The front page is a scary place these days. There’s only so many home invasion, bankrupt countries, nuclear threats, random shootings stories I can take. In the past I would retreat to the sports page and take solace in box scores and big plays. But these days you will find no comfort there.
Sports has always had its scandals but they had typically been performance-related (PEDs, cheating). Now what I’m finding is just downright stupidity and a lack of human decency.
From Penn State to Steubenville to Rutgers, Auburn and the PAC-12 referees it’s become quite the mess. And as depressing as these stories are – and the thought that this is now the sports landscape – there are two elements to these stories that depress me even more:
1. That we’re not surprised. In the Auburn story especially, what’s shocking is that we’re not shocked, as Michael Wilbon said yesterday. It’s not that there have been several cases like this and we’re just like ‘oh, yea, another one’. I guess it’s the fact that maybe we assumed (terrible to do, I know) ‘stuff’ like this always went on. ‘Student’ athletes always received a little extra support from the school of wink, wink, nudge, nudge. Sure, I know the NCAA is sworn to protect the rights and integrity of the ‘student’ athlete by punishing them for accepting a sandwich from someone, not giving them any money for jersey sales and making it impossible for them to transfer to another school, but sometimes things squeak by. I guess I’m surprised that we haven’t had more violations. Because if they weren’t reported, they didn’t happen, right?
2. That we’re blaming social media. Now, don’t get me wrong – the majority of people react how you would expect them to when seeing/reading these stories. They’re appalled. They’re offended. They’re angry. But there is a group of people who will blame the media and social media for this. Calling these stories ‘witch hunts’. It’s a classic case of Scooby-Doo (“I would’ve got away with it if it wasn’t for you meddling kids!”) with social media playing the role of the Mystery Machine.
The role media plays in uncovering or exposing stories like these isn’t new. However, what is new is the instant reaction by millions of people…who have no problem playing the role of judge, jury and executioner in between tweets about ‘The Bachelor’ and ‘Honey Boo Boo’. This was a point on ‘Mike and Mike’ yesterday as people said Mike Rice was the direct result of social media. Not true. Mike Rice was the direct result of Mike Rice. In situations where people do something wrong they alone are responsible for their actions. We can’t lose sight of that. Blaming social media for them getting caught is the same as saying you’re ok with what they did. (I feel sometimes we struggle with the concept of dealing with the ramifications of getting caught v. the action. But that’s a topic for another day.)