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An open letter to the producers of "Requiem for the Big East"

By Jude
2014/03/18

Dear Ezra Edelman, ESPN, and all producers of "Requiem for the Big East," and 30 for 30,

Hi. You don't know me, but I'm from West Virginia. Born here, lived all over the state, still live here.

I'm sure you didn't give the State of West Virginia, its people, or its university even a casual thought in the production of your 30 for 30 film, "Requiem for the Big East." I'm certain of this because if you did, you wouldn't have used tired, tripe stereotypes when glossing over the inclusion of West Virginia University in the Big East, a program that almost single-handedly kept the conference alive as long as it was.

The hypocrisy was bad. The complete ignorance of facts was worse. Let me explain.

Mere moments after the documentary justifiably disparages fans around the league for ignorant stereotyping of Patrick Ewing and Georgetown, you yourself chose to use an ignorant stereotype of West Virginia when portraying WVU's entrance into the league over black and white footage of hillbillies dancing on their front porch and banjo music while an anonymous coach is quoted as saying "I didn't join the Big East to play in Morgantown, West Virginia."

(Boy, it sure is distasteful when people use tripe, baseless stereotypes to disparage an entire group of people, isn't it?)

I'm not going to bore you with a lecture on how West Virginia as a state isn't made of a citizenry of barefoot, toothless hillbillies with a shotgun in one hand and a banjo in the other. I'm going to hope that anyone capable of reading this letter understands that generalization of a state with 1.5 million people with a single ignorant stereotype is the hallmark of ignorance. Though it may interest you to find that the state you so casually insult in a sports documentary is the birthplace of sports icons Nick Saban, George Brett, Randy Moss, Sam Huff, Bill Mazeroski, Mary Lou Retton, and Jimbo Fisher.

Oh, and a guy named Jerry West.

Suffice it to say that I don't think Jerry West plays the banjo. And I don't either. And neither does anybody I know.




Not to spoil your narrative, but I don't know anybody that looks like this.



Now maybe your response is that the inclusion of such footage and music was an editorial decision to reflect the mindset of some of the bluebloods of the Big East when the decision was made to expand to Morgantown.

They can kiss my ass for that sentiment, and so can you for including it.

What you may see as an innocent jab at a people and a region furthers ignorance much in the same way that the fans shouting racial slurs at the Georgetown players did. You praise John Thompson (again, justifiably) for stepping in and addressing it. That's what I'm doing here.

Perhaps even more disturbing, though, is just how much was WRONG about your portrayal of the breakup of the Big East. The documentary bemoans the fact that football tore the league apart because of schools that leaving to chase the Almighty Football Dollar, and does so at one point in the film over footage of West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith leading the Mountaineers onto the field, implying that WVU was part of the reason the league disbanded.

The death knell of the Big East did come with conference members chasing football money, but West Virginia University had nothing to do with it. It was only when Pittsburgh and Syracuse declared that they'd be leaving the conference to join the ACC that the writing was on the wall for the Big East, a fact that is almost casually mentioned as an afterthought in the film. Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim and Syracuse are let off EXTREMELY lightly on this issue (presumably because he participated in the documentary.) He gets by with saying, "Well, the Big East changed every year." And you leave it at that. The kid gloves are most decidedly on when dealing with the greed that split up what was still the greatest basketball league of all time.

But the Big East hadn't changed much over the course of 5 years at the point Syracuse and Pitt took the money and ran to another conference. The only defections took place in 2004 when Miami, Virginia Tech, and Boston College left for the ACC. The league added DePaul, Louisville, Marquette, and South Florida in 2005, and remained relatively unchanged until Syracuse effectively blew the whole thing up.

Only after the darling subject of your documentary, Syracuse, announced its decision (along with Pitt) to leave the Big East did other schools like Louisville and West Virginia start actively seeking a lifeboat to flee what was almost certainly a doomed league. The editorial misguidance can be seen in the inclusion of a graphic that I literally had to stare at for a few minutes to make sense of it. You included the makeup of the Big East by member schools through the years, then included 2012 with Syracuse and Pitt in the Big East with WVU out.

The only reason Syracuse and Pitt stayed in the conference while the Mountaineers moved on to the Big 12 a year prior is that WVU ponied up the buyout money necessary to find a landing spot, rather than sticking around to see where the pieces of the Big East landed after Pitt and Syracuse put a stick of dynamite to it.




News flash- this happened before WVU left for the Big 12.



Perhaps most perplexingly though, the documentary featured a total omission of the contributions of some of the football-playing members (most notably Louisville and West Virginia) in keeping the league together as long as it was through their efforts on the football field. As covered in far more detail in another WVU-centric criticism of your film on thesmokingmusket.com, the saving grace of the Big East in the BCS era was West Virginia winning the Sugar Bowl in 2006 and the Fiesta Bowl in 2008 along with Louisville winning the Orange Bowl in 2007.

