Cheating in pro sports is no longer surprising.  We’ve lived through the steroid era and witnessed Spy-gate (New England Patriots).  The fact that most pro athletes are not role models is tending towards fact rather than opinion.  We know this because of Tiger Woods, Roger Clemens, and Michael Vick.  What does continue to surprise me, however, is the media’s reaction to both cheating and immoral behavior.  The sports media is more interested in glorification and instant gratification than accountability and journalism.

The perfect case study to illustrate my argument is how the media has handled the Cam Newton (QB at Auburn) controversy.  It has been alleged that Cam Newton has violated multiple NCAA rules, as well as the law.  (1) It has been alleged that while at Florida backing up Tim Tebow, Newton cheated on at least one major academic paper.  Allegedly, when the papers were turned in, Newton erased the name off another student’s paper and wrote-in his own name, then submitted the paper as is his own.  When the professor and the original author discovered the cheating, Newton undeservedly was offered a chance to redo the paper.  This time, Newton turned in a paper which the professor discovered was purchased off the internet.  (2) It is alleged that while at Florida Newton stole another student’s laptop.  (3) It is alleged that Newton and his father, prior to transferring to Auburn, sought over $100,000 in illegal payments from college boosters in exchange for his enrollment at the booster’s institution.

Newton’s Auburn Tigers currently are ranked second in the BCS standings and poised to play for the national championship.  Newton is also the leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy, college football’s highest individual honor.   The media is loving Cam Newton.  ESPN’s analysts and writers cannot heap enough praise on this kid.  Some are even proclaiming “Tim Tebow, who?”  Newton’s story, like his play, is full of excitement, drama, deceit, and achievement.  It’s pure entertainment.  The national talking-heads make it clear that they are cheering for Newton because everyone loves and appreciates a redemption story.

What’s missing, however, is the responsibility that should precede redemption.  How can someone who has yet to claim responsibility or suffer retribution redeem himself?  Nevertheless, lets assume you can redeem yourself without first accepting responsibility, can a person really redeem himself for cheating and breaking the law off-the-field simply by performing historically on-the-field?

After cheating and stealing (allegedly) at Florida, Newton fled to a junior college for a year in order to avoid punishment and a suspension.  Cam Newtorn has yet to address the play-for-pay claims against him while evidence collected by FBI agents mounts.  Rather, he’s just soaking in the hype and love as we approach Heisman weekend in a few weeks.

There is nothing redeeming in this story!  Cam Newton is entirely distinct than what we are witnessing with Michael Vick (who in my book is on his way to redemption, but not completely there yet).  Vick pled guilty to the allegations against him.  He served time in a federal prison.  He experienced a bankruptcy.  He trained hard and returned to the NFL.  Now, while he is playing well on-the-field, his true redemption is occurring off-the-field.  He continues to educate others on the mistakes he made, handled the Kolb-Vick starting controversy with humility and respectfulness, and is quietly and humbly playing hard while appreciating his second opportunity.

Many of the  “journalists” who equate Newton with Vick and have the privilege voting for the Heisman have already gone on record as saying that the off-field allegations will not be a factor when they crown Newton in New York (at the Heisman Trophy Ceremony) in a few weeks.  They are going to vote for Newton and just let “the process” work out the rest.  Well, what happened to journalism in this country?  Journalism used to be driven by investigative work.  Journalism was part of “the process.”  Why is ESPN promoting and forgiving this kid?  Where are their standards?  Does entertainment outweigh the myth of the division 1 student-athlete and the respect of Newton’s victims?  Sure seems that way in Bristol (ESPN HQ) these days.

Agree or disagree?  Leave a comment below and let me know!

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