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We were walking down a hall the other day at the palatial Burton Family Football Complex, home of UConn football. I was talking with a friend of mine, also in the media, about potential column topics from Media Day. We both knew the answer.
Casey Cochran's hair.
Yes. Casey, the starting quarterback, has gone "MacGyver" on us. He has a mullet. Teammates and coaches were all too happy to comment on Casey's coiffure and accompanying mustache that's got some work to do before it demands comparisons to Ron Burgundy.
And yet my friend was a bit hesitant. Not all of his colleagues thought it was such a boffo idea, this affair of hair. My first thought: Egad! A writer trying to extract some fun from sports! Firing squad at dawn!
Turns out he mentioned it as part of a larger piece. One voice from the wilderness, however, didn't disappoint, writing in a reader comment, "with everything going on, good and bad, you devote this much space on a quarterback's hair!!!!!! Now you really are just fish wrap!"
Hah. Fish wrap. Never heard that one before. Six exclamation points, too. Inside voice, pal. Inside voice.
One more thing: The anti-hair crowd here needs to start paying closer attention to societal progressions. The sublime resonates now in an Internet world obsessed with social media. So does the ridiculous. You might note that the only story from UConn football camp that has moved the needle nationally all month is … Casey Cochran's mullet.
Photos and stories of Cochran made Yahoo and Deadspin, among other outlets. And if the Huskies ever pull the upset over Brigham Young next week, how long until ESPN is all over it?
It's great publicity for a program starving for it.
And the genesis is a hairdo.
I'm thinking that many of the same principles apply to the latest social media phenomenon that has ignited unprecedented donations to ALS research. In recent weeks, we've seen hundreds, perhaps thousands, of folks across visual mediums dump buckets of ice water over their heads. The "Ice Bucket Challenge" has, according to many published reports, generated 1.1 million new donors and $53.3 million to the cause of solving ALS.
That's because the Ice Bucket Challenge has most of the elements that resonate in today's society, an inclusive narcissism, that wraps altruism around the hey-look-at-me! moments we all crave, regardless of whether we admit it.
The Associated Press even reported that the Ice Bucket Challenge's success "is making other charitable organizations rethink how they connect with a younger generation of potential donors."
Inclusive narcissism: Easy, fun, a bit fiendish (for the dumpers, not dumpees) and a way for average folks to make a difference, all while making an appearance on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. Such brilliance in simplicity.
I'm thinking this, too: Malcolm Gladwell is right again. Gladwell's novel, "The Tipping Point," measured how societal trends "tip," or spread uncontrollably. As a reviewer wrote, "just as a single sick person can start an epidemic of the flu, so too can a small but precisely targeted push cause a fashion trend, the popularity of a new product, etc."
Who knows, really, if UConn football starts fast and beats sexy opponents BYU and Boise State, whether Cochran's not responsible for his own fashion trend? It's the power of inclusive narcissism. There's an element of Cochran's mullet that has a hey-look-at-me quality. And so what? If it raises awareness for the organization or institution, who cares?
If a young man named Peter Frates, a former baseball player at Boston College, didn't come up with the bucket dump for ALS research, there wouldn't be an extra $53.3 million floating around. Frates, by the way, has ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.
I pray for Frates. And I thank him. I watched a mutual friend of ours at BC, Dick Kelley, the conscience of BC sports, die of it last February. I will spend the rest of my life missing him. But thanks to this wacky idea, someone else out there, one day, will have a friend with ALS who lives on.
Don't underestimate what resonates now in the spheres of social media. Who knows if Casey Cochran's hair goes viral? And if it does, who knows if that's a factor in helping the entire football program's cachet?
Now there's a hoot. UConn gets delivered from the AAC because of a mullet. As they say in the lottery ad: Hey. You never know.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.