The documentary correctly posits that the money in college football dwarfs the money in college basketball. And let me tell you, it wasn't Syracuse or Georgetown keeping the coffers full in the conference after the defections of Virginia Tech and Miami- it was WVU and Louisville (with a little help from Rutgers and USF.) At a time when talk circled about stripping the Big East of an automatic BCS berth (when the BCS was EVERYTHING to the legitimacy and financial integrity of a conference), it was the Mountaineers beating Georgia in the Sugar Bowl that kept the wolves at bay.

As noted by the previously-linked article from The Smoking Musket, there's a reason that Mike Tranghese referred to that win as "the seminal moment" of his tenure as Big East Commissioner.

Without that and the other BCS Bowl wins, the inevitable breakup of the Big East happens far sooner. Your longing sighs for the 2009 6-OT Syracuse/UConn Big East Tournament game and gazes through tear-stained eyes at the final matchup between Georgetown and Syracuse in the Tournament in 2013... none of it happens.




Cry for the demise of the Big East and your precious Georgetown/Syracuse rivalry all you want, but it was this moment that kept the party going as long as it did.


I think what upsets me most is that as a WVU grad and fan for the entirety of their stay in the Big East, I LOVED the Big East. I loved being in the Big East Tournament in New York City at Madison Square Garden. (WVU winning the Big East Tournament in 2010 remains one of the most thrilling sporting events of my life. One particular youtube highlight reel from that tournament has 24k views and I'm probably 5k of them.) I loved the rivalries that developed. Some of my most treasured memories are of football games against Miami, Louisville, and (believe it or not) Rutgers. Of basketball games against Carmelo Anthony, DeJuan Blair, Emeka Okafor, Roy Hibbert... etc.

Unfortunately, I came away from your documentary totally disillusioned about those wonderful times. Your treatment of WVU in a film about the Big East was disrespectful, classless, and uninformed.

I understand we weren't as relevant to the history of the league as Georgetown, Syracuse, St. Johns, and Villanova. But 15 years in a conference, winning BCS games, giving the conference credibility, winning the VAUNTED NORTHEAST IS SUPREME IN EVERYTHING conference tournament in MSG, Final Four, Elite 8, Sweet 16's, and we get relegated to 5 seconds of hillbillies, banjos, and an intimation that we were to blame for the end of it all...

Fortunately after some time of reflection, I realized that my memories shouldn't be tainted by your film.

But they shouldn't have been in the first place. And you should be ashamed.
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Poster Thread
PK22
Posted: 3/18/2014 5:09 pm  Updated: 3/18/2014 5:09 pm
Grant Ave. Warrior
Joined: 4/26/2006
From: MoTown
Posts: 966
 Re: An open letter to the producers of "Requiem for ...
Word.
EERCrazy
Posted: 3/18/2014 5:21 pm  Updated: 3/18/2014 5:21 pm
Gettin' Schmitty
Joined: 2/2/2008
From:
Posts: 9151
 Re: An open letter to the producers of "Requiem for ...
Well done Jude!!
jmwwvu
Posted: 3/18/2014 5:50 pm  Updated: 3/18/2014 5:50 pm
Grant Ave. Warrior
Joined: 7/14/2010
From: Romney, West Virginia
Posts: 1032
 Re: An open letter to the producers of "Requiem for ...
So can we give the people who made this documentary a CHAW award?
eer44fan
Posted: 3/18/2014 5:56 pm  Updated: 3/18/2014 5:56 pm
Makin' it Rain
Joined: 3/24/2008
From: Here
Posts: 3416
 Re: An open letter to the producers of "Requiem for ...
Exceedingly well done Jude. I hope you forwarded this to the sham that is located in Bristol.
eer44fan
Posted: 3/18/2014 6:01 pm  Updated: 3/18/2014 6:01 pm
Makin' it Rain
Joined: 3/24/2008
From: Here
Posts: 3416
 Re: An open letter to the producers of "Requiem for ...
I propose the CHAW be retired for obvious reasons. I propose that a new award be initiated to "honor" the guilty.

Here's my proposal (and I'm sure many of you have better ideas than this): The Ezra (Edelman) Enema Award.
jmwwvu
Posted: 3/19/2014 11:27 am  Updated: 3/19/2014 11:27 am
Grant Ave. Warrior
Joined: 7/14/2010
From: Romney, West Virginia
Posts: 1032
 Re: An open letter to the producers of "Requiem for ...
I'll agree to that. Or we could just take the CH out of it and find a new guy to use.
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