This isn't really about the MAC. But it's about one of our cities and the mindset definitely applies.
Golf journalist Stephanie Wei was in Akron covering the PGA's Bridgestone Invitational for Sports Illustrated. It's a big thing for the city. While there, she made this comment to a friend:
— Stephanie Wei (@StephanieWei) August 5, 2012
@charlietour no, I'm in the arsehole of America still, Akron. I get in on Monday. Will you have a car?
Arsehole of America! Kind of a slap in the face, yes. Well someone noticed it (not sure who) but it prompted Akron Beacon-Journal columnist Bob Dyer to confront Wei with a tape recorder and ask what that meant. After that confrontation, Wei tweeted this:
LOL..apparently a tweet in jest re: Akron last night offended some people. My apologies. It was an offhand comment, not meant seriously.— Stephanie Wei (@StephanieWei) August 5, 2012
Dyer used Wei's remark and ensuing apology to create an entire column on the prides and beauties of the city that is Akron, Ohio. MEEEDIAAAAAA FIIIIGHT! [throws tape recorder]
At the risk of inviting myself to be the arbiter of this provincial tiff, I'll jump in here.
Yeah, I get it. Some national hotshot comes in and with a few keystrokes, disparages your entire town. It sucks, and this could apply to anybody's town. It was similar to when an OregonLive writer couldn't get the name of Kent State's mascot correct and then proceeded to disparage readers who gave him guff about it. What's important is how the person responds to the dumb remark. In this case, Wei apologized, felt bad, but going back to the core and intent of the message ... she was just BSing with her friend.
Best I can tell, Dyer does not have a Twitter account — or one that he uses for work — although he pulled up the message in question on his cell phone to show Wei. So it's possible he doesn't know this: very few people probably saw Wei's remark the first time. Substantially more eyeballs saw it, now that he brought it to our attention. One tweet, pulled apart and thrown under a magnifying glass, can have its context changed. But when you're using the platform in a practical sense, you don't see everybody's messages — especially replies to people you don't follow either. You can set Twitter up to see everybody's replies to everybody, but I doubt few people use it that way since it adds clutter. Yet it's vital to remember The Internet Is A Very Public Thing and Wei took a calculated risk saying something that would have been better in a more private direct message or email.
Additionally ... look, everybody's small town Ohio town does not compare to New York, Wei's Twitter byline hometown which has its own host of silly problems. I'm from Ohio and most towns have a couple neat attractions but mostly farmland and pizza restaurants. When you're raised in Ohio, you're brought up on chain restaurants and drinkable tap water, root for a disappointing pro sports team, go to college and potentially move somewhere else, or get stuck in town selling cars. During that entire time you have wi-fi so it's not all bad.
Our metropolises don't offer much that the national figures will love (except perhaps televised football games on Tuesday nights) but we're not here to satisfy them. Writers like Wei may not really give a flip about a great minor league stadium, or a pretty national park, or some nice residential neighborhood. Dyer mentioned each of these in his column. Although ... nothing about Bowdenball? Really? If you're going to pimp the dadgum city, come correct.
You can dress up any mid-sized city how you want, but consider that Akron has one of the highest rape and burglary rates for a city of its size. Wei might not have known that, but she did share an anecdote about someone needing a gun to go into a particular Wal-Mart. So there's a grain of truth.
Akron isn't perfect, but national media folk generally understand the Midwest has, for the most part, a friendlier population and considerably fewer places to go after midnight.
I don't feel sorry for either party here, but I am kind of surprised that Dyer would go to the trouble of penning an entire column about her (including a photo of Wei at the Bridgestone event taken by an ABJ photographer) and wag his editorial finger at her and everybody else who might not like Akron as much as him. A little footnote about her making the comment might've been newsworthy. But this whole production seemed ... excessive.
This harkens back to the mentality of being MAC fan: I don't care if our teams win the NCAA championship. They probably won't. I'm just interested in seeing who wins the conference. Any advent into a national championship — OHIO basketball, Kent State baseball — is just bonus points. I'm not really interested if an SI or ESPN writer doesn't think Muncie or Mount Pleasant or DeKalb isn't a place they'd want to spend time. We're not here to impress you, pal, but you're welcome to enjoy it with us.
I'll just end this with better wisdom from another third party on the situation:
In summation, when we get angry about Akron and Twitter and we're not making fun of LeBron, nobody really wins.— Zac Jackson (@FSOhioZJackson) August 8, 2012