Description of UConn basketball celebration shows the mixed meaning of rife

Description of UConn basketball celebration shows the mixed meaning of rife

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While watching the reaction in Storrs, Conn. to UConn winning the men’s national basketball championship, this crossed my mind: what’s the difference between a “celebration” and a “riot”?

It’s really hard to tell, judging by how the media described the chaotic scenes in the hours after the win by the Huskies. Windows were smashed, street lights and traffic lights were torn down and at least 30 people were arrested.

Yet, the descriptions in most newspaper and social media accounts that I saw described what happened as a “celebration” or a “party.”  A university spokesperson even praised the students for their self-control during the UConn basketball celebration.

This is self control?

This, as described by ESPN anchor Stuart Scott, is a party?

That brings me back four years ago, when the Lakers won the NBA championship.  While the reaction by fans in the streets of Los Angeles were on some accounts described as a “celebration,” it was more often called a “riot.”

Which is odd, considering the incident had much of the same activity: fires, drunkenness, rowdiness, property damage, arrests and police sirens.

The day after the Los Angeles Times led not with news of a “celebration” but of “sporadic violence” and “a massive Los Angeles police presence.”

Here, it was described as a “rampage.”

Besides the sheer size difference between Los Angeles and Storrs, Conn., it’s not obvious where a “celebration” and “party” crosses the line into “riot” and “rampage.” There appears to be a certain nuance that’s missing.

Maybe those observing and describing them should consider their choice of words in the future.

Because that college-town “celebration” looked a whole lot like a big-city “riot.”