What The Who? Columbus TV Station Cuts Footloose With Headline After Ohio University Loss

After Ohio University was eliminated from the 2012 NCAA Tournament, somebody at the website of Columbus' CBS affiliate thought it would be a good idea to attach this headline to the story: "UNC Stomps Ohio Univ. In Overtime." Little did that person know, nearly a dozen people in nearby Cincinnati were stomped to death at a Who concert over thirty years ago.

Looks like a few folks in the capital of the Buckeye State need to take a little refresher on rock history.

On Friday night, the 13th-seeded Ohio Bobcats, having previously eliminated 4th-seeded Michigan and 12th-seeded South Florida to reach the Sweet 16, were upended by top-seeded North Carolina in St. Louis, 73-65. After trailing 29-22 at the half, Ohio nearly doubled their first-half point tally in forcing overtime with the Tar Heels, who would prevail by outscoring the Bobcats 10-2.

Such a lopsided result encouraged a headline writer at Columbus, Ohio CBS affiliate WBNS-TV, either with a huge Buckeye logo on his sleeve or no regard for the victims of one of the worst concert tragedies in the 20th century, to let his true colors show.

It was at 9:45 PM when the news item on WBNS-TV’s website was first posted. The headline: “UNC Stomps Ohio Univ. In Overtime.”

The story was fed by The Associated Press. But operators of websites obtaining the story, in this case, 10TV.com, can opt to slap their own headline on the story if they so choose to.

Boy, did they ever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was at 10:09 PM when the story, which had been online for nearly 25 minutes, was finally tweeted to WBNS-TV’s 25,000+ followers on Twitter. Almost immediately, the responses followed.

“Really 10TV?!?!,” asked Aaron Brown. “I thought you were better than that.”

“‘Stomps’?? What type of local station are you?,” wondered Marcus.

“That’s a bit excessive,” wrote Marlon Anthony.

Brocyrus Crunkfoot exclaims, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME WITH THIS HEADLINE?”

The user known as Ryan Real had this ironic input: “Really?”

And Oliver Canter, who had one of the first immediate reactions to the headline, had this to say: “!!!!!”

Why, then, would so many Ohioans and/or people who actually have a clue be so befuddled by WBNS-TV’s poor choice of words for their heasdline? Why?

Or, should I say: Who?

It was on December 3, 1979, when Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium (which folks now call U.S. Bank Arena) hosted a concert headlined by The Who, which was touring to promote their current album at the time, the soundtrack to the movie “Quadrophenia,” both of which were originally released in their native England in 1973; the album was re-released in 1979. It would be the first time the renowned rock group would tour following the death of their original drummer, Keith Moon. The Cincinnati date would be the third in a series of thirteen concert dates comprising the second leg of their 1979 tour, at venues mostly located on the East Coast.

As the Wikipedia entry for the show describes it, this concert had a “festival seating” atmosphere, meaning “the best seats are available on a first-come, first-served basis.” As a result, “many fans arrived early. When the crowds waiting outside in bitter cold conditions heard the band performing a late sound check, they thought that the concert was beginning and tried to rush into the still-closed doors. Some at the front of the crowd were trampled as those pushing from behind were unaware that the doors were still closed. Only a few doors were in operation that night, and there are reports that management did not open more doors due to union restrictions and the concern of people sneaking past the ticket turnstiles.”

Karen Benham, then-music director of Cincinnati’s dominant radio station WLW-AM – which, like most 50,000-watt blowtorches that blared out popular music in the ’60’s and ’70’s, began to gravitate toward talk radio in the ’80’s and ’90’s – recalled the scene at about 7:40 PM that night: “It was a rough, bad crowd. There was a lot of heavy pushing and shoving going on, and the doors were still not open at 8 PM. About 15 feet in front of me, soem guy went down. He was crushed against the door.” That man, who, according to cops, was under the influence of drugs, was tended to by a first aid crew. But it was when another concertgoer – probably also under the influence of drugs – threw a bottle at the doors, breaking them down. By the way, these doors were made of glass. Havoc ensued. Benham: “It was totally a bunch of animals. It was like somebody snapped their fingers and everybody stampeded… When somebody would stumble, someone would jump on them, and the ones behind kept pushing and pushing… I never saw anything like this.”

