I have been consistent in my position that Joe Paterno deserved more of a hearing before his firing, and in my condemnation of the way ESPN, Sports Illustrated, and other sports media outlets executed their successful witch hunt to fire Paterno. Nothing highlights the corruption and intellectually bankrupt nature of the sports media than the way the Syracuse basketball scandal has been handled in the media when contrasted with the Paterno firing.
Let’s look in particular at Sports Illustrated (SI) and ESPN. Sports Illustrated provides sports coverage for CNN.com, and the moment the Penn State scandal broke (via an illegally leaked Grand Jury transcript) their online headlines screamed “FIRE PATERNO NOW!”. Sports Illustrated’s cover that week was “THE FAILURE AND SHAME OF PENN STATE”, with a huge picture of…..Jerry Sandusky?….WRONG….of none other than Joe Paterno. The sub-headline was “The Paterno Legacy, He Can’t Get it Back”. I’m sorry, did Joe molest those young boys?
They had Paterno convicted of who knows what before we had a chance to catch our breaths, and the pressure they and other media outlets brought to the Penn State trustees caused unnecessarily fast and poorly contemplated decisions. I’ll say again, it may be that the firing of Paterno is justified, but not based on the evidence we have before us at this time, and his 49 years of phenomenal service to his players, University, and community called for a more patient and deliberate view of the evidence first.
And now we learn that these hypocrites in the sports media (John Wertheim and David Epstein at SI, and Vince Doria at ESPN especially) believe they live in a world where rules only apply to people like Paterno, but not to themselves.
What did we learn? That Doria and ESPN had the Bobby Davis/Laurie Fine tape 8 YEARS AGO. If you have not heard this tape yet, to summarize it is absolutely damning towards Bernie Fine and near ironclad proof he had molested Bobby Davis and probably others. Fine’s wife Laurie confirms such on the tape. The tape transcript can be seen here.
What did ESPN do with this tape? Absolutely nothing! That is, until last week, when for some reason it now became important enough to hire a voice expert to confirm it was indeed Laurie Fine on the tape (it was).
To listen to interviews with those at ESPN and Sports Illustrated in regards to this 8 years of silence, you will hear them quickly dismiss any criticisms. “We didn’t know if the tape was valid”, says ESPN. “Engaging the police is not the business we are in”, says Wertheim at SI. And to hear the interviews from ABC and NPR and CNN of Wertheim and others, the interviewers simply nod in agreement with their sports media cohorts.
What would I ask if I was doing the interview? How about this:
1. When you listened to the tape 8 years ago, did it trouble you? (Readers, give the tape a listen, it will make you ill).
2. Why did you not feel an obligation to go to the police, or to Syracuse University, to report this tape/allegation? On what grounds did you base your decision not to act?
3. Can you distinguish your inaction from that of the alleged (emphasis on “alleged”) inaction from Joe Paterno in the Sandusky case? Which was worse, the allegation with no evidence against Paterno, or the substantiated molestation by Bernie Fine that you did nothing about?
4. If we learn that Bernie Fine molested 5 more boys over the last 8 years, the same time period in which you had this tape in your hands and did nothing, would you feel a sense of responsibility for not having stopped Fine from committing such acts by reporting the tape to the police or the University? Are those rapes on your hands?
For these reporters, who had hard evidence of the molestation(s), to crucify Joe Paterno for we-still-don’t-know-for-sure-what, and then sit on a solid piece of child molestation evidence while the molester could have been adding to his list of victims, is the ultimate hypocrisy and is arguably criminal.
I end this editorial with a suggestion that you consider the following charity for abused children, or that you search “Charity Navigator” for a children’s advocacy charity of your choice. Links are below: