Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Spare Me

Virginia Tech: America's Team? I don't recall LSU becoming America's Team after Katrina (the Saints? Sure.), but why would we get emotional about one of America's great cities getting pulverized and almost 2,000 people dying when we can get emotional about 32 people being shot (unless we assume that the lives of college students have more value than the lives of poor Blacks who could not get out of the way of a hurricane)?

I'm probably going to sound callous in saying this, but I think there is excessive attention being paid to the Virginia Tech shootings, mainly by the sports media because they want to turn it into a Sal Aunese/Hank Gathers sobfest, complete with fuzzy camera shots and babbling about innocence lost. The shootings were a tragedy and Seung-Hui Cho should burn for them, but regardless of whether you measure a disaster by loss of life or by property damage (or some combination thereof), it is not a history-altering event that is going to cause me to suddenly root for Virginia Tech. Instead, it is being treated by ESPN and others as an opportunity to sell a storyline that has little or nothing to do with the actual games they cover.

And yes, the fact that Michael Vick is Tech's most prominent football product has something to do with this, as does the fact that the Falcons other prominent Hokies are busy defending themselves after their dogs attack bystanders or getting arrested for marijuana possession. Per Cory McCartney, I'm supposed to start rooting for a cohort of players who, if they emulate their predecessors, will reveal themselves to be unlikeable people when they reach the NFL because those players attend the same institution (marginally) as 32 people who were shot by a deranged psychopath. Uh, no.


Jerry Hinnen said...

In a lot of ways I agree with you here, Michael--most notably that the leeches at the WWL are going to play this up with everything they've got purely for their own ends--but I think two points do have to be made:

1) LSU and Baton Rouge got turned upside down by Katrina, true, but the city itself wasn't even in the same ballpark of devastation (obviously) as New Orleans. I think that has something to do with the relative lack of LSU sympathy vs. the Saints or VT. Now why Tulane never became a bigger story, I have no clue.

2) As you correctly point out, there's no real reason to root for the individual "students" on VT's football team. But there's some argument for rooting for the team itself, since a big season for the Hokies will certainly do something to lift the mood of the actual students on campus who are still dealing with this. Despite what I expect boobs like McCartney to tell us, wins aren't going to suddenly get every Tech student out of grief counseling or anything--but they'll do something, and that's enough to tilt me, a least, towards Tech in those random ACC games against, say, N.C. St. that otherwise I couldn't care less about.

Anonymous said...

LSU is not a perfect analogy. The city of Baton Rouge was not seriously harmed by Katrina. It did welcome a lot of refugees, but it was not alone in that regard.

Michael said...

LSU is almost certainly the most popular team in the state. Maybe the Saints are close. Tulane is as popular in Louisiana as Emory is in Georgia if Emory had fringe I-A teams.

If Omaha was destroyed by a giant tornado, then Nebraska would become the team around which the community rallied (to the extent that a community rallying around a team isn't media BS to begin with).

The Tech team will probably bring some happiness to Tech students who went through the attack and that is commendable. I guess my problem is with the notion that this is a tragedy on par with Katrina and that there are thousands of Tech students and fans who desperately need victories to make themselves happy again.

Anonymous said...

i would say the biggest reason is that Baton Rouge and New Orleans are not the same city, not sure what kind of damage was done in Baton Rouge but it didn't get the media attention of the N.O.

Also, I would agree that Katrina was a much grander catastrophe (something doesn't feel right about comparing and bragging about which loss of life was worse) but there could be a difference in the way society perceives people who die in a cold blooded murder by another human being and those who die by mother nature (for the most part).

I still don't think Va Tech football will get anywhere near the attention that the Saints did for their first game back even though the healing time in between the two events is also much longer for the Saints game.

Ski said...

for someone who places college football allegiance/fanaticism on such a higher pedestal than nfl allegiance i surprised by how quickly you dismiss the effect the virginia tech football program could have on the campus. especially at such a football crazy school as tech rooting for the football team goes part in parcel with rooting for the student body.

perhaps i am biased because i have two cousins who attend tech but despite the fact they can't name a single player on the team they always know whether tech won or lost that saturday (or thursday). true, espn will do their best to run this story into the ground but that doesn't change the fact that an ACC championship would bring back some sense of joy to blacksburg.

Michael said...

Anon, there were s hitpile of people who were rendered homeless and/or lost friends and relatives. Those people were more likely to be LSU fans than fans of any other team. That's why, to the extent that a team can be the "healer" after a tragedy, LSU deserved the same hype as Virginia Tech.

There has to be a threshold for when ESPN devotes the fuzzy camera treatment to a program. UCLA isn't going to be America's Team in 2008 if there is an on-campus shooting and two people are killed. My beef is that the media look for tragedies to hype and that's what they are doing with the VT football program. JMHO.

Ski, an ACC title would bring a great deal of joy to Blacksburg. VT has great fans. That said, I think that the case that these fans need VT to win to make their lives whole again is greatly overstated. Rather, ESPN is going to use the tragedy and VT itself to create a storyline, regardless of whether the storyline is right.

Anonymous said...

They called the Saints "America's Team" following Katrina, though it never caught on like some media elements apparently wanted. I think one factor is that as an NFL team, the Saints played many major media markets.

As soon as a Saints loss became beneficial either directly or indirectly for local fans, they promptly jumped off the "feel good" bandwagon.

It's a lot easier to cheer for a feel good story when it costs you nothing emotionally. VT shouldn't have that problem, so it may last longer for them, particularly among non-CFB fans.

Non-sports aside which you may have no interest in answering, but does your comment on the VT killer imply conditional support for capital punishment, or were you speaking in a metaphorical sense?