Sunday, October 30, 2005

On the Subject of Things We Do Just Because
Quick followup here on Friday's post: Madison officials will not characterize what went down on State Street early this morning as a riot, but they did have to break out the pepper spray and cart about 250 people off to jail. They carted off about 125 the night before, but did not have to use pepper spray to break up the crowd at bartime.

Key excerpt from the Wisconsin State Journal story linked above, which gets at the problem of students feeling as though they have a right to riot:
Matt Sokol, 19, a UW-Whitewater student, said the chanting [of a soccer-hooligan cheer thought to be an "anthem" of those wishing to riot] "is a Madison thing. You do it because you are in Madison."

Sokol and his friends, including Kristi Prokop, 18, said they didn't want to see anyone hurt. But they appeared to feel that to get the full effect of Halloween in Madison, it would include "a riot."
The reporter did not note whether Sokol and Prokop were wearing bib overalls and staring up in wonder at the tall buildings, but they might as well have been--their attitude is precisely that of small-town, small-college kids who perceive themselves as walking on the wild side simply by leaving Whitewater (population 14,000, enrollment, 10,000) behind for the decadent big city. What's worse is that they believe that simply being in the decadent big city entitles them to engage in the kind of behavior in which they would never engage in their own town. It would have been interesting had the reporter pursued the line of questioning further--just what makes you think, Matt and Kristi, that people like to riot here, but not in Whitewater? What makes you think it's OK for you to riot here, but not in Whitewater--or for people to riot anywhere? It's doubtful that either of them had thought through the consequences of what they say they believe. But if they did, I'd hope that neither of them would like what it says about them.

Matt, Kristi, a piece of advice: Next year, stay away from Madison on Halloween. You can't handle it here--but not for the reasons you think.

Sunday Ritual:
As soon as I post this, I'll be settling down to watch the Green Bay Packers, season record 1-and-5, meet the Cincinnati Bengals, season record 5-and-2. The Packers, decimated by injuries, aren't likely to win this game, or any of the following four (three of which are against teams that made it to the NFL's conference championship games last season), and may be lucky to win four games all season. Fan reaction up here is breaking down along predictable lines: Younger fans, who have known only the successes of the last 15 years, are freaking out, talking about firing the coach, and even about trading Brett Favre. Some of them are giving up entirely, switching allegiances to other teams. Older fans, however, those who were weaned on the awful teams of the 1970s and 1980s, are more sanguine. We've known this was coming; now that it's here, we're disappointed, but we'll continue to watch, even if it gets as bad as we fear that it might. This is Wisconsin. It's what we do.

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