May 10

To Play or Not to Play?

Guest
post By Rebecca Maas and Alyson Buck, Peppercom


May 10  
To
read the details surrounding
Yeardley
Love’s death
is difficult. To understand is impossible. Countless articles,
news segments and blog posts have revealed the violent – and alarming –
behavior of her alleged killer and ex-boyfriend, George Huguely.

While
he sits in prison, Love’s University of Virginia family – friends, teammates,
coaches and faculty – are left to pick up the pieces. We sure don’t envy UVA
president John Casteen or Athletic Director Craig Littlepage – and the series
of decisions they face to properly honor Love, while also keeping the
reputation of the University community in mind.

The
decision to keep Virginia’s women’s (ranked no. 5) and men’s (ranked no. 1)
lacrosse teams in the NCAA tournament for the national championship had to be
tough. How do you balance the emotions and fragility of spirit of these players
with the legitimate shot each team has at winning this whole thing?

We
took
a look at both sides.

Alyson:
To play…

On
one hand, the college and surrounding community must move on from the tragedy.
The school cannot punish the entire student body and lacrosse clubs for the
actions of one. Politically, UVA must be fair and allow the teams to compete
and complete their seasons if they so choose. To play is a tribute to Love. Her
high school alma mater Notre Dame Prep
paid
homage
by writing Love’s number – 1 – in eye black on their arms and legs.
In a way, participating in the NCAA tournament is a similar gesture by the UVA
men’s and women’s teams – the teams will play in honor of Love, which will
rally the community and show solidarity against the crime that resulted in her
death.

In
addition, university athletics, especially at the Division I level, are a huge
recruiting tool for the schools. Since UVA’s men’s and women’s teams are so
well positioned to vie for the title, the school essentially had an obligation
to participate in the tournament in order to stay competitive with other
schools with similar offerings and athletic programs. By participating in – and
potentially winning — the tournament, UVA will attract the attention of high
school students nationwide who may choose the University for its
lacrosse
program.

Rebecca:…or
not to play

But
what if the decision had gone the other way?  By withdrawing from the
tournament, the University could have avoided an extended stay in the spotlight
– a constant reminder of this tragedy. Even if either or both teams do well,
its presence at the tournament will continue to spark commentary and sympathy
linked back to Love and the night she died. And what about lacrosse as a sport?
It certainly has seen its share of scandal (no comment on the irony that
Huguely attended the same prep school as a number of players involved in the
incident at Duke University) and the overall image of the sport is shaky at
best. There are thousands of young kids who play lacrosse and – like Yeardley
when she was younger – dream of playing for a top-ranked school like UVA. No
doubt they will be glued to the contests, idolizing the collegiate players who
are older, stronger, and more talented. Won’t it reinforce
the
mindset that lacrosse players are invincible
and rules don’t apply?

Brian
Till, a research fello
w
with the American Strategy Program of the New America Foundation in Washington,
D.C., wrote in a
post
on Friday:

“…the
fact that Huguely was at times reckless and violent, particularly when drunk,
and was alarmingly
 obsessive about
Love, would have been recognized by fellow players, and perhaps coaches, too,
and certainly should have been addressed. The fact that this was not his first
violent
 interaction with Love
is the strongest charge against the friends and teammates that failed to
recognize the severity of the situation.”

To
point the proverbial finger at the players and coaches is an easy out in our
opinion. Would playing say that the sport chose to turn a blind eye to the
situation – or worse, accept violence as acceptable behavior
? Unfortunately, this men’s lacrosse team at the
University of Virginia did not stand up to a team member who acted out of line,
nor support him during a time when he so desperately needed help. By not
playing in the tournament, this team can instead devote the time and energy to
take an honest look at its commitment to teamwork – while at the same time
setting an example to the lacrosse community at large.

*Note:
the authors understand there is always more to the story and that we don’t have
the full picture of the individuals involved in this tragedy. This post on
research of media coverage only, not of personal accounts of individuals
involved in the situation.

Mar 24

March Madness vs. The NBA Finals? Talk about a blowout

March 24 - MarchMadness Does March Madness just keep getting better every year, or what? And, does it become more universal every year, or what? When I attended college in the late Middle Ages, guys were into the NCAA basketball tournament. Period. Now, it seems women are even more engaged in ‘bracketology’ than the men. And, how cool is that? (unless you happen to be a certain Kansas alum/intern who told this blogger her Jayhawks would win the national championship. Ouch!).

I think March Madness has become an opiate for the masses because of the success of such mid-majors as Northern Iowa and St. Mary’s. In the old days, it seemed like UCLA, Kentucky, Indiana, North Carolina, Maryland, Duke and a few other schools had a lock on the brackets. Now, it’s a wide open, fast break that any school can win. Even the smartest Ivy Leaguer wouldn’t have predicted Cornell would be a Sweet 16 team.

I reiterate the obvious because I just saw a print ad entitled, ‘Coming soon. The most anticipated television event of the year. The culmination of a long, emotional journey. A win or go home contest. All played out in front of a record-breaking national audience. America, are you ready for….The NBA Play-offs on TNT.’ I’m not. I could care less.

Aside from fans in Boston, Cleveland, Los Angeles and a few other markets, I think most sports fans find the NBA irrelevant. In my mind, it’s become the professional wrestling of big time sports. It’s all flash and razzle dazzle, featuring individual showmen trying to outduel one another (Gilbert Arenas pun intended). There’s no sense of teamwork or camaraderie in the NBA. The season is endless. And, the champion isn’t even crowned until mid-June.

That’s what makes the advertisement so irksome. I understand why the NBA is trying to leverage the national mania stirred up by March Madness. And, that’s fine. But, to run full-page ads suggesting the NBA Playoffs is the most anticipated television event of the year is ludicrous, if not borderline fraudulent.

My March Madness bracket may be worth a plug nickel at this point, but that doesn’t mean I won’t be watching each and every remaining NCAA game. As for the NBA finals? I think I’d rather watch grass grow.