Friday night’s football game between Laurel and Wayne County should have been elbow to elbow. Fans should have started to arrive early, maybe tailgate and trash-talk a bit. L-Town! War Eagles. It should have been a huge financial gate for the cash-strapped Wayne County School District. 

But, no, as the team captains participated in the faux coin toss — the coaches and referees do the actual coin toss about 30 minutes before the game, the captains are just for show — photographer Brad Crowe snapped a shot of a mostly empty War Eagle Stadium. Kickoff just minutes away and… (You can see the photo on Page 6.)

Law enforcement was on high alert in preparation for gun violence at the game. Officials said it was related to the shooting death of a former Laurel football player in Waynesboro. There was a tangible fear of retaliation. Already this year, there have been shootings at football games. One recent shooting at a game in Mobile led to nine injuries. 

Playing better safe than sorry, the people stayed away. They missed a heckuva ballgame, with Wayne County winning in double-overtime, 21-20. 

Fear won this battle.

Moving forward, how do we combat those threats? Are we to play into the hands of fear or do we need to stand up and say enough? We are facing a crisis in this country with gun violence. It will not be solved with more legislation. It will not be solved by threatening to take away this gun or that gun. No politician can solve what ails us. Gun control makes for wonderful political talking points, but it won’t work.

We wish we could snap our fingers and the scourge of gun violence — black on white, white on black, white on white and everything in between — would cease. We wish we could cure the human heart and the depths of its depravity. 

We also cannot let it win. Let’s take Friday night’s game in Wayne County as a springboard. We cannot say we are afraid. 

Wednesday marks the 18th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City. The everlasting messages from that day were those telling Americans — scared, vulnerable, attacked — to live their lives. Don’t let the terrorists win. 

Don’t let threats of gun violence keep you from what is important. Friday nights are important. That’s when families get together, when cousins on opposite sides of the county line trash-talk and when players get a bit extra-pumped. Playing in front of a half-empty stadium, especially this game, can never happen again.

We let them win. 

No more.

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