The story became public at 1 p.m. last Tuesday. By 3:30 the cutting jokes were already circulating at Madison Square Garden, all at the expense of broadcaster Marv Albert, who had indictments handed down against him for alleged violations against a woman involving sex acts.
The sports talk shows were running amok with theories about what had occurred. The New York tabloids ran the story on the front and back pages the next day. Another piece of sports titillation to satisfy the unsatiated need to grovel in sensationalism.
Nobody knew the facts, then or now, except the parties involved. The truth, or at least an honest search for it, is not going to stand in the way of writing and talking about a story with a high-profile sports name.
Because the story was going to be reported without regard to seeking the facts, the spin doctors went to work immediately. Albert, surrounded by his family, held a press conference to deny the charges. The cameras whirred, the shutters clicked and that scene became the story.
The woman involved started talking to the media camped out on her lawn, seeking to counter stories of her past threats against family members and former fellow employees. There are publishers already lining up for the book rights.
Perhaps all of this is nothing new in the history of mankind. It is no less disturbing. Albert’s guilt or innocence as to the charges will be decided by the legal system. The importance of that system and the need for its independence is made abundantly clear by the “trial of sensationalism” going on in the media. Have we learned nothing from the O.J. Simpson disaster?
Worse yet are the sports talk shows in so many cities which long ago gave up reporting and now grope daily for some extreme statement to make that’s more extreme than yesterday’s. The “shock jocks,” like Howard Stern and Don Imus, have their equivalent in sports. They will all use the Albert story for every ounce of titillation they can get.
The danger is that we come to believe the babble is the truth, that the spin doctors are fact-finders. In the Frank Gifford case of the video of him with “a woman not his wife,” a celebrity spin doctor (public relations firm) has been hired to get out a story more favorable to the party that hired him.
Who is reading all this non-story stuff? Who is listening to all this jumble? Are we so devoid of having a life that we support this insipid trash to fill the big hole called living? The Simpson case proved far too many answer, “yes.”
The response of a responsible public is nothing new. Demand truth. Don’t support the sensationalism by listening or buying. Seek fairness. When we stop doing these things, we become the dupes of the manipulators.
The cases of Albert and Gifford are personal moments of pain. Whether self-inflicted and or wrongly imposed are issues to be decided. The cases are public because the figures are. A dignified public response is no less appropriate.