The greater Houston community, the state of Texas and the United States as a whole were rocked to their core on Friday when a 17-year-old gunman took the lives of eight classmates and two teachers at Santa Fe High School. Countless more were injured.
While incidents such as this put things in perspective, sometimes even the most trivial of things, in this case professional sports, can help the healing process.
The city of Houston, about 40 miles away from Santa Fe, is particularly well-equipped to help on that front. Houston is one of the handful of cities that can claim a team in each of the American “Big 3” pro sports, which includes the NBA, NFL and MLB.
Houston Texans stalwart J.J. Watt has been a shining beacon for the Santa Fe community, offering to pay for the victims’ funeral costs and visiting the injured at the hospital.
The Houston Astros all donned “We Play for Santa Fe” shirts Tuesday to show camaraderie with the victims.
— ESPN (@espn) May 22, 2018
And now, the Houston Rockets are getting in on the healing process by inviting the entire Santa Fe senior class to attend Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals.
It won’t be just students, as the team is inviting other survivors and first responders as well.
“I have roots in Galveston County. Everybody knows that. I played on that football field before in Santa Fe,” Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta told KPRC-TV. “We just wanted to step up and I talked to [Rockets CEO] Tad [Brown] and said, ‘Hey, we need to find 300 tickets for the Santa Fe High School seniors on Thursday.'”
“We’re going to bring all the seniors out on the court and recognize them. There’s gonna be a tribute video to the deceased, and we’re going to bring some of the first responders out, and just make it a special night,” Fertitta added. “We’re just trying to do our little bit, that’s all. Just trying to make a special day where 30 years from now they think about going to that Western Conference Final game instead of what they had to go through their last few days of being a senior.”
1st class organization!
— Jonathan Arriazola (@Nutanix_J) May 23, 2018
Fertita also explained why it was specifically seniors he was inviting.
“You gotta remember. The freshmen, the sophomores, the juniors get to go back and have some decent times the rest of their high school career. For the seniors this is their moment,” Fertitta said. “It’s just something that we can do to recognize the deceased and let the survivors have a great time and probably a lot of them have never been to a Rockets game before, but especially a Western Conference Finals game.”
The Rockets won’t just be giving them tickets and a video tribute. Food and transportation will be provided for all of the invitees as well. The Santa Fe choir will also sing the national anthem prior to the game.
“First and foremost, the playoffs [are] minor compared to what’s taking place down in Santa Fe,” Rockets star Chris Paul said shortly after the shooting happened. “Our prayers go out to the victims and families there having to deal with that situation.”
Paul became visibly emotional Tuesday after broaching the topic of Santa Fe during an interview after the Rockets’ crucial 95-92 win over the world champion Golden State Warriors.
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) May 23, 2018
“Hopefully basketball can be a way that people can come and ease their minds, if only for a second,” Paul said.
The Western Conference Finals are tied 2-2 heading into Game 5 on Thursday night.
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