(The following was originally posted to my personal Facebook page as a “note” on April 29, 2015, a few months before this blog was started. It was written in response to inflammatory language being used to describe people protesting several controversial legal decisions involving US citizens who were killed by police. I am reposting it here because it’s still relevant, and for ease of access. Because while I hope there will be no more incidents like the ones that inspired this post, well…let’s just say I hope I never have occasion to share this again. — MNW)
The year was 1999. The date was Saturday, November 13. I was a sophomore at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.
The Razorback football team was playing the much more highly ranked Tennessee Volunteers at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville. I had student tickets for every home game (they were sold in a little booklet before the season started, and it seems like each ticket was a dollar apiece), and even though I was fairly certain the Hogs were going to get creamed by Tennessee, I wanted to walk the couple hundred yards down to the stadium from my dorm and watch the game.
But I had a part time job, and I had to work that day. I considered blowing work off, and a couple friends encouraged me to blow it off, but I decided to go to my job and work. As I said, I figured the Hogs were going to get beaten, anyway.
So I went to work. I was a cashier at a fairly large retail store across town from the U of A campus.
But this particular Saturday, for whatever reason, there were a whole lot of cashiers scheduled to work, and nobody collecting shopping carts from the parking lot.
Maybe the cart pushers skipped work to watch the game. I dunno.
At any rate, I wasn’t on a register that afternoon and evening, I was pushing carts.
And as an aside, next time you’re at a big retail store with a huge parking lot, for the love of all that’s decent, park your flipping shopping cart in a flipping cart corral. Pushing carts is a hard enough job without having to walk all over the place collecting carts people were too flipping lazy to flipping push fifty flipping feet to a flipping cart corral. But I flipping digress.
And after a few hours of pushing carts past impatient drivers and people standing in the way for no reason and that sort of thing, I got to thinking “I took a job as a cashier. I didn’t sign up for this crap” and whatnot. And after I got off work a few hours later, sweaty and worn out from performing a job I did not sign up for, I was roundly pissed off and ready to go to bed. My only solace was that somehow the Hogs had upset Tennessee 28-24.
And so I went back to campus, parking like a half mile or so from my dorm, slogged back up the hill to Yocum Strokem, and went up to my room.
The exact details of this evening aren’t clear, but some time after I got back to the dorm, maybe even the next morning, my roommate and other friends from my wing of the dorm started telling me about the celebration I had missed out on.
After the clock ran out, after the Hogs won a game nobody expected them to win, fans rushed the field and tore down both goalposts. The goalposts were then carried to Dickson Street (an area just off campus with bars and restaurants and places like that), where they were propped up and climbed on and photographed and people just got drunk as hell and had a big ole time until the wee hours of the morning.
Me, I was sleeping in my dorm room, aching from pushing flipping shopping carts all day.
Before I get to the quasi-political point I am going to make with all this, I would like to say, unequivocally, that going to work that one Saturday is one of my biggest regrets in life. It’s one of those “if I had a time machine” moments, no doubt. I don’t hold anything against anybody who took part in those celebrations, I would have been right there with you, had I not been pushing flipping shopping carts all flipping day.
But having pushed said shopping carts in lieu of watching a football game and tearing down goalposts and carrying them off gives me a nitpicky little advantage regarding recent events that I am positive will make at least a few people mad at me:
I can say, with a totally clear conscience, that I have never participated in a riot of any sort.
Before anybody starts cussing at me, let me remind you that this was a riot I would have taken part in, had I not been pushing shopping carts on the other side of town. I don’t hold anything against anybody for having taken part in this riot; actually I am sorta jealous of the people who did.
Take away all your misty watercolor memories of those golden college years, take away how much fun you had that day, take away all that sort of stuff. What happened that Saturday in November of 1999, there in Fayetteville?
A mob of people (many of whom were intoxicated) destroyed public (or at least university) property and created a public nuisance until the wee hours of the morning.
And why? Because a football team won a football game nobody thought they would win.
Sure, nobody got killed, and I am confident at least a few people got arrested for public intox and/or being a minor in possession of alcohol; sure, there have been riots after other sporting events that caused way more damage…
But a riot is a riot. And if you find it morally acceptable for sports fans to destroy property after a sporting event (this happens when home teams win and when they lose), but somehow find rioting after controversial legal decisions and/or killing of citizens by police morally abhorrent…
Do you see my point?
I am not talking to any one person or group of people. I am talking to everyone.
And just to remind you, yes, yes, a thousand times yes, if I had a time machine, and I could go back to November 13, 1999, I would totally blow off work and probably spend the night in the drunk tank after climbing up a stolen goal post down on Dickson Street. I’m not saying anybody was wrong or immoral for taking part in that, I would have, too, if I hadn’t had to work that day.