Today should be one of the best days of the year for the Ohio Valley Conference. Yesterday, Murray State won the CollegeInsider.com Tournament, and Eastern Kentucky’s Marcus Lewis won a nationally televised dunk contest. Now, the conference is set to host the women’s Final Four in Nashville.
But the entire day has been marred by an ugly spat that played out over twitter. Murray fans upset with the conference’s response over their CIT title took to twitter, and the OVC responded with tweets that should have never be sent.
Now, Deadspin has picked up on the story, as it threatens to pick up even more traction among a larger audience.
No matter how you spin it, the story looks bad, not just on the conference, who likely should never have responded to begin with, but also with fanbase who, from an outsider’s point-of-view, demands instant praise for winning a tournament whose title game wasn’t even a headline on the sports site of the network that aired it.
Similarly, both sides deserve blame for their role in the feud: Murray fans for demanding they be noticed, and ignoring the idea that hosting a women’s Final Four is a gargantuan task that falls heavily on the shoulders of the conference that hosts it. Since Beth Debauche took over as the conference’s commissioner, the OVC has been one of the national leaders in promoting women in collegiate sports, and hosting a women’s Final Four is a major achievement for a “small” or “mid-major” conference. These things don’t run themselves, and while the NCAA plays a major role, they rely on the conference, who knows the lay of the land in the host city, to provide a huge amount of assistance. The conference wasn’t “ignoring” Murray State because Murray isn’t in Nashville, they’re immensely busy as thousands of fans from across the county converge for the crowning jewel of the women’s basketball season.
Even so, there is a certain arrogance in expecting an immediate congratulations; sure, it’s just a tweet, 140 characters, that doesn’t take long to type. But your joy of winning a postseason tournament shouldn’t be affected in the least about whether it brings your school attention you demand based on your own expectations. I grew up a member of Racer Nation, but the lack of humility by some of it’s fans recently is startling.
The conference’s role in this mess is front-and-center. While the response is that of one person in the conference, it’s clearly reflects upon the conference as a whole, many of whom I know would have love to attend the CIT title game in Murray under difference circumstances. The point the tweeter trying to make is clear, but the means by which they delivered it is unprofessional, belittling, and plain mean-spirited. The knee-jerk response to criticism of any sort is even more shallow than that of those fans who were hurt by a lack of response to begin with.
But it’s not just that the “conference” dismissed the concerns of their fans, it’s the open attacks on those who made the complaints to begin with, which sets a troubling trend for the future. Sure, you may not agree with those who tweet against you, but hashtags like #rolleyes and #sarcasm, telling another person to CHILL — how does that contribute to the conversation at hand? Regardless of how you feel about the topic, whether it holds any merit, these attacks only contribute to a hateful tone that permeates throughout the entire spat.
Making matters worse, the conference have had hours to at least attempt some form of mea culpa. While I don’t believe many Murray fans would have accepted it, the sheer lack of an attempt is another indicator of how personal this spat feels. (Update: The conference has since apologized for their role)
I would also like to respond to my own role in the spat: today’s post on the issue is quickly becoming one of the most read posts on the site, and I fully understand that this commentary will likely only ignite the argument once again for a short time, much like my retweeting of the Deadspin post did on Twitter. But I feel these words, harsh as they are, deserved to be said for the fans of the 11 other teams in the conference who are watching their conference be drug through the mud through no fault of their own.
This entire event should have never happened. Both sides had countless opportunities to prevent it from happening to begin with, and defuse it once it did. Instead, one side decided too late to remain silent, while the other is as loud as ever, refusing to acknowledge their role.
And now, we all pay for it. We’re all looked down upon.
Was it worth it? Did either side really get what they wanted?
I didn’t think so.