(A million cocktails to you, EDSBS readers! This post was an initial heads-up that the Outside The Lines clips were posted on ESPN.com. For our summary of the piece, please see this post. Additionally, here's this morning's news that two of the Nittany Lion players involved in this incident were dismissed from the team.)
After watching the clips a few times each, I have to say I'm not particularly impressed by ESPN's work. The bulk of the questions seem to be, "Some people think ______, what do you have to say about it?" For a supposedly respectable, investigative news piece, it already looks a little flimsy.
For example, "Some people feel that there have been more incidents at Penn State in the last several years than traditionally, and we asked them why they thought that was happening, there have been a couple things that have been said to us a couple different times, and one of them is that from 2000 to 2004, you know, the program was struggling compared to [past performance], and in order to fix things on the field, Penn State began recruiting some guys who were good athletes, but maybe had some character issues."
Okay, who are the people saying that Penn State intentionally engaged in this sort of recruiting? Who are the kids that have these awful "character issues", and what had they done during high school that would've tipped off Penn State? Think that information might be useful?
I'm not a reporter, but I would think that a program that portrays itself as The Super Serious News Program Of The Worldwide Leader In Sports might use things like, I don't know, named sources and facts. Another of the reporter's questions is, "We did our own research, and since 2002, in the state of Pennsylvania, at least 46 Penn State players have been charged with a total of 146 crimes. How do you feel when you hear those numbers?"
Hell, just from the apartment fight at the Meridian, six players were charged with roughly 22 crimes (resulting in a whopping three misdemeanor convictions via plea bargain). The vast majority of those didn't even survive the preliminary hearing, where the standard of proof required by the Commonwealth is ridiculously low:
Commonwealth v. McBride, 595 A.2d 589 (Pa.1991) (“A judge at a preliminary hearing is not . . . authorized to determine the guilt or innocence of an accused; his sole function is to determine whether probable cause exists to require an accused to stand trial on the charges contained in the complaint.”)
In legal terms, "probable cause" often isn't a hell of a lot. Oh, and "X players arrested since 2002"? Doesn't that sound familiar?
Now, let's be clear about two things. First, these are only four clips from a much larger piece, so let's not draw and conclusions about the entire body of ESPN's work. We'll get the whole story on Sunday morning. Second, Penn State's football program does have definite issues with discipline -- something I termed "a fighting and drinking problem" over at Run Up The Score a few weeks ago while picking apart the various legal incidents. But does it rise to the level where ESPN loads up the truck and drives to State College for what is obviously a hit piece? Ehhh. I'm not sold.
Your initial thoughts?
* - ESPN.com has apparently pulled the clips from the OTL site. No explanation as to why.
Late Update -- Thanks to BSD commentor AdamShell, who notes that the videos are back up:
The "Paterno Addresses the recent criminal activity" video still appears to be down.