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Newtown, Conn.: Why Kevin Durant's sneaker tribute matters

COMMENTARY — If you think writing “Newtown, CT” or “Sandy Hook” on a pair of sneakers is a nice but inconsequential gesture, you might want to check with the boys basketball coach in the town where 20 children and six adults were murdered last week.
by Jenni Carlson Published: December 19, 2012

With that support comes comfort.

“The way they have shown their support in the last few days is fabulous,” Tallcouch said of athletes such as Durant, Cruz and Co. “Even if their actions for a short time help ease the pain, it's worth it.”

Even though this is Tallcouch's first season as boys basketball coach at Newtown High, he has been a chemistry teacher there for a decade. He coached the last few years at nearby Wilton High School, where he led the team to the postseason last year for the first time in more than a decade, but he finally got a chance to coach Newtown after the longtime coach was not retained.

Tallcouch and Newtown team opened their season Thursday night.

Friday morning, a monster shot his way into Sandy Hook Elementary and murdered 20 children and six adults.

Suddenly, Tallcouch was no longer thinking about the double-digit loss that his team suffered in the opener. The father of three and teacher of many could only think about the children.

“Right now, for me, it isn't about the chemistry in class or the Xs and Os on the court,” he said. “It's about making sure everyone is gonna heal.”

That process is a long and difficult one.

Kari Watkins, the executive director of the Oklahoma City National Memorial, interacts regularly with people who were affected by the bombing. She has seen how much the support of others, even perfect strangers, has meant to them.

“What it signifies to those who are most closely affected is that ... there are people who are sharing in your pain and your grief,” she said. “It's very important.”

That's why Watkins sent a picture of Durant's sneaker tribute to one of her college roomies and longtime friends.

That friend happens to live in Newtown.

“It's amazing to see that people care,” the friend told Watkins. “Around the country, people care.”

That was what Durant hoped to convey when he scrawled those nine simple letters on his Nikes. He has young cousins. He has a goddaughter. He knows how hard it would be to lose one of them.

He wanted to do something to let people in Newtown know that his heart was with them.

“There's a lot more people than just myself thinking about them,” Durant said. “A lot of people are praying for them. I just happened to be one of the guys having a platform. Just having that platform, I wanted everybody to recognize them.

“Hopefully, it can help.”

It already has.

Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. Like her at, follow her at or view her personality page at

by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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