Every time the Football Badgers play at Camp Randall Stadium, the local media – print and electronic – report the exact number of people who were ejected or arrested at the game. The number is usually around 25 or 30. The media don’t report this number for Badger Basketball games or Hockey matches at the Kohl Center; nor for the UW womens’ softball games at Goodman Field on the UW Campus; or, for that matter, the intercollegiate golf matches at University Ridge or the volleyball matches at the old Field House.
But, like clockwork, the morning after the football game, the news radio station in town and the local TV news stations parrot the numbers, taken from the official news release of the UW Police, I’m sure. The Wisconsin State Journal ran about two column inches on the official drunken/disorderly count on page 5 of this morning’s paper.
For the mathematically challenged (certainly including me), let’s use easy-to-work-with numbers, and assume that 40 people were ejected or arrested at a typical football game. Since Camp Randall holds about 80 thousand people, the total number arrested/detained/ejected/taken to detox is 0.05%. In other words, not statistically significant.
99.95% of the fans at Camp Randall were NOT arrested/ejected/taken to detox. And the actual percentage is lower, if you add in the thousands who just mill around the stadium, and the hundreds of ushers, security personnel, concessions stand workers, and media types who infest the area on game-day.
Do the statewide media report such a figure after every Packers or Brewers or Bucks game? Of course not, but I’ll bet a week’s pay that the Green Bay and Ashwaubenon Police and the Brown County Sheriff’s Department would tell you the percentages are similar at a typical Packers game at Lambeau Field.
I think the reason(s) the local media report this figure as if it were news is simply that years ago, when the Badgers Football team sucked and lost all the time, it was more entertaining to report the number or arrests than the number of points scored – and the “tradition” has continued.
Why the University Police continue to provide this number to the media is a deeper mystery; if I were Barry Alvarez, I’d have coffee with Chief Riseling and ask her nicely to discontinue the practice. Of course they have to keep official records, but spoon-feeding them to the media is another thing. (Here come the e-mails and comments from my many newsie friends yelling “freedom of information”.)
When/if the number exceeds the norm (as it well may next Saturday when Nebraska comes for its first game at Camp Randall, and it’s A NIGHT GAME which means all-day-all-night drinking), it may qualify as news.
But to merely parrot the number after every home game seems pointless, and, well, not “newsy”, even if it is “truthy”.