Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2008

Mea Culpa Monday: Ohio State Lantern

By Joe Uchill
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When the Ohio State Buckeyes lost the BCS Championship to Louisiana State University, it was a crushing loss. It marked the second year in a row that the football team lost the title game, and a major embarrassment for a program seeking redemption. Failing that, the school newspaper did the only thing they could. They overreacted.

Sure, you could take it as an inappropriate comparison of losing a football game to September 11. The OSU Lantern is offended that you’d even consider it.

On the front of Tuesday's Sports section, The Lantern ran a photo of two firefighters battling a business fire in South Korea with the headline, "It could be worse." No one on the staff, myself included, thought of Sept. 11, nor is this a picture of Sept. 11. This has raised a good question for debate: When we see smoke and firefighters, do our minds automatically assume it is Sept. 11? Isn't the end goal of terrorism for us to continue to live in fear and associate every image with that day? The Lantern would never make light of such a catastrophe. We simply wanted Buckeye fans to know, it could be worse. A football loss isn't the end of the world. Neither is this image.

To be clear: That’s the entire apology. And it misses the point, entirely. It isn’t really about how bad the actual, real-world tragedy is, it’s about using actual, real-world tragedy as a punch-line in an unacceptable context. In my context, as an example, it would be okay.

If the Packers had lost their playoff game Saturday, it would have been like two South Korean office buildings burning down. There. I said it. And I can get away with it.

Newspapers, in big bold letters, can’t.

As an aside, I never really understood the ‘it could be worse’ thing. I mean, I understand all of the words in the sentence, I just don’t think it is as profound as people seem to think it is. Of course it could be worse. It always could be worse. Think of it this way: until 2005, Indiana had three time zones. Any tragedy could be worse by compounding it with the confusion of living in Indiana in, say, 1997. “Oh crap! That building is on fire. Oh crap. What time is it?

But, apparently, contextualizing sports based on extremes is the hip thing to do. So, in honor of the (Super Bowl bound) Packers win, I thought I’d do the same.

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