The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Budd McLaughlin

May 2, 2012

No compassion for Kentucky couch burners (4-4-12)


The Kentucky Wildcats won the NCAA basketball championship Monday night, and overzealous fans showed their support by rioting in the streets of Lexington.

There was also enough interest in the hijinks that as of 2 a.m. Tuesday morning, the Twitter feed #LexingtonPoliceScanner was the top trending topic worldwide.

Yes, worldwide.

Following the team’s win over Louisville on Saturday, fans took to the streets and flipped over cars and set fire to couches. Come on, who really thinks burning a couch is a good idea? If you burn your couch, what are you going to sit on?

Depending on whom you believe, Kentucky fans don’t have the right to burn couches in the first place. According to the always-trustworthy Urban Dictionary website, the tradition of couch burning belongs solely to fans of West Virginia University.

On Monday night, it was more of the same. More couch burning, criminal mischief, public intoxication, disorderly conduct and one reported shooting, though the perpetrator could not be found.

Is this really an appropriate way to celebrate? Haven’t we now crossed a line normally reserved for European soccer hooligans?

The idea of rioting to celebrate a victory or to show disgust over a questionable legal decision has always seemed like the crème de la crème of stupidity, to me anyway. Unfortunately, those who riot and set their towns on fire seem to forget it’s their town and they have to live with the after-effects.

I was just one of millions who watched in shock and horror as residents in Los Angeles set their town on fire following the acquittal of the police officers accused of beating Rodney King. They burned, looted, pillaged, beat up innocent bystanders and whatever else they could think of to show their anger at the legal system.

I think everyone understood the frustration, but what exactly is accomplished by throwing a $700 million tantrum? Yes, that was the estimated cost of the Rodney King riots.

When the riots were over, the residents had the opportunity to live in burned, bombed-out sections of town. They probably had to drive to other towns just to shop because they burned down and looted most of their retail outlets.

Nearly 20 years later, it doesn’t appear we’ve evolved much. I would surmise that most of the insanity that occurred in Lexington was done for the benefit of social media outlets in an effort to rack up the most YouTube views and Facebook likes.

“Oh, dude, check out this photo of me setting this couch on fire. Make sure you ‘like’ it!”

What a bunch of morons.

Have we fallen so far as a society that we can’t celebrate the good things in life without burning furniture, destroying personal property and shooting each other? As Bobby Womack once sang, “I don’t know what the world is coming to today.”

I was unfortunate enough to play intramural softball and football in college. My teams’ victories were few, but when we did win, we celebrated with high-fives and cheap beer. I have not yet achieved the level of happiness or anger that would prompt me to drag my couch into the street and set it ablaze.

If I had only won the Mega Millions jackpot, perhaps that would have changed.

It’s probably a good thing I’m not a police officer, and it’s probably especially good I wasn’t a police officer in Lexington on Monday night. In addition to shooting morons with rubber bullets, I would have used a nightstick on anyone I saw trying to torch a couch. I would have been happy to be judge and jury over the sofa smokers.

I suppose I should just come to grips that we have devolved as a society, though I’ve actually known this for many years. There really isn’t anything sacred anymore, and I guess that does double for comfortable furniture.

When I get home tonight, I might just love on my couch a little more. After all, if I ever find anything to get really happy or angry about, it might be the first thing to go.


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Budd McLaughlin


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