Let’s just cut through the bullsh*t of the Bernie Fine saga. ESPN and Mark Schwarz were brazenly overzealous in trying to break the story, and there was something not quite right about the Fine’s relationship with Bobby Davis. Other than that, the whole thing became a rollicking theater of the absurd.
I hate to say it, but just look at Laurie Fine. Does that seem like a completely normal person to you? Who knows what to believe with “the tape.” Maybe it was doctored completely, maybe it opened a window to the twisted inner-workings of the Fine household. Either way, some of the accusers have been discredited, and it’s obvious the Fines had some weird skeletons in the closet.
But just being strange (in comparison to the warped “normal society” that we live in) is not enough to place the crosshairs on a family, a coach and a university like ESPN did. Here’s the deal: ESPN doesn’t break news anymore. Not real news where sports intersects with the realities of normal life. Sure, Adam Schefter breaks “Peyton Manning to the Broncos” news. Chris Broussard breaks “LeBron James has a headache” news. But ESPN leaves the real heavy lifting to Yahoo! Sports, the New York Times, HBO’s Real Sports and Sports Illustrated.
Why? Because ESPN has league rights to the NFL, MLB, NBA and college sports. It’s not in the business of crapping on its corporate partners (which is exactly what those entities are – they’re all sitting around the same board room table).
Yet, there’s this awkward investigative arm known as “Outside the Lines” which employs Schwarz and other reporters/journalists. Well, with the deepest pockets in media, how is it possible ESPN has been routinely beaten to Cam Newton, Michael Vick, Joe Paterno, Reggie Bush, Nerlens Noel, concussions, conference realignment and scores of other real sports scoops? Simple. They suck.
They don’t wanna know this stuff. They don’t really do any digging. They’re the store front window display, but inside the shop none of it’s for sale. So Lisa Salters and Jeremy Schaap “break news” on one-legged triathletes and charity work by Dikembe Mutombo. Then when some crap really hits the fan, they trot out venerable Bob Ley to engage a panel discussion with opinion makers.
So, the biggest sports media entity in the world was beaten to the biggest scandal in sports history by everyone including the Patriot News. And what happened? Suddenly, those old Bobby Davis tapes from 2003 started getting dusted off again. And Schwarz began acting as though Syracuse University was the modern edition of Sodom and Gomorrah. And ESPN ran itself dizzy trying to insist it had finally broken “real news.” Oh, and dramatically slow-played the tape for ratings purposes.
This is Schwarz’s smoking gun:
“I would have taken a run at it every month of my career between 2003 and 2011 if I could have been pulled off other events and other coverage. If someone said you can either do this story, or you can do 100 NBA championship events or 17 World Series, which would you do, I would do this story and let other people cover the World Series.”
Nice. Even though you assumed you were allowing a pedophile to ruin someone’s life for nearly a decade, you simply had to cover Spurs-Nets in the Finals because Ed Werder couldn’t do it. And this obviously became his personal crusade, especially once the Paterno news broke.
I’m pretty certain the Fine’s aren’t completely clean in all this. Everyone needs a shower every time Laurie Fine or Bobby Davis or Mike Lang try to explain what was going on. But ESPN’s obscenely irresponsible reporting on this is far more criminal. All because they’re trying to keep up with a charade.