Opinion: Before mindlessly burying Pitino and Louisville, can we bury the blind hatred?

BY foxsports • February 5, 2016

Schadenfreude (noun): a feeling of enjoyment that comes from seeing or hearing about the troubles of other people.

I was reminded of this SAT word on Friday afternoon as I watched University of Louisville officials, including embattled head coach Rick Pitino, hold a press conference announcing the school's one-year, self-imposed, postseason ban in response to the prostitution scandal in the school's basketball program.

My initial reaction when the news broke — and the initial reaction of most of the humane people in the sportswriting profession who I enjoy being around — was pretty simple: Sadness for the two fifth-year transfers, Damion Lee and Trey Lewis. Because those two chose to spend the final season of their college careers at Louisville — because they wanted to play in (and have a chance to go deep into) the NCAA tournament. And now they won't.

It sucks. Two players who had absolutely nothing to do with whatever illicit acts went down inside Billy Minardi Hall were punished for someone else's sins. When Pitino spoke about telling his team the school's decision to self-impose the ban — a decision it sounded like Pitino opposed — he told of Lee and Lewis breaking down in tears. Pitino told of their teammates standing up and hugging Lee and Lewis. After months of discussing the salacious details of Katina Powell's allegations that she was hired to host parties at the dorm for players, recruits and their family members, the only reaction a feeling human being ought to have was this: Damn, that is so unfair to Lee and Lewis. No matter who is at fault.

Then I went to Twitter, the place where lowest-common-denominator thinking so often bubbles to the top.

Never a good idea to go to Twitter if you're looking for the best of humanity.

Amid plenty of fair-minded opinions flowed a torrent of gleeful hate. That Pitino should be fired no matter what. That Louisville ought to be given the death penalty and take down its 2013 national title banner. That the self-imposed ban was a joke. And that — get this — these two graduate transfer players somehow deserved this, even though they didn't come to Louisville until this season.

This final absurd way of thinking is perhaps best summed up by this tweet by hot-take-loving Indianapolis radio personality and former college coach Dan Dakich:

"Those 2 kids screwed their previous schools..Karma is a mutha"

Um — what?

He tweeted some similar sentiments about karma then quickly deleted them. Amazing concept: To think about how unfair your gut-reaction hot take is and then to think better of it.

There are plenty of things wrong with America today. There are race issues within our borders and diplomatic issues outside of them. There's the threat of terrorism and the reality of climate change. There's a presidential election where important issues are cast aside for tabloid fodder, there's a do-nothing Congress, there's an economy that's forever unstable, there are problems around immigration that divide America right down the middle. I'd be silly to think that this flaw in our society, this constant sense of us gloating in the failures of others, even registers in the top 100.

But in the sports media landscape, it seems like this way of thinking — of lifting a sports hero or a sports team onto a pedestal only to take great joy in that person or team being knocked off that pedestal — is the norm. We suddenly pretend to be aghast at reports of Johnny Manziel striking his ex-girlfriend and threatening to kill them both, but we forget our own role in his implosion, at how our tabloid-focused mindset has spent years sniffing at his jock and then reveling in his failures. We wonder how Tiger Woods has become just another golfer instead of a transcendent superstar, but we forget we spent years mocking his personal life for our own giggles. We love to jump to big-time conclusions on controversies without knowing (or, to be honest, caring) what is actually going on.

Another Dakich tweet from Friday afternoon:

Great. You said it first. We put more stock in being the first one to make a salacious, far-reaching statement — in being the first one to spout the biggest, baddest opinion — than we do in waiting for a fair and honest treatment of the facts.

Which, you know, used to be the American way.

Louisville's self-imposed ban is substantial to those two players, but it is not a program-debilitating punishment. A team that had a shot at going deep into March in this up-in-the-air college hoops season now has only four regular season games left in its season. Recruiting won't be affected. It remains to be seen whether the NCAA's yet-to-be-completed investigation will come down harder on Louisville than Louisville came down on itself. And it remains to be seen whether it can be proven if Pitino knew what was going on under his watch.

Not that a fair and honest treatment of the facts matters to those who were sitting back and basking in someone else's misfortunes on Friday.

Maybe Pitino knew. Maybe he will get fired. If it's proven — proven — that he knew, I hope he does get fired.

Here's what Pitino said at the press conference about the prostitution scandal:

If it's proven that Pitino knew and tolerated a staffer buying prostitutes for his players, then by his definition he is the most sinister individual he's ever met. If that ends up being the case then the book should be thrown at him. He should be disgraced and run out of the profession. I can only imagine the schadenfreude that'll come out then will make Friday's pale in comparison.

But in the meantime, can we stop all the gloating? Can we temper our unbridled "lol-lmfao" joy at other people's mistakes and misfortunes?

Can we put our own hot takes aside and display some humanity for once?

Or can we never put this awful side of humanity, this glee at the latest headline-grabbing human failings, back in the box now that it has fully revealed itself as the ugly side of the age of social media?

Follow Reid Forgrave on Twitter @reidforgrave or email him at ReidForgrave@gmail.com.