I drove into Logan about five hours after Utah State’s first-round loss to Missouri in the NCAA Tournament.
I was picking up my son, who had watched the game at a campus restaurant with other Utah State students. I asked him if students had been talking about the cheerleader who was the focus of the broadcast late in the game.
She appeared to be fighting back tears as the game slipped away from the Aggies.
I watched the moment live, and my first thought was that this will probably make the “One Shining Moment” montage shown at the end of the tournament. Instantly, it was all over Twitter. And yes, the students were talking about it.
Now, how the internet treated this highly visible show of emotion is probably a matter of opinion — and your individual social media feed. But it’s clear scrolling through Twitter that while some appreciated the moment, others just used the image to get a laugh.
And that’s disappointing.
It was a scene of genuine emotion that captured the essence of the tournament on its first day, a rare instance in the sports world where schools that rarely get the national television spotlight — schools from smaller conferences, HBCUs, small religious schools, schools without football programs — can compete against brand names from power conferences with massive athletic department budgets.
March has no shortage of tears. When they come from the kids on the court, on the sidelines and in the stands, they’re especially poignant.
Just making the tournament is a thrill for anyone with ties to a university. Realizing that it’s about to end can yank the emotion right out of you. One of my most vivid memories as a sports fan was watching my favorite team play in the tournament for the first time. When I realized that a loss was inevitable, I couldn’t stop crying.
Search “Utah State cheerleader” and you’ll find plenty of stories. And rightfully so. It was a moment worth reacting to and celebrating.
Some headlines in the aftermath of the game highlighted social media reactions that were critical of TNT for focusing the cameras on the cheerleader on two instances. But I don’t blame the broadcast crew. It’s their job to capture the moment.
But why turn it into a meme to laugh about and have fun with? I guess it’s part of the reality of our social media world. But this moment — and so many other displays of emotion that happen during the tournament — was worthy of more than a meme.
A TikTok video that seemingly came from the cheerleader herself was captioned with “and now I’m a meme” and “that one time when i was sad to cheer at my last game ...”
If you care about sports, or you care about your school, or if you’ve had your time as a student or an athlete come to an end, you’ve probably cried when deep disappointment or finality sets in — or have at least tried to hold it back.
Most of us haven’t competed or performed at this high of a level. And most of us haven’t been caught on camera on such a grand stage. For those who are, we should show them respect — because at some level, we can all relate.