Anyway, I only mention this because there's another apology not cutting it right now. Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong has issued a succinct "my bad" to the three Duke lacrosse players he assumed were guilty a year ago as he won re-election via fronting the lynch mob to string them up. "Stuff your sorrys in a sock, mister," you can hear the exonerated players saying as they mount their lawsuits against Nifong, his office, Duke University, the false accuser, Jesse Jackson, Bunny Hole Entertainment, Greg Garber, and the free world. The suits might not net a cent, but there should be some recourse for the falsely accused, and a blanket party for Nifong seems like it might be another unwise decision by Duke's lax team.
It seems fairly clear that Nifong's behavior stemmed not from sinister motives but the mad desire for votes, but just like in George Wallace's case, it hardly matters. He fast-tracked a case in such a way that nearly railroaded these kids to the tune of 30 years in the clink. He used (at best) questionable ethics and (at worst) hideously shady tactics. If Imus was fired for a casual but incendiary insult, disbarment is a minimum for Nifong. There has to be some accountability.
It seems like the accuser won't know any accountability in a legal sense, but now that irresponsible parties have pasted her name everywhere, some moron with a skewed sense of justice may unfortunately deliver some ugly payback. And at best she returns to her "normal" life, which, if you believe what you read (but wait . . . I don't), it sounds like her best days are our worst. Karma will take its toll there.
Meanwhile, at least Nifong did apologize. Greg Garber, you thought you'd skate with that simple mention above? Hardly. When you penned your tear-stained tribute to the legions of vigilant protesters and victims worldwide, it was bad enough to be guilty of cashing in on this misfortune with some atrociously maudlin prose. (Really, the pinwheel metaphor is beyond pathetic.) And we at G:TB mocked you for that in the comments of a post while cautioning against snap judgments.
The thing is, when you went all in on "guilty until proven innocent" in a piece that was communicated across the planet, you gave the wheels of momentum a touch of extra acceleration. You served as a cog in the machine that, thank God, fell short of steamrolling innocent college students into prison terms but did manage to rip a year from their lives, tarnish their names, and scar their psyches. ESPN and its online presence, like publications everywhere, frequently blur the line between reporting fact and offering opinion; that suspect practice was rarely more irresponsible than in your 2,000 words of "we find the defendants guilty" masked as a profile of the Durham community and Duke campus. Outrage takes on a whole new meaning when one pores over the words now, does it not?
This one we failed to catch, and it actually brought me some levity just now:
The players, according to police, have not been cooperative in the investigation. The school has not undertaken its own investigation of the incident, instead deferring to the Durham Police Department, a decision that has sparked widespread criticism.The first statement is one Nifong is now accused of perpetuating falsely. A pretty pointed statement for something that looks to be untrue, no? The second sentence is preposterous. Assuming you don't have any career detectives on the school board, whom do you want doing the investigation, the campus police? The Keystone Kops of the police hierarchy? Where I went to school, the campus cops were absolutely laughable. One of them strolled into our house party "undercover" to investigate any possible underage drinking. Walked up to the bar and asked for a beer, surveying the scene, looking smooth. His name was Pedro, we all knew him from around campus, he stood out anyway as a beefy, 6'4" African-American . . . and he was wearing a trenchcoat and a fedora. It was quite literally fall-down funny, and that's who you want conducting the investigation of rape charges? Really? Because that would be a travesty.
We at Gheorghe have bitched and moaned ad nauseum about the lack of accountability in sports reporting. Most of the time we're talking about light-hearted matters, like when talking heads and dopes with by-lines make bold predictions and cocksure, aggressive statements that prove ridiculous -- only to have those initial assertions washed away and forgotten by the time they'd be exposed. We even took to recording statements in hopes of restoring a tiny tad of accountability into a realm where it's been forgotten. Folks in the press need to be reminded of their outlandish, even insulting remarks to preserve ever-eroding humility and provide some sense of perspective. You people aren't policing yourselves on these matters, clearly, so we're here to do it for you.
This is a whole other matter. Were you alone in jumping to the conclusion that the Duke lacrosse players were violent rapists? Hardly. But you had a virtual megaphone, and unfortunately for you, Internet postings leave a trail. (Kudos to ESPN for not deleting such articles in the name of protecting its image.) Gene Wojciechowski compiled a list of fallible quotes from last year. Plenty of people look either foolish or -- worse -- guilty of having their own agenda to push. Your name is nowhere on there, but it could very well be.
I'm not saying it should cost you your job or even warrant a suspension. But while those who held off on judging the situation were getting labeled bigots of race, gender, and class, a great number of people went on record with some candidly harsh material. Now is the time to stand up and say it. I was wrong. Really wrong. The people I interviewed and quoted were wrong. We were misled by a guy who was more wrong, but we were all very, very mistaken. And we apologize.
The apology, like Imus's, might end up in your tube socks quickly enough, but it would mean something to the minds at Gheorghe: The Blog to see someone take some ownership for a bad call once in a while.