On today’s events

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My undergrad alma mater, University of Texas Pan American, is a decent sized commuter school in South Texas. The largely hispanic student body hails from the surrounding Rio Grande Valley and largely tends to stay there. When people would talk about violence at schools it always felt abstracted, as if that didn’t really happen in South Texas. Sure there was crime and everything, but most of what we knew of school violence came from far away-schools with names like “Columbine” or later “Virginia Tech”. These things happened in bigger cities. I graduated, worked, then eventually came here to Purdue to pursue a Masters, then a PhD.

But today that abstraction became all too real. I found myself amidst a scenario that no person, much less a young student, should ever have to be in. My officemates were quick to begin herding undergraduates into classrooms and ordering them to stay put, even as our own instructions during the incident were far from clear. We weren’t panicked, for the most part. We all called and texted our families and friends and kept up to date with information through social media and news sites. It wasn’t until hours after we’d received an “all clear” that we were notified that classes were officially cancelled, and even then I stayed behind and talked to the handful of students who hadn’t gotten word of the cancellation. I shook my head as one of my students told me the name of the victim long before news outlets had reported it.

And then I looked at my students: mostly juniors and seniors themselves, similar in age to both the victim and the shooter. They’re so YOUNG–they’re babies. Not too long ago, schools made them raise their hands when they wanted to go to the restroom. Now we’re not only asking them to decide what they want to do with their whole lives by the time they’re in their early 20’s, we’re asking them to do so in an environment where things like this happen all too frequently. I think of where I was at that age: young, very immature, unsure as to what I was going to do with my life. I would hate to have dealt with watching my instructor get gunned down in front of me at ANY age, much less in my 20’s. And then I think of the countless faculty, adjuncts, teaching assistants, and graduate students who have to live and work in this environment. I’m not here to get into the politics of the situation–there’s a time and a place for that and it is NOT here and now. All we know is that two lives were destroyed and countless others horribly affected by what happened today. As one of my good friends said today, “I told my students their homework was to call their parents.” I would suggest you do your homework too.

We are all cheapened by this.

On Sports Snobbery

If you don’t think this is fucking amazing you’re being willfully obtuse

Hi, my name is Ricky and I come to you today to speak about a serious topic: Sports.

Now I’m not going to talk about how great being a fan of sports is. I’m not even here to talk about the “intricacies” or “beauty” inherent in particular sports. I’m here to talk about anti-sports people. You know the type: they roll their eyes any time anyone in ear shot mentions a particular sports team or rail on whatever social media site about how unimportant sports are and how hard it is for them to care.

Can it already.

Being condescending about sports doesn’t make you special. It doesn’t make you particularly interesting either (which is not to say loving sports makes you interesting, by the way). Here’s what you’re doing–you’re bemoaning sports, not because it annoys you, nor because it inconveniences you in any way. You’re doing it because you want people to know you don’t like sports as a way to build cultural ethos. It’s an “I don’t bother with sports because it’s a waste of time,” kinda thing. The implication is that a) you are the arbiter of social activity and b) your social events are never, in any way shape or form, a waste of time. You’re like one of those insufferable atheists who feel the need to insult anyone who has a modicum of belief in whatever deity they choose. In other words, you’re being an asshole.

I mean I could give a damn about Downton Abbey, yet my Facebook feed is inundated with “which Downton Abbey character are you” quizzes and references to plot points. Hell, I’ve gone on at length about how terrible Mumford and Sons are as a band and how they have absolutely no redeemable qualities and how you should really be listening to Frightened Rabbit instead.

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Oh you wear a trucker hat AND play the banjo? How delightful.

But, here’s the thing *motions you over*:

I KNOW it’s all fucking subjective. I know that my music tastes are very different. I know that some people really like certain bands and that’s completely ok. I know that, just because I don’t really watch TV it doesn’t mean that others can’t enjoy it. Sports fans are seen as easy prey by lazy intellectuals and it’s very fucking annoying.

But you know what? Those athletes who do those things with their bodies day in and day out? They’re…get this…REAL FUCKING HUMAN BEINGS! They’re not creations of a writers room. They’re not notes from a guitar. They’re people who beat astronomical odds to get to where they are. They’re essentially pushing their bodies to extremes to do the things they do.

There is actual research on these athletes to better understand human physiology. Are there problems with certain sports? Abso-fuckin-lutely! But that’s the thing–we’re living in this world with those same athletes and most of us are aware of the various problems embedded in sport. That doesn’t make sports bad; it makes it more engaging.

So think about THAT next time you fire up Game of Thrones.

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I actually like Game of Thrones so eat it.