Tuesday, May 4, 2010

we can't ever have nice things around here

Not long ago, things looked pretty amazing for the state of UVA athletics, what with three ACC championships and multiple #1 rankings for spring sports all across the board. That earns you a short blurb in the local newspapers underneath the attendance figure and the price of a Mike Vick autograph at the VT spring game. (Hey, he owes like, millions in fines and doesn't have any marketable skills outside of "fastest NFL clipboard stand ever.")

But Big Media being what it is, a #1 ranking in a sport not named football is only newsworthy when a team member is arrested for murder. Welcome to UVA, where Rule 2(b) - the Sabre meme that describes the unwritten rule forbidding UVA to have nice things - isn't just for ACC refs and NCAA selection committees any more. It's more like Commandment 2(b) or Newton's 2(b) Law of Physics. ACC championships must be balanced out with.....murder on 14th Street. Sure, that sounds like a fair trade - thanks, cosmos. That was the most tragic, shocking, prominent, mad-lib-your-own-adjective piece of news from the weekend, but for good measure the fates added a few more pieces of negative publicity:

- Star recruit K.P. Parks got himself tasered at a traffic stop while he - according to the article - resisted efforts to take him into custody. The only charges that stuck out of the whole thing were for (for lack of a better term) driving like an idiot. The two sides of debate that always, always spring up in cases like this boil down to "kids behaving badly" and "cops behaving badly." Parks wasn't brought to jail after being treated at the hospital, which tells me there's an aspect of the latter mixed in with the former and the truth is in the middle. Nothing up to this point has ever suggested that Parks is anything but a high-character individual with high-character parents to set him straight, so this in the big picture amounts to little more than noise. And his mom and dad just look like the kind of people you don't misbehave in front of.

- Mike London needs a Facebook tutor. The NCAA in their infinite wisdom has decided that posting on Facebook walls is a form of cheating, which means that UVA now gets the pleasure of reporting a secondary violation to the NCAA and, I dunno, taking away London's Facebook account for a week as a self-slap to the wrist. Whatever. I guess this is what it feels like to be in the SEC, except that newspapers in SEC towns have mastered the art of winking back whenever one of their coaches wanders into the gray areas of the rulebook. The Knoxville News-Sentinel has a very large rug for sweeping things under.

That stuff boils down to nothing more than unnecessary bad publicity for the University. The Love murder is different. Eyes and ears eager for news have had a lot to digest in the last 36 hours, and enough news has come out to actually form educated opinions. This is now a case of "innocent until proven guilty" only in the most technical legal terms, unfortunately. The latest:

- George Huguely has been removed, without fanfare, from the team roster. In a Right Thing kind of move from the school, Yeardley Love has not.

- Early in the day, it was announced by Huguely's lawyers that they felt the incident was little more than an "accident with a tragic outcome." I don't for a minute believe it's coincidence that the affidavits requesting a search warrant made their way to the media this afternoon, or that it was announced that Love received death threats on her computer. According to the affidavits, Huguely waived his rights to shut the hell up and confessed to:

1) sending emails (of an as-yet-unknown nature) to Love
2) kicking in the door to Love's room
3) shaking her by the throat and slamming her head against the wall
4) taking her laptop from the room and trying to dispose of it

The whole thing smells like shots fired in the battleground of public opinion. Huguely's lawyers portray this as something he totally never meant to happen; the police and prosecution give you good reason to believe he totally did. Score one for the state.

This is not Duke. There's no he-said-she-said here, no lying bitch of an accuser, no changing stories. There is a dead girl and a confession. All that's left is the legal wrangling, some technicalities if the defense can find any, and the question of how many years George Huguely spends in prison. The University's steps should be to protect the players - both men's and women's - from prying media eyes and to print up Yeardley Love's diploma. And yours should be to support the teams in their quest for an NCAA title when they're ready to pursue it.

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