McCleary: Leave SU fandom out of the Interstate 690 tragedy
A question addressed to the Onondaga County DA began: “It’s no secret you’re one of the biggest SU fans out there …” I was shocked: I wondered what kind of narrative they were pursuing. Is it: Will this accident affect the way you paint your face Orange on Saturday, DA? Is it: Will you forgive Boeheim and root for the Orange, DA? Is it: Will you forget about the incident and focus on the game, DA?On the phone a day later, Brian Hernandez, Jimenez’s son, didn’t want to feed into the same story he’d seen written over and over again. He knows about the crash. He was told all the details. He wanted someone to ask about his Dad. It’s OK to show support for both of these people. John Violanti, a faculty expert on police stress at the University at Buffalo, said Boeheim, based on a National Comorbidity study, runs just about an eight-to-12 percent risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder — commonly known as PTSD. But it can be triggered by the simplest of reminders. Traumatic stress for Boeheim could appear anytime from immediately after the crash to five months later, Violanti said. This also extends to the three others in the car with Jimenez at the time of the crash, who seemingly provided similar help.Scott Sabella, an assistant professor in UB’s department of counseling, school and educational psychology, with a background in family coping, said there’s no greater aid than a close support group, one that the Boeheim’s should feel and the family of Jimenez should see with the help of a now-closed GoFundMe campaign that raised nearly $13,000. For Boeheim’s recovery, it requires that he veer off cognitive dissonance or inconsistent thoughts about his own self-image, Sabella said. All the reports and members of the community told him he did everything he could. His next step to healing is to believe they’re true.“Based upon what we know today,” SPD Chief Kenton Buckner said on Thursday, “we have a tragic accident that resulted in a gentleman’s death that happened to involve a high-profile individual.”Alexandra Moreo | Senior Staff PhotographerBut that tragic accident caused loss, the worst pain that a family can feel, Sabella said. For the family of Jimenez, acceptance won’t do them any good. They know they did nothing wrong. Now they are simply left with a void. On the way to the Carrier Dome on Saturday, I was in another Uber, gripped in another conversation about Syracuse. “I hope (the fans are) respectful to Boeheim,” my driver said. “I hope they don’t cheer. He’s not that type of person. He doesn’t want that.” Finally, someone looked beyond basketball. That’s not what this was about, not ever. After the game, Boeheim was asked how he felt. But he — as he should have — said it didn’t matter.The moment of silence for Jimenez, before the game, came at the tail-end of thundering cheers as Syracuse introduced Boeheim out of the tunnel. Boeheim offered just his arm and a slight grin at the crowd that had been there to support him, and always has. It became clear what would be the lasting memory of that game, a hero’s welcome for Boeheim, a crowd behind their coach grieving.“This is never going away,” Boeheim said. “Tuesday it’s not gonna be any better. It’s not gonna be any better next week. It’s not gonna be any better next month. It’s not gonna be any better next year. But it doesn’t matter how I feel. It matters how the family feels.”For Boeheim, each trip by the home crowd will bring the reminders: of the community support, of the people who love and trust he did no wrong. But for the family of Jimenez, the gripping pain with extend to its barbeques, baseball games and fishing trips, attempting to fill a gaping hole. Don’t forget about their side of this tragedy.Michael McCleary is the sports editor for The Daily Orange where his column appears occasionally. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @MikeJMcCleary.CORRECTION: In a previous version of this post, Scott Sabella’s title was misstated. The Daily Orange regrets this error. Comments Published on February 27, 2019 at 12:28 am Facebook Twitter Google+ UPDATED: February 27, 2019 at 7:56 p.m.Friday, I was riding an Uber back to my apartment after having dinner with my family. My driver and I started to discuss Syracuse. Syracuse basketball, that is. But in this city, if you mention something about a game between the Orange and the Duke Blue Devils, no one asks you to clarify what sport you’re talking about.In this unfortunate case, our conversation was obliged to shift. Two days earlier, late at night on Wednesday, Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim struck and killed a man, Jorge Jimenez, on Interstate 690. It’s an event Boeheim has said will stay with him forever. It won’t get easier, he said, no matter how much time passes.My driver started to complain. He mentioned he heard Jimenez’s family spoke out that day about Boeheim’s decision to coach. Well, what was he supposed to do? The driver asked, as if he knew the answer before doubling back.“Well, I guess if I killed someone, I wouldn’t go to work a few days,” he concluded.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textBoeheim described the pain as “unimaginable.” Of course it is. Someone lost their father, their friend, their neighbor, and another is left with the fact that he might have ripped all of that away. From the moment after impact Wednesday, Boeheim seemed to do all the right things, according to the Syracuse Police Department. After the Duke game, he made the proper remarks. People let him know that, as they always will. But as the story developed, it revealed harsh realities about what happens when one side of an accident contains “the most beloved person in central New York,” as Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick referred to Boeheim. Perpetrated by some shoddy reporting and sometimes uneven fan culture, the online coverage of this incident from both the media and the viewing public almost squashed the victim’s side of the narrative. We should not blame Boeheim: This was an unfortunate tragedy, and he should be commended for everything he’s done in response. We should understand he and his family’s pain. But we must not forget that someone lost their life, someone lost their friend, someone lost their Dad. When assessing the I-690 tragedy, out of respect for the Boeheim and Jimenez families, leave Syracuse basketball fandom out of it.As the news broke Thursday, “Boeheim” made its way into every headline, including those of The Daily Orange’s. It always will. That is not an exploitation of his status as much as it is an acknowledgment of his figure. But at the SPD press conference on Thursday, the 43-year Hall of Fame basketball coach’s eminence seemed to overshadow the details of the crash. Question after question came, which echoed the bevy of tweets that came out in support of Boeheim, and some, even, attaching a fake allegiance to an unnamed victim.