In Newtown, Connecticut, Dec. 14 is a day marked by tragedy. Flags are flown at half-staff, memorials are held, and at 9:30am, the bells of St. Rose of Lima ring 26 times — once for each of the 20 children and six teachers killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.

  • But on Saturday, the seventh anniversary of the shooting, “the day of quiet remembrances was punctuated by joyful celebration when the local high school football team won the state championship in epic fashion,” writes WashPost’s Derek Hawkins.

Watch: With just 3.3 seconds remaining, Newtown High School QB Jack Street connected with WR Riley Ward on a 36-yard game-winning TD, giving the school its first state title since 1992.

“I couldn’t have asked for anything more. I love this town, I love everybody. I’m at a loss for words.”

— Ward, per the Hartford Courant

Why it matters: Sports aren’t going to solve the world’s problems, and a football game isn’t going to lessen the blow of an unthinkable tragedy. But what happened on Saturday is going to help Newtown heal, in one way or another.

  • Several of the team’s players attended Sandy Hook (this year’s seniors would have been in fifth grade in 2012), and a linebacker’s brother was among among the children killed.
  • For the rest of their lives, they will be linked by tragedy, but now, they will also be linked by victory — and by the chapter they were able to add to Newtown’s story.

The bottom line: When I watch the GIF at the top, of a Newtown player embracing his coach, I feel something in my chest. It’s like butterflies, but warmer, and gets me choked up in a way that few things do.

  • I don’t know what that feeling is — as in, chemically, I couldn’t tell you what’s happening in my body.
  • But I do know that thousands of people in Newtown felt that same feeling on Saturday night, and that many will feel it forever, even if it’s fleeting. That is why sports matter.

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