I haven't watched the video yet.
It is pure dumb luck that I missed it. My kid was acting up, so I put him to bed early; at the time of Kevin Ware's injury in Sunday night's Elite Eight game between Louisville and Duke, I was reading him a Sandra Boynton book and putting a stuffed Fredbird in his crib. I came back to a commercial and everyone in my Twitter timeline aghast. It takes a lot to shake up Twitter, and apparently Ware's injury was enough. When Joe Theismann is telling you his heart goes out to you on Twitter, you know it's bad.
But I haven't watched it. Maybe someday I'll watch it, maybe on accident, maybe once everyone's disgust fades and I talk myself into thinking it's not as bad as everyone told me it was. But not now. If it's as bad as everyone keeps telling me it is, I think my life is generally complete without that image in it.
If I want to watch it, though, I can. In the immediate aftermath of Ware's injury, pretty much every sports site on the Internet had to answer a sudden pop quiz question: Are we going to post the video?
From what I can tell, the following sites ran a GIF or video of the injury:
The Big Lead
And the following didn't:
USA TODAY Sports
(Sports on Earth didn't, although we're not exactly a GIF-heavy site anyway.)
CBS initially showed replays of the injury twice, apparently, and never ran another one; according to Scott Van Pelt, ESPN quickly made the decision not to show any replays, and still haven't. Our own Tommy Tomlinson, who was on site in Indianapolis, said the Jumbotron at Lucas Oil Stadium never once showed the play.
I absolutely respect CBS, ESPN, USA TODAY Sports and SB Nation for deciding not to replay the video or to GIF the play. (It should be noted that Sports on Earth is partly owned by USA TODAY Sports.) I personally wouldn't have run the video or GIF'd the play, if I were in charge of any of those sites, though again: I still haven't seen the play, so I'm just going off the collective nausea of the Internet here.
But you're gonna have a hard time convincing me that The Big Lead and Deadspin and Buzzfeed and Yahoo and anybody else did something wrong by GIFing the play. (By the way, could we please come up with another verb for that while we're at it?) You're hearing a lot of this, that somehow those sites were exploiting the situation, or being inhuman, or selling out a young kid with a broken leg for page views. And sure, it feels wrong to post a video of something so brutal and raw -- of all the reactions, I think Michael Bush's affected me the most -- on a page next to a pageview counter and a Facebook Like button.
I'm not sure it is, though, for several reasons. In a split second, Ware's injury, and Louisville's reaction to it, instantaneously became the story of the tournament. It's going to dominate coverage of next week's Final Four, and, all told, it's probably going to be the one thing from this year's tourney everyone remembers. It is not some anonymous snuff video, everyone gathering around the Internet to watch some poor schmuck get hit by a train. It is the central storyline of a major sporting event, was seen on national television by millions of people and probably what everyone has been talking about at your office today. It is, in the purest sense of the word, news. Not covering something -- not showing it -- because it is unpleasant or unwelcome in polite company is no way to last long in the news business.
Also: Ware is not, in fact, dead. It was (again, apparently!) a horrific injury, but he's going to have surgery, he's going to go through a grueling rehab and he's going to play again, likely to roars and applause the likes of which few have ever seen. (I bet he is introduced at the Final Four on Saturday, and it becomes the highlight of the weekend). It is a terrible thing to happen to anyone, and it makes me sick to my stomach just to think about it. But our televisions regularly show us far worse, from suicide to shocking tragedies to plane crashes to natural disasters. The reason we're more repulsed by Ware's injury, I suspect, is because it's so personal and focused as to be horrifying in a way that seeing things from a distance -- or on tape, to people we're not familiar with -- just isn't. Remember, CBS and ESPN aren't saying, "all right, if you want to look away, you should because this is gross." They're not actually showing it at all.
But the real reason I don't blame those sites for showing the video and GIFing the injury is because, well, shoot, people want to watch it. The Deadspin video of the play, which comes with a big WARNING: VERY GROSS caveat in the headline, is by far the most popular post that has run on the site in the last week, and it's not particularly close (amazing considering the post had only been on the site for about two hours when it was posting such numbers). Whether or not you think it's right or wrong for Deadspin and The Big Lead and Buzzfeed and Yahoo to profit off the incident, it is undeniable that people desperately wanted to see it. You can hardly call those sites rogue or somehow sadistic, unless you are willing to call the vast majority of humanity that (and you might be). But those sites aren't peddling drugs to children; they're running footage of a nationally televised event that tons of people were watching. Don't blame them for the video -- blame the rest of us.
That's to say: Blame human nature. Even now, knowing how horrific the video is, having been told by so many people to stay far away… I'm still curious to watch it. I feel like I need to know what everyone's talking about. I'm not proud of this. I'm gonna try to resist it. But if you hadn't seen it, you'd feel the same way. We can moralize all we want and tell ourselves we're taking the high road. But we are human beings. If someone turns on the stove and tells us it's hot, we can't blame them when we go ahead and put our hand on it. We can only blame ourselves.
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