2014 Unofficial officially over
It could have been much worse.
Now that the annual bacchanal known as Unofficial St. Patrick's Day has come and gone, it's time to tally up the damage.
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Although the final statistics have not yet been released regarding arrests and tickets, the good news is that no one was seriously injured or killed during this year's morons' convention. That's in sharp contrast to previous years when the nonstop fun took brief timeouts for fatal accidents.
One young lady sustained a fatal head injury in 2006 when she fell off the back of a motorcycle. A young man was struck and killed by a car in 2011 after he made an ill-timed attempt to cross the street. Both were intoxicated.
Thankfully, that did not happen this year. So it's with a sense of relief that the Champaign-Urbana community can bid farewell to this year's glorification of alcoholic excess that symbolizes the nihilism of some aspects of college life.
Of course, the young people who participate in Unofficial do not see it that way. Neither do the merchants who profit from the commercial activities it generates.
Young people view Unofficial as another opportunity to pursue a good time while simultaneously thumbing their noses at disapproving adults; but, really, how exciting can being intoxicated by noon be? The idea of Unofficial promises far more than the time-wasting, foolish, self-destructive reality it is for many participants. But then it's a rare mob that makes discerning judgments.
As for the merchants, well, they just do what merchants do — meet the demands of the marketplace. Unofficial draws a huge crowd that demands food, drink and whatever, and local business operators provide food, drink and whatever.
It's a whole different story for those overseeing Unofficial: law enforcement officials handing out tickets and trying to maintain order, ambulance attendants, doctors and nurses assisting those who overdid it and maintenance workers cleaning up the mess the merry-makers left behind. And let's not forget the hand-wringing university administrators worrying themselves sick over a potential public relations fiasco should something go dramatically wrong. To them, Unofficial is a big pain in the you-know-where.
And it will probably continue to be at least for a while, but not necessarily forever.
Hash Wednesday, the gathering in which UI students would consume alcohol and smoke marijuana on the Quad as some sort of weird public protest, has come and gone. The annual Halloween bash in Campustown finally disappeared after local police and university officials finally put their collective foot down.
So there's no guarantee that Unofficial will last forever.
Maybe it will be replaced one day by angry libertarians smoking cigarettes in the middle of the smoke-free UI Quad.