We're at a curious point in the whole Bernie Fine saga. We made it through the Accusations Read Aloud Every Five Seconds phase, survived the Shame On Everyone phase, lulled through the Hey What Ever Happened To That phase and now find ourselves in the Oh, Perhaps We All Kinda Jumped The Gun There phase.
50% of Bernie Fine's sexual abuse accusers are now confirmed liars. 25% of Bernie Fine's accusers made it quite clear up until recently that nothing happened and also seem to be quietly disappearing from legal documents. 25% of Bernie Fine's accusers deny ever telling another one what to say but in doing so seemed to tip their hand that they knew that accuser was a liar and still allowed him to influence police, federal agents and the media anyway.
And the reporter who kickstarted the whole thing seems to have spent the entire ordeal doing selective reporting while also allowing a person he suspected of making his story up to influence things so long as it fit his agenda (hence the reason ESPN jumped all over Tomaselli's retraction of his retraction but waited on the sidelines during the initial retraction).
Jason Whitlock has been watching all of this with a weary eye the entire time. Perhaps the only person in the national media that I can think of to do so. While so many of his colleagues trotted out understandable-yet-lazy "shame on everyone" columns, he was asking questions about the validity of sources and truthfulness of accusations.
I apologize for the term but the Bernie Fine story is no longer sexy. The hype and the news vans are long gone. Basketball season is over. And yet, now more than ever we need journalists to get to the bottom of this whole ordeal. We need someone to sort out the facts from the accusations and hype.
I assume no one will. Mark Schwarz certainly has no impetus to do so. He's carefully crafted his story and any deviation from the truth as he and ESPN report it just isn't going to work for them. Pat Forde's not gonna touch it. He just found out that college students smoke weed from time to time and he's FREAKING OUT. Dana O'Neil's not gonna write it. There's a sophomore basketball player somewhere thinking about going pro and skipping the rest of his classes who is RUINING THE INTEGRITY OF THE GAME. AND ALL OUR LIVES.
So that leaves Whitlock to go scorched Earth on the whole thing.
You don’t publicly destroy a person’s reputation based on the words of a career criminal serving a sentence of 16 years to life (Floyd VanHooser), a confessed child molester (Zach Tomaselli), a mumbling, 45-year-old stepbrother who swore 10 years earlier that Fine never did anything inappropriate to him (Mike Lang), and a 40-year-old former athlete (Bobby Davis) who claims he slept with a chubby old man’s wife and that he couldn’t stop the chubby old man from repeatedly touching his genitals even as an adult.
Schwarz allowed one of Davis’ former girlfriends and a former Fine babysitter to speculate on TV about the creepy feelings she had because the Fines kept their blinds closed and whatnot. But the bogusness of Tomaselli’s story isn’t newsworthy until Tomaselli claims Davis played a role in the bogusness?
"The senators I have spoken with," Davis bizarrely told Mark Schwarz in response to a question about Tomaselli, "say that there is quite a bit of false reporting and I have always thought you could prove if somebody is lying or telling the truth."
Bobby Davis is important now. He talks to senators. Everybody in America wants to be important now. It’s not enough to take care of your family, raise your kids and handle your job. Too many of us want to moonlight as all-powerful neighborhood watch captains.
From there Jason draws a parallel between Fine and Trayvon Martin that I don't think works on a person-to-person level, though I can appreciate a comparison between the way the media worked in both cases. Once somebody seemingly-respected produces a solid narrative, everyone else just seems to want to run with it as fast and hard as they can.
Go read the entire piece here and get re-fired up all over again.