In April 2006, the month in which the Duke lacrosse story seemed to be spiraling out of control and consuming the resources of the American media, 76 U.S. military servicemen were killed in Iraq.
In light of all that has happened to our school, that team, and this country over the past 11 months, this weekend's news that Army Ranger Jimmy Regan-a midfielder on the Duke lacrosse team from 1999-2002-had become yet another casualty of the Iraq War seemed not only tragic, but bitterly ironic as well.
The story of his sacrifice and his family's loss will be the first, and perhaps only, story related to the men's lacrosse team this year that won't make for front-page news in papers across the country.
And all this begs the following questions: Has the media become so myopic that it only seeks to report and perpetuate "sexy" stories, like that of Duke lacrosse? Or have average Americans become so indifferent to the news that only these types of stories can catch their attention?
Last spring, shortly after news trucks had become such a pervasive presence on campus that they had begun to blend into the stone of the Duke Chapel, I started to wonder about the state of journalism.
I grappled with the chicken-or-the-egg dilemma alluded to above: which came first, the media's apparent de-emphasis on the wars U.S. soldiers are fighting overseas or the public's disinterest in them?
Regardless of the genesis of this trend, its effects-the lack of deference to the fallen by our failure to discuss the circumstances surrounding their deaths-profoundly shapes our national dialogue, or lack thereof.
Maybe it is unfair to isolate the story of one particular soldier, but Regan's case seems somewhat unique, much like that of former Arizona Cardinal linebacker Pat Tillman.
Regan, an academic All-ACC selection in his tenure at Duke, could have done what the rest of his classmates were doing after graduating from one of the nation's top universities-gone to law school on scholarship or taken a banking job on Wall Street.
But when faced with the opportunity to have it all, Regan chose instead to put his country before himself.
I'm not sure that was the kind of risk he and his fellow Economics majors were taught about in Econ1D freshman year.
"For a lot of those men and women, there's a higher calling," said Kevin Cassese, Regan's former teammate and friend, as well as current Duke assistant coach. "[Regan] felt the need to fight for his country, and he fulfilled that duty to the best of his ability."
Stories like Regan's or Tillman's, in which young men give up comfort and advantage for hazard and uncertainty, are so shocking. Maybe it's because we cannot imagine ourselves in their positions, making the choices they made. Or maybe it's because we canonize our athletes to the point where they seem indestructible.
Lost in the world the media created for Duke lacrosse-one of overblown elitism and privilege-was the story of a man who gave all of that up to defend our freedom.
Lost thousands of miles away was a man whom Cassese called "the best."
Lost in our newspapers was his story, because someone out there decided that it didn't fit into the coverage genre of the "perfect storm."
If what is happening in Iraq-if the loss of Jimmy Regan and thousands like him-isn't part of a "perfect storm," then I guess I don't know what is.
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