By Tim Baffoe–
(CBS) Hey, how about that Robert Durst fella and his probable penchant for killing people, huh?
I admittedly know little about the details and have no interest to, and I had no idea who Durst was until his name bled into shows, readings, and social media I choose to consume. But hey, now I can (kind of) be part of the all-important “conversation” about him if I so choose, but I prefer to have fun with such absurdity.
Look at all these psychos and freaks proclaiming their love for Durst and/or their hopes for his innocence. There’s no surprise here. Every famous person, no matter how icky or obviously guilty of wrongdoing, will have a pro bono public legal team. Twitter provides for an easier home version of participating in the circus of sad a la outside the trial of Michael Jackson.
But those are weirdos, the unwashed loners from high school who grew up into exactly the maladjusted pariahs we cool kids tortured them into becoming, now sadly supporting their musician and reality TV crushes.
On the other hand, we normal people who are into sports have it together. Where the blind faith Beliebers are an illogical mass, we are supporters of a team. We’ grownups wearing jerseys with the names of other grownups on them because aren’t engaged in cosplay as representative of our innate childish desires to pretend we’re anything but our imperfect selves. We are well-adjusted.
Our favorite teams and athletes represent us. We’ve made the conscientious choice to hitch our wagons to them. We use the first-person plural to describe them. They are psychological extensions of our selves.
But having to root for an athlete who, when not entertaining you, is a less-than-noble human being doesn’t compute. ERROR ERROR ERROR. Troubleshooting engaged.
The flawed man (and I’m not going to use the gender neutral because, with the exception of Hope Solo, women in sports have given me little reason for fair inclusion in this particular sports conversation) on your favorite team has a rightful place at the table. With your rooting interest, you’re practically both family. Teams refer to themselves as families all the time, after all, and fans are valued members of those families. You and the player might even be best friends, if he just got to know you.
So new Bears defensive lineman Ray McDonald — jettisoned from the San Francisco 49ers because they were sick of him being a guy who put himself in so many bad situations that they outweighed any value he had on the field — must be misunderstood. He’s your new adopted family member, after all.
And besides, isn’t this America? What happened to innocent until proven guilty?
While on the topic of off-the-field issues: Thing people forget about Ray McDonald is that he wasn't found innocent/guilty, never saw court—
Andrew Dannehy (@ChiBearsAD) March 26, 2015
How long until the Chicago media pipes down about Ray McDonald? My guess, Friday. Innocent until proven guilty in my book. Calm yourselves.—
John Gianatasio (@The_Couch_Scout) March 25, 2015
@MikeAndMike in regards to Ray McDonald, are NFL players guilty until proven innocent?—
Christopher Hardy (@chlhardy) March 25, 2015
Dhruvin Dholakia (@TheScHoolBoyD) March 24, 2015
He was never charged, haters, after that 49ers cop got on the scene before any other law enforcement. Is this another case of the feminazi agenda ruining Man Time?
@SarahSpain apparently you don't believe innocent until PROVEN guilty. We want football talk, not your TMZ woman power movement. Go Bears—
Bryan Bubloni (@bbubloni) March 26, 2015
George McCaskey of the Bears’ McCaskey ownership, your football paterfamilias, was asked permission by your successful step-brother, general manger Ryan Pace, to go after McDonald. The papa Bear then personally talked to McDonald’s parents. They vouch for him.
“What would you expect a parent to say about their adult child?” McCaskey said. “But the thing that impressed me after talking to them was the support system. They go to almost all of his games, even the out-of-town games. They’re there for him. He came from a strong two-parent upbringing, which sad to say isn’t all that common anymore these days. And even discounting what a parent had to say, I came away impressed with the support system that he has.”
But regarding the alleged victims of McDonald’s alleged violence, they’re obviously biased. Hard to take seriously someone who says, “That guy you want on your team beat and/or raped me,” right?
On that McCaskey told the Tribune:
“I don’t want to interfere with any league investigations that might be ongoing. I did speak with a couple people at the league. They couldn’t offer me a lot of information. But I thought that was an important element to cover.
“An alleged victim, I think — much like anybody else who has a bias in this situation — there’s a certain amount of discounting in what they have to say.”
McDonald paid for his own plane fare to Chicago and insists he’s a changed man. (But he says he didn’t do anything wrong, so from what is he changed … nevermind.) Would a bad guy pay a few hundred bucks for a chance to make seven figures? We should all want our new brothers-in-law to be so noble.
Then a prominent football voice in Chicago media lets everyone know that we have to hear both sides, and there’s the ethos for the garbage reflexive argument you make so that you don’t have to admit you root for the sports success of a human being who probably harms other human beings away from the job.
You are normal. You are well-adjusted. You are defending family.
The alternative is difficult. Believe me, I know. I used to have a sports-rooting motto: “I don’t care if he robbed a liquor store. So long as the legal process has done its thing, can he score points?”
I don’t remember exactly when, but I got honest with myself. I’m entertained by greatness on the field, ice and court, and sometimes that greatness is performed by bad human beings. It isn’t ideal, but sports never are. I won’t, though, ever defend an athlete’s ethics or morals for the sake of reconciling my own viewing interests.
If that compartmentalization is beyond you, OK. But then you have to be honest and say that you value a team you root for winning games over the well being of alleged victim(s) who’re strangers to you. Own it.
Let’s be real here. In the case of football, we already disengage ourselves from the consciousness that the participants are harming themselves for our amusement anyway. But I suspect those so quick to defend a player’s off-field actions are much the same of those who will take a climate change denial to football’s brain effects.
You wouldn’t so vigorously defend an accountant or janitor who is really good at his job but also happens to be really suspect in regards to his treatment of women if the perpetrator weren’t a friend or relative. The mugshot on the 10 p.m. news doesn’t get your “He’s innocent until proven guilty” constitutional scholarship.
Football player on your football team does, though. Which is totally different from someone on a reality show, of course.
Now, if only there was a documentary mini-series about Ray McDonald and his issues with women.
Tim Baffoe is a columnist for CBSChicago.com. Follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not CBS Local Chicago or our affiliated television and radio stations.