it on Twitter. When some
athletes do an act of kindness, they are sure to turn it into a photo op that says, "Hey,
look at me, aren't I nice?" Cruz didn't want any part of that.

Cruz traveled up I-95 to I-84 just to offer his condolences. Now, offering condolences
to someone you know is hard enough, try doing it to a family whom you've never met
in a town that has been engulfed in overwhelming sadness. It can be awkward,
uncomfortable, and overall, a real challenge. To do it the day after parents bury a
6-year old child who is wearing a Giants jersey with the number 80 on it, is about as
emotional as it gets. I mean, what do you say after, "I'm sorry for your loss."?

Cruz did more than just say those words before turning around and going home. He
hugged Jack's parents and listened to what Jack was like and how much he adored
Cruz. He also played NFL Madden with some of Pinto's friends and teammates from
the Pop Warner league in town before leaving after a visit that lasted a full hour.

The moment definitely had an impact on Cruz, who told reporters at practice on
Wednesday, "you meet the family, you see people and the things they're going through,
it helps you look at life through a different lens, like I said," Cruz said. "It really
changes your view and the way you used to look at things. It changes your view of it."

Cruz is one athlete who "gets it". He doesn't live a world of self-absorption
and isn't inflicted with the disease of me. He knows there is more to life than running
slant patterns through NFL defenses on Sunday and picking up a game check on

There are some athletes who are living in a vacuum and have absolutely no
sense of reality. After getting traded from the Mets to Toronto, R.A. Dickey
told the media he had to take "time to grieve about leaving New York."

Now, this was just days after tragedy that ripped the heart and soul of the people of
Newtown and Dickey wants to mourn over not playing in New York anymore? Really?
20 innocent children and six caring adults were killed by a deranged gunmen and
Dickey is talking about grieving when he gets traded to a team that actually wants
him and is going to paying him $10 million-a-year. Good Lord, R.A. Dickey, get
some perspective.

I wish more athletes would follow Cruz and his act of kindness. The Giants receiver
could have stayed in bed on Tuesday or spent the day playing NFL Madden like most
players around the league seem to do. But he didn't. Without the cameras following
or posting pictures on Twitter,  Cruz did one great act of kindness. The impact that
he made on a family that he didn't even know, is immeasurable.

Athletes need to do more than just scribble the name of a kid on their shoes. It
doesn't take a lot to give something back to those who are less fortunate or suffering
through an incredible loss. You don't have to move a mountain to do what Cruz did.
I wish more athletes would follow the lead of Cruz and touch a life, heal a soul, and
put a smile on someone's face.

It's not that hard. It really isn't.

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