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Derek Taylor: So this is Christmas, now what do we do?

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- When I was growing up, I looked forward to reading Doug Huff's annual Christmas list column in the Wheeling newspapers.

Huff, the longtime Secretary/Treasurer of the West Virginia Sports Writers Association, would rattle off an enormous column doling out gifts to numerous area athletes, coaches and associates within the Ohio Valley each year. It wasn't groundbreaking journalism or anything of the sort, but I remember thinking that it would be an honor to even be mentioned on that list.

I had previously thought of co-opting Huff's old method of end-of-year goodwill filler - as I matured (a little), I saw it for what it was - for this, my final column before going on vacation at the end of this week.

As of right now, the next time I appear in this space will be in 2013.

Then I turned on the radio last Friday on the way back from a lunch interview, and knew what I had to write about.

The problem is that three-plus days after the killing spree at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., I still don't know what to say.

For many of us, the murder of innocents has led to questioning our roles in society, not just in this instance, but as part of a bigger picture.

 What is my purpose? What good do I do for anyone in my everyday life and pursuits? How can I do better?

It's good to have a sensible partner in life. In my case, it's my wife, Rebecca. To her, I'll give the much-deserved credit of handing me a little focus.

When I returned to work Sunday, still punch-drunk from following the weekend's events and trying to understand them, I had a bit of a crisis of purpose. As a sensible man does in such a moment, I reached out to my wife.

"There are so many great absurdities in life, tragic events that are so commonplace that they are accepted. I think that rational people are dumbstruck when they take time to think about them," she wrote. "And that is why we most often don't.

"You can step away from it. It does not mean that you care less."

It was about that time that I signed off Facebook for the holidays. The barrage of a little information and a lot more opinion was more than my senses could take. After all, I have a job to do. We all have things to do.

Determining what those things are is the challenge in times like this.

As for me, I work almost exclusively with high school students. Some of them I get to know as early as when they're 13 years old. By the time they graduate, I've been able to know some of them pretty well. In a few cases, that has led to friendships and working relationships that last after those student-athletes complete the transition into adulthood.

I've seen former players have children of their own, get married, rise in their professions and move into settled family lives. Sometimes, this transition is especially fascinating to watch, because as a writer who gets to know high school students, I have seen more people follow this course than I have seen things go sour.

This isn't the time for Pollyannaism, however. There are real issues facing us as Americans, parents, citizens and guardians of our nation's youth that need addressed sensibly. For me, the best thing to do is to, essentially, double down.

The effort to highlight the successes and accomplishments of our area youth that is the hallmark of high school sports coverage? Improve it. The amount of myself that I invest in building rapports with players and coaches to better understand what is going on around me? Give more.

I don't believe that sports can save the world from itself. I do believe, however, that sports provides enough of a respite from the terrors the world poses to us that we can get our heads right for when we return to the grind in attempt to figure out how to deal with those terrors.

Tell your family you love them today and every day, and have a Merry Christmas.

Contact Preps Editor Derek Taylor at or 304-348-5170. Follow him at


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