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When gore is real, we just can't look

OPINION

  • Kevin Ware is comforted by his teammates after his injury Sunday.
Kevin Ware is comforted by his teammates after his injury Sunday. (Sam Riche/MCT )
April 02, 2013|By Stephen Markley, @stephenmarkley | For RedEye

No matter who wins this year's NCAA men's basketball tournament, the victory will be a footnote to the spectacular, gut-wrenching injury Louisville's Kevin Ware incurred in the first half of the Cardinals' Elite Eight game against Duke.

I feel extremely guilty because my friends and I happened to be driving back from a wedding on Sunday that took us up I-65 from Louisville to Indianapolis, and the flood of Cards fans clogging the road added a solid two hours to the drive. Extremely hung over and crabby, we all wished for Louisville's demise, but then God went and got psychopathic about it.

We meant, "Have them lose the basketball game to Duke," bro. Not "rip a guy's bone out of his leg on national television," you sick, bored weirdo.

After reviewing the available material on YouTube, I agree we need to rewrite the list of weirdest sports stories of the year. Dennis Rodman and Manti Te'o—improbably—just got demoted. Yet I also couldn't help but reflect that we members of rich countries who get to skip the overseas military adventures have a strange relationship to violence.

We gobble it up when it's fake. The Kevin Ware injury was just a day at the office for Jack Bauer. If that's all the murderer-of-the-week on your basic "CSI" or "Criminal Minds" did to his victim, ratings would fall through the floor. We'll yawn if Joffrey isn't cutting some guy's tongue out by Episode 2 of the new season of "Game of Thrones."

Yet CBS caught hell for showing the replay. Rick Pitino compared it to losing his brother-in-law on 9/11. This is not to say that CBS should have replayed it in slow-motion HD like some standard controversial out-of-bounds call. The injury reaches down to a deep part of our brain that says something like, "Oooooh, riiiiight, the universe is chaos and the human body frail and impermanent, and eventually we all will be shattered bones and then dust. Gotcha. Keep forgetting that when 'Criminal Minds' is on."

In large swaths of the world, violence is not the exception but the rule. Yet we in this democratic society frequently cast our ballots for agents that don't just spur violence but promise it in their campaign speeches. There's no video of those kids of Sandy Hook on the news. On the 10th anniversary of the Iraq war, there's no segment that shows what white phosphorus does to human flesh. There's no coverage of what a drone strike looks like from the ground. But we support wars, the unchecked distribution of firearms, the prison-industrial complex and myriad other forms of institutional violence, and then we see this comparatively innocuous freak accident and just blanch.

Which is not to say that Kevin Ware deserves anything less than our full and robust empathy. I mean, damn: My pulse did a Patrick Carney drum solo when I watched that video. As a show of support, I'll be voicing my opinion to God that Louisville deserves to go on and win the tournament. We'll just hope that He doesn't take that to mean, "Give everyone at Wichita State the bubonic plague."

RedEye special contributor Stephen Markley is the author of "The Great Dysmorphia" and "Publish This Book."

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