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Open Letter to Deadspin

14 - Published May 5, 2010 by in College, The Life

Deadspin.com is a sports blog, I’m a somewhat regular reader, and it is part of Gawker’s family network of websites.  Most of the Gawker sites are predominantly commentary and opinion-based, so I wasn’t surprised at all to see them running articles on the tragedy at Virginia.

At first, I was even impressed with their restraint.  Deadspin is known for biting sports commentary where none are spared, so of course, I also wasn’t surprised to see them eventually take some shots at lacrosse players.  However, I was almost positive that anything they said would either be so intentionally off-base as to be hysterical, or that they would try to stay pretty much on point, especially considering the circumstances.

Unfortunately, after a day or two, they couldn’t muster either.  Their latest article was certainly off-base, but there wasn’t any humor to it.  And you simply can’t have one without the other and not be regarded as a total hack.  If you’re going to be wrong, at least be funny.

It can be extremely difficult (and you’ll always run the risk of being seen as classless) to find humor in a recent murder (which is why we’re sticking to the facts of the case), but I’m not surprised Deadspin tried.  It’s what they do.

What amazes me is the extent at which they failed.

I’m a lacrosse player and I come from an upper class background (although I did go to public school), so I’m sure I’m biased and offended and that is informing my opinion as much as anything else.  But keep reading and tell me you aren’t more than a little irked too.

Deadspin pulled in an ex-laxer named Katie Baker, and they start her off talking about the “assholery” of lacrosse players.  She then ties that to the “fact” that lacrosse players are, for the most part, rich and white.

Baker goes on to acknowledge that this “all laxers are rich and white” argument is dated and anectdotal at best, but then asserts that since the argument is a “thing”, it should be reported.  This is possibly the weakest justification ever.  Not only is Katie basing most of her thoughts on stereotypes, she is doing so knowingly and willingly.  Great Start.

Now on a slight tangent, just imagine if Katie had replaced white with black, rich with poor and lacrosse with basketball or football.  She’d be sticking to stereotypes and generalizations surrounding race, class and sports, but she would have come up with, “basketball players are assholes because they are black and poor”.  I think you’ll have a hard time coming up with a more offensive blanket statement than that.  Katie came really close though!

She then goes on to pull the rosters for Duke, Yale, Princeton and Virginia and launches into a diatribe on how amazingly white and rich most of the players probably are on those teams.  Great job.  You found 4 schools – two Ivies and two ACC schools – with a lot of rich, white students that also have lacrosse teams with lots of rich white kids on them.  Really groundbreaking stuff here.

Amidst the mind-blowing revelations that white kids play lacrosse at schools where there are lots of white kids, Katie goes on to assert that UVa is mostly an in-state school, even though 2/3 of the students are actually from out of state.  Now if she can’t get this fact straight we shouldn’t be totally surprised that she botched the rest of the article, but at the same time, that doesn’t mean her casual racism or classism is forgivable.

I know Deadspin ties everything back to sports and that this story is related to lacrosse because both the suspect and the victim were players, but where in those facts does it mean that there is now an open door to make assumptions on entire groups of people because of the color of their skin or their family’s finances?

For an incredibly horrific event like the Virginia murder, the real blame lies with the murderer and, to a lesser extent, our entire society.  But trying to tie one particular murder to bigger ideas about race, class and sports with weak pseudoscience a mere few days after the tragic murder in question is a new low, even in our society.  And even for Deadspin.

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About the Author:
Connor is a life-long lacrosse player who doesn’t know when to give up on the game.  He played and coached at Wesleyan University and now plays for the Southampton LC in NYC.  Connor lives with his fiance in Brooklyn and thanks her for allowing him to keep the dream alive.

Contact him at connor@lacrosseallstars.com.

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