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Kansas’ Tears

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Last Sunday No. 10-seeded Stanford ousted the No. 2-seed Kansas to play another day in the NCAA Tournament.

In the closing minute of the surprising Kansas loss, the focus switched to someone off the court.  It wasn’t the parent of a player or the coaches’ family, but a young Kansas fan who happened to be taking the loss pretty hard.

Stanford had a sizable lead and the game appeared to be over.  CBS cut to a view of the crowd eventually zeroing in on a Kansas fan with tears streaming down his face, knowing his team would not continue to the sweet sixteen.  But here’s the thing, CBS didn’t get a brief shot of this pure emotion from a young fan, they kept the camera there.  For a long time.

Finally they took the camera off of the kid and refocused on the remaining minute of the game.  Kansas started to mount a bit of a comeback and cut the lead to two. Things started to get interesting–quick, flash back to the kid again, now wiping the tears from his eyes.

CBS’ select coverage of the young Kansas fan caused quite the commotion online.  First, Twitter flipped out.

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And then sports writers all over the web commented on it.  The troubling thing to me was very few of them came to the young fan’s defense, and if they did, they danced around it a bit.

Nick Schwartz of USA Sports pointed out “sad kids at games have been a staple of broadcast coverage for years.”  He went on to question whether or not it is okay today due to the rise of social media.  Because of this, “almost everything on TV will be documented somewhere and stored on the internet forever.”  Schwartz entertained the question of deeming this insensitive, but did not answer it himself.

Well, at least he didn’t add to the ridicule.

CBS didn’t hesitate to continue broadcasting the fan’s sorrow all over their website.  The video of the kid crying plays on a reel and under it the CBS Eye on College Basketball staff wrote this:

“I’m sure this kid wasn’t the only one crying toward the end of Kansas’ round of 32 loss to Stanford, but he represents Jayhawk fans everywhere.”

“And he’s going to go viral.”

“It’s good to see a kid that passionate about a college basketball program, though.”

Wow.  As if it wasn’t cruel enough to continually show this kid on live TV, now they have him crying online.  Their commentary shows absolutely zero concern for the young fan’s feelings.  I guess I should have expected that from the source who found him in the crowd in the first place.  I’m sorry to be adding to the virality, Kansas kid.

Mashable may have taken the lightest approach to the fan’s unwarranted spotlight.  Sam Laird wrote, “Stanford scored one of the weekend’s biggest March Madness upsets by taking down mighty Kansas . . . but that may not be what the game is remembered for.”

The upset would be remembered for the “tearful young Kansas fan” CBS zoomed in on in the crowd.  “Then CBS focused in on him some more.  And some more.  And–what the heck?–some more for good measure.”

Laird admitted that it has become commonplace for “sad young fans” to be featured in sports broadcasts.  But the “extra-long fixation on this particular small fan ticked off Twitter in a way that’s far from usual,” and this for good reason.  By the time Laird wrote this article, the hashtag #CryingKansasFan had picked up some serious attention.  On Sunday alone “the phrase was mentioned nearly 5,000 times on Twitter.”

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Laird ended his article by weighing the two sides of the tearful fan’s coverage:

“On the one hand, CBS’ lingering shot was exploitative and the online backlash is well-earned.  On the other hand, raw emotion like this is half the reason we obsess over sports in the first place–and while this shot went on for a rather long time, showing a sad young fan wasn’t otherwise very unusual.”

Most of the articles wrongly characterized the loss through the lens of the young fan. Because of the coverage, his crying face has become the symbol of the Kansas loss.  Not the players hanging their heads, not the coach shaking hands with the other in defeat, but this little kid’s face.

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Although these images perfectly capture the Stanford upset of Kansas, a young fan was victimized by CBS to communicate the agony of the loss.  I can remember times in my life when I have cried over games.  Several of them I played in myself, but I have let plenty of tears flow sitting in the Dean Dome as I watched my team lose.  Lucky for me, I never became a hashtag for people to tweet about and ridicule.  Unfortunately I cannot say the same for this poor Kansas fan.  So, keep your head up buddy, some of us admire your passion.

-FS