Most of the time, the job of a journalist is to gather information from sources and communicate that information to the public. But sometimes the flow goes the other way, as in the following exchange, wherein Shirley Smith, an AP correspondent, had — she thought — finished her conversation with her source, Manuel Silva of Pueblo, Colorado, the commander of a U.S. machine gun vehicle somewhere east of Baghdad:
Silva: Can you tell me who’s playing in the game tonight?
Smith: Uh…which game?
Silva: The college basketball championships…
Smith: I think Syracuse won.
Silva: Oh, no…really? Oh, alright thanks!
Am I curious about whether the corporal had put a few potatoes on Kansas, Marquette, or Texas? Sure, but I’m not going to tie up an international line trying to find out, and besides, he’s probably busy.
Should Major League Baseball worry because Corporal Silva asked about the college basketball tournament rather than, say, wondering how the Rockies had done the night before? Probably not. Corporals aren’t Major League Baseball’s demographic.
Should the NCAA rejoice at the knowledge that even a man involved in the dusty and dangerous business of war wants to know who’s playing in the men’s final? Nah, it’s probably no news to the folks who run the NCAA Tournament that they’re product is monstrous enough to preoccupy even soldiers at work half a world away.
The fragment of conversation between correspondent Smith and Corporal Silva seems to me significant only in that it reminds us — at least if my read on Corporal Silva’s voice is right — that lots of the men at war are younger than lots of the men who’ve just completed their work in the basketball tournament about which corporal Silva was curious.
A lot has been written about the necessity of supporting the troops, and pro and anti-war factions have argued about how that support is best expressed. Maybe one way is by passing along the information guys like Corporal Silva are missing. Just in case that’s so:
Hey, corporal, it was Connecticut and Tennessee in the final of the women’s tournament, and the Huskies, led by Diana Taurasi, won by five.
Take care of yourself.