Thursday, March 3, 2011

Athletes and Death: Do They Deserve Lead Stories?

As a college student, you become very conscious of being in a sea of strangers. As a member of today's if-it-bleeds-it-leads society, you're bred to feel like anyone around you is capable of anything at any time. As a sports fan, you're bred to feel that a torn ACL is the worst thing that can happen to an athlete.

And then a story like Tina Stewart's happens.

Tina was a junior guard for Middle Tennessee State's women's basketball team, and she was murdered last night, allegedly by her freshman roommate.

The story led the news on all four Nashville TV stations, and eventually made its way to ESPN.

Even as I ponder it myself, of course the story's important to me, both as a student at MTSU and a member of the sports media. But, to those who are not interested in basketball, it may be a question of, "If she wasn't an athlete, would this be the first story I see on my 10 o'clock news?"

Maybe, maybe not. But there's no doubt that the story deserves extra traction because of who Tina Stewart was.

I make jokes on the radio all the time about athletes "pretending" to go to class. At some schools, predominantly NFL factories and places that recruit one-and-done NBA prospects, maybe that's prevalent. For the student-athletes who don't have multiple millions dangling in front of them, however, screwing around with a free education is hard to justify.

Student-athletes are supposed to be the best of us. They're the college students who have their priorities together. Between classes, homework, practices, games, travel, and workouts, they don't have too much time to get into trouble. Some manage it, anyway.

A dedicated student-athlete, however, could teach classes in time management. They can't have a part-time job. They don't usually get to play Call of Duty for six hours a night. Going out to get drunk and stupid at campus bars is difficult, both from a time standpoint and the risk of a public situation.

Our athletes are often the ones who "get it right." Priorities are in order, and when they are, results often seem effortless. Among non-athletes, a sense of envy can set in.

We know nothing about the motive that drove Tina's roommate to her tragic actions. What we do know is that a family lost a daughter, a team lost a friend, and a school lost someone that it could look up to.

People that we can look up to appear to be a rare commodity these days, so when we lose one, you're damn right it should be the lead story.

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