It was a weekend of March Madness heroics.

Trey Burke turned in a crunch-time performance for the ages, carrying his No. 4 seed Michigan Wolverines to an unthinkable comeback win over top-seeded Kansas. LaQuinton Ross nailed a deep three to push Ohio State past an upstart Arizona team and into the Elite Eight. And as tough as it is to swallow, the Syracuse Orange did their best Georgetown Hoyas impression in the Verizon Center, suffocating higher-seeded Marquette and Indiana to a total of 89 points over two games.

But the most meaningful contribution this weekend came from a guy who was just making a harmless closeout.

Hustling to contest a three-pointer in a close contest, Kevin Ware was making the selfless play. He would go on to make a greater one when his landing went terribly awry.

Let’s be frank: Ware’s broken leg in Louisville’s blowout victory over Duke was probably the most gruesome injury ever suffered in a college basketball game. For a large portion of viewers, too young to remember the near-identical catastrophic injury suffered by Joe Theismann almost 30 years ago, this was the most horrific incident they had ever witnessed live.

I could barely stomach the replay of the fall halfway across the country, separated by the barrier of a television broadcast. I can’t even begin to imagine what it was like for Ware. But he displayed a lot of strength in those moments.

The sophomore guard remained relatively composed considering what had transpired in front of him, and he seemed to welcome the concerns of all those around him. Most tellingly, his sole focus remained on the task placed in front of him from the start — not his injury but his team and its game, with a Final Four berth on the line. Ware repeatedly told his teammates to “win the game”; his determination to push aside his personal downfall and use his own suffering as motivation for his team was about as praiseworthy as it gets.

The general reaction to Ware’s injury, though, was anything but admirable. And this is the game we play in today’s hyper-connected society.

In the immediate aftermath of the injury, I opened up Twitter as an interested sports fan. A moment like the one I had just witnessed of course had me both intrigued and worried, eager to just learn more about the situation. Like so many others, I wanted to see what I could glean from the instant news machine. What I found was troubling, a scary referendum on the technological power of the people today.

Kevin Ware’s injury blew up on Twitter in all the wrong ways. In the age of instant access, social media was bound to explode with commentary on such a traumatic occurrence. But what is the protocol for a freak injury like this? What is the etiquette when everyone from the veteran sideline reporter to the couch potato has a platform?

Whatever the right steps to take may have been, the populace heeded no reminder of them during the injury. Twitter was rife with missteps and misinformation.

There were flashing images and replays of the grisly injury, posted for all to watch or stumble upon later. There were jokes being made at Ware’s expense, too, like the ones comparing him to the recurring SpongeBob character who always finds his lower extremities hurt after another one of SpongeBob’s colossal screw ups — as if Ware was just some sort of cartoon and not the very real backup point guard who was coming off a very real breakout performance against Oregon two days prior.

There were “doctors” being cited and retweeted all over, the prognoses ranging from a three-month setback to one that would certainly shelf Ware for a calendar year, if not more. In extreme cases, the injury was proclaimed to be a death knell for Ware’s time as a basketball player, a fluke end to a burgeoning guard’s career. In fact, it was none of the above. None of these newfound medical experts or social media mavens had the correct info or made the right move. But they had a platform and an opinion, and so they were suddenly authorities on the matter of Kevin Ware, their “scoop” spreading like wildfire.

As an emotional Rick Pitino explained postgame, Ware’s injury was indeed troubling — very similar to the one former Louisville running back Michael Bush suffered back in 2006 — but one that was not the end of the story. The broken leg would carry a single-year timetable for recovery. Kevin Ware would be back stronger than ever, Pitino assured us.

In this day and age, we are so eager to digest the news that we sometimes start to write it ourselves. It certainly happened with Ware’s injury.

We proclaimed his career dead, a chance to make a joke, a body of work defined by a fluke accident that was seen more as an opportunity to flex our social media muscle than to step back and reflect on the terrible misfortune we had just seen play out in front of us.

So let’s step back and ignore the outside noise. Let’s let Kevin Ware define just how bad this injury will be. Let’s learn our lesson. Kevin’s story, the one of the selfless guard making it back after devastation, should speak for itself.

 

Peter Barston is a freshman in the McDonough School of Business. RAISING THE BAR appears every Friday.

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