Yesterday morning I visited the Twitter feed from Stefan Stevenson (@FollowtheFrogs), a writer for the Star-Telegram. I was trying to go back through his account of the previous night’s basketball game between TCU and UNLV which resulted in the biggest win by TCU in more than a decade. But the most recent tweet from him at that time did not mention the win; instead it reported the news of a campus wide drug sting.
As everyone knows by now, the Fort Worth Police Department, in cooperation with TCU, ended an undercover investigation lasting several months with the arrests of 17 students, including 4 football players. Those details weren’t salacious enough for most of us so the rest of the day was spent chasing rumors that the entire football team (or a large majority of them) failed a drug test; that more arrests were forthcoming; that the University covered up illegal drug activity; that one of the suspects yelled obscenities at the local media upon being released from jail and on and on.
We relish this stuff. The more false innuendo and dirty rumors the better. The facts don’t sate our rabid desire for scandal. And we as individuals are not central enough to the story line so we have to inject ourselves smack dab into the middle by spreading a bunch of “I heard x” and “someone told me y.” We especially like it if it happens at a rival school or if we think someone is getting a comeuppance.
Today there is much hand wringing about an epidemic of drug use and violent cartels at TCU. Depending on whom you listen to the entire administration and/or head coach needs to be fired; the football team needs to be disciplined; the University needs to institute mandatory drug tests. You get the picture.
There is no question that the arrests sounded the alarm that there may be a deeper problem here that needs to be addressed. But there is also a disgusting level of sanctimony and a misplaced desire for immediate retribution. There is a columnist who writes today that this will leave a permanent “stain.”
Spare me. Unless you grew up on the set of “Leave it to Beaver” you are aware that a college campus is a microcosm of modern day society. There are drug dealers and drug buyers in society.
But for every two bit dope dealer there are scores of students who work hard, go to class and live with integrity. And that is, in no way, meant to imply that even some of the students arrested aren’t, on the whole, good kids who happened to make dreadfully stupid mistakes. Therefore, as difficult and un-sexy as it may be, I’ll reserve judgment.
This country was founded upon the principal of due process. I don’t give a damn how much you believe these guys are guilty, it’s still up to the State to prove it. And thank goodness for that. In fact, one need look no further than the arrest warrants issued yesterday for proof that due process is such a vital cornerstone of our rights. One of the arrest warrants named an Austin Carpenter, complete with his picture. Unfortunately, the police officer made a mistake in identity. So as Austin Carpenter was getting ready to walk into a job interview, he received a call from his brother informing him that his name and picture were being broadcast on televisions across the metroplex. The police later apologized for the error. I’m sure that made Mr. Carpenter feel better.
(As an aside, the Austin Carpenter mistake will be front and center when it comes to attacking the accuracy of the identification of these suspects. Trust me, this error will negatively impact the prosecution of every case.)
Until the cases are concluded I’ll try to focus on the students who get lost in the glare of the gossip-students like Hank Thorns who scored 32 points (12 in overtime) to rally TCU past eleventh ranked UNLV on Tuesday night. Yep, the Runnin’ Rebels. Remember those outlaws? 😉