The tragic consequence: Eleven people, ages ranging from 15 to 27 – seven of the concertgoers being teenagers – died of compressive asphyxia, also known as chest compression. Dozens of others were also injured in the fracas.

What were the consequences of this horrible event? Riverfront Stadium management and the city of Cincinnati, along with the band and their concert promoter at the time, were served with nearly three dozen lawsuits, all of which would be settled over the ensuing five years, with only upwards of $2 million being awarded out of the $100 million being sought. Also, for the next quarter-century, festival seating would be banned in Cincinnati.

The catastrophe even inspired a “very special episode” of “WKRP In Cincinnati.”

Yet, despite all this, after witnessing the Ohio Bobcats get eliminated from the 2012 NCAA tournament, somebody at the Columbus CBS affiliate, owned by the Columbus Dispatch, decided he would go out of his brain on the 5:15, and attach the headline “UNC Stomps Ohio Univ. In Overtime” to the story they received from the AP.

In fact, one person tweeted a photo of how it looked on his smartphone. Not only was the “stomps” headline shown twice, but one of the instances was accompanied by the phrase, “Breaking News.”

Somebody’s got a bright future at ESPN ahead of him.

“Poor headline,” comments Tim Ingle on Twitter. “Especially for a news station that covers Columbus and southeast Ohio.”

Naturally, either word got back to the headline writer about the poor choice of words for the headline, or he realized it on his own. And if he probably asked someone whether or not he should change the headline, that someone would probably have the decency to say, “You better, you better, you bet.”

So at around 10:15 PM, the headline was finally updated to the less frantic, “UNC Beats Ohio Univ. In Overtime” – but the damage had been done.

If you pasted the link to the story on Facebook, the default headline still bears the word “stomps.” And searching for the story on Twitter greets you with the original headline in the “top news” result. In fact, even as of 9 AM the next morning – nearly half a day since the headline on WBNS-TV’s website was updated – Twitter users are still seeing the original “stomps” headline and are still commenting on it.

And, of course, there’s the dozens of text retweets of the original tweet from 10TV’s Twitter account (which, despite the headline fix on their website, has yet to be deleted, as of Saturday afternoon). One of the best Twitter responses comes from an employee of a competing television station in the market, Tom Bosco, an award-winning reporter for Columbus ABC affiliate WSYX. “Really? Stomps? Really?,” tweeted an outraged Bosco. “The J-school grads in your newsroom approved ‘stomps’?”

There’s also this comment posted to the WBNS-TV story:

 

 

 

The person responsible for the headline on WBNS-TV’s website has not been identified. But we don’t know if, like Anthony Federico at ESPN before him, the WBNS-TV headline writer had any intent to offend – or, as Twitter user Justin suspects, be a “smart ass.” It also is not known at this time if the WBNS-TV headline writer was even aware of the 1979 Who concert tragedy in Cincinnati, which is just over 100 miles southwest of Columbus. Heck, we have no idea if the person responsible for the headline was even born before that concert took place.

Clearly, that headline writer is not getting a favorable response – even after fixing the headline.

“Stomps? How about watching the game before tweeting,” tweeted Bill Black.

I’ve got a better idea: How about brushing up on your state history – especially the worst points of history – so as not to offend anyone.

Oh, and while you’re at it, brush up on your rock and roll history, too. Even if it means paying a visit to Dewey Finn.

2 comments on “What The Who? Columbus TV Station Cuts Footloose With Headline After Ohio University Loss

  1. holy juan says:

    You are kidding, right? Are you that hypersensitive? Could you please provide a list of words and the radius around the area of which they will not be offensive? How about “beat”? I understand Cincy has had several beatings where people were killed. How about “clobbers”? “Destroys” might offend people familiar with Pearl harbor. God forbin a final baseball score ends 9 – 11. WBNS should have left the headline as is.

  2. Holy Juan says:

    And by the way, Stomp will soon be touring in Conway, AR. I assume that is too close and you will be protesting. Just don’t “picket.” My uncle was killed by a picket fence and I find it offensive.

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