The Internet is Dark and Full of Terrors

Over the weekend the University of Tennessee came incredibly close to hiring a new football coach. The Volunteers reportedly were on the verge of hiring Greg Schiano to replace Butch Jones, a move that was disappointing to Tennessee fans because even though Schiano was briefly the coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he wasn’t Jon Gruden, who was also briefly the coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and was at the very top of fans’ wish list for a new coach. Much sadness and frustration spread across the majestic countryside of Tennessee. Then everyone turned to the Internet and everything got dark super quick.

By Sunday evening University officials announced that they had pulled the Schiano offer and the former Rutgers’ coach and current Ohio State assistant wouldn’t be coming to Knoxville after all. Why? Well yes, he wasn’t Jon Gruden. But unfortunately, according to some, he was someone who had covered up for Jerry Sandusky during his time at Penn State, a time when Sandusky preyed on young boys, something he was eventually convicted of. Schiano was an assistant at Penn State in the nineties, and his name had come up in statements made by another former assistant, Mike McQueary, who claimed to have witnessed Sandusky abusing a boy sometime around 2000-2001.

Did McQueary say that Schiano straight up covered up for Sandusky? No. All that was said that Schiano might have heard rumors about Sandusky’s behavior when he was there.

“McQueary only said that another assistant, Tom Bradley (now currently on his way out at UCLA) had told him that there was a rumor that Schiano had heard a rumor that he had some very vague knowledge of Sandusky’s alleged abuse of teenage boys. Both Bradley and Schiano vehemently denied the story when it was strategically leaked back in 2016. There is not even a shred of evidence, or even logic, of any kind, substantiating McQueary’s story about Schiano.”

When news started to leak out that Schiano was the leading candidate for the job, reaction came out fast and furious from fans, former players and local politicians, all of whom were against the hire. Even White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders joined in, taking to Facebook to blast the hire, saying the Volunteers had just hired “the guy who covered up for Jerry [sic] Sandusky.” The Sandusky connection quickly eclipsed the initial negative reaction to a possible Shiano hire, that being his average overall record at Rutgers. As word of the hire spread on Twitter, it wasn’t Schiano’s record as a football coach that drew attention and caused the hire to become a trending topic on Twitter; it was the Penn State thing.

With “Schiano covered up child rape at Penn State” scrawled across a campus landmark, it was only a matter of time before the news changed and before ink was even dried, contracts were tossed.

Now Schiano is left trying to hold on to his current job at Ohio State instead of heading south to Tennessee. From a football perspective, I don’t know enough about college football to know if Schiano would have been a good hire or not. I know he did some good things while at Rutgers, mainly raising the profile of the school and giving it an identity, but he was also a complete failure in Tampa Bay, who fired him in 2013. It should then be seen as not necessarily a good sign that he hasn’t been able to land a head-coaching job since, settling instead for various assistant gigs.

Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, TN

So if you’re a Tennessee fan, it’d be understandable to view the hiring with skepticism if that reaction is based on his track record as a football coach. But it seems like a stretch to cite his involvement in the Sandusky/Penn State scandal as a reason for him not to be fired. It also seems like another example of the Internet possibly not being the best thing in the world and something that perhaps we should all take a little break from.

Shocking I know, but it may be true – the Internet might not be a good thing. It actually be a bad thing. This scorcher of a take may fly in the face of conventional wisdom and popular thinking; it may even seem a touch ironic as this take concerning the Internet lives on the Internet and you are reading it on the Internet, but facts may win out here.

For pros, it’s great, the Internet opens up the world in ways it has never been opened up before. Our ability to understand things, seek out information, obtain valuable context is endless and for that, we will always been grateful to the Internet. The Internet has made things like job-hunting, apartment or house-hunting, even mate-hunting, significantly easier. I can speak from experience. I found my current job online and met my wife online. I also found at least two apartments online, found musicians to play with online and found a buyer for the random fridge that was in our garage when we moved in. I even know a dude who bought a car online, having only visited the dealer once to test the car out. Black Friday was always a thing, but it’s power and popularity is now rivaled by it’s tech-savvy cousin Cyber Monday, a day when you realize just how many stores and businesses have your email because every single one of those bastards have sent you at least three emails by noon.

The Internet provides people with avenues to connect with like-minded individuals, people who share their interests and passions. It acts as a platform for worthy causes, harbors vast treasure troves of the most random archival live video of your favorite band and has made playing fantasy sports infinitely easier despite fantasy sports possibly being the devil.

This isn’t hard to admit: the Internet is dope.

But I don’t think we should automatically give the Internet a pass and ignore it’s faults. This isn’t Game of Thrones we’re talking about here and even with Thrones we’re able to point out it’s short-comings like adults. You know, like the ill-advised Ed Sheeran cameo and the pointlessness of Jon’s plan to capture a Walker to prove their existence to Cersei. No really, that was just a terrible plan and it was poorly executed by everyone involved. Got a dragon killed. Got a priest killed. Someone probably got frost-bite. Not Game of Thrones’ best hour.

Hey now, I got distracted. Sorry. Although it’s strangely appropriate seeing as nothing distracts us more (for better or worse) than the Internet. Acting as a good distraction would certainly fall under the pros column and I don’t want to short-change that. But as with the Internet itself, there are two sides to the story and both aren’t positive. The Internet is just too damn big to only be viewed in one light. We can’t say that it’s fantastic without saying it’s also trouble and potentially damaging to numerous aspects of our daily life.

Fun fact: the Internet is a toxic cesspool of false information, bad intel, worse people and raging rapids of bad intentions. It’s a house of cards; a fact that has become so incredibly obvious that another country realized that sneaking into our Internet and taking advantage of our penchant for over-sharing and gullibility was the best and most effective way to undermine our democracy. And then they just went and did it and it pretty much worked. To make matters worst, the Internet has gone forward as if nothing is wrong. It’s as if the Internet is a priceless antique and the worry is that too much handling of it makes it more susceptible to cracking. We can point out it’s flaws, but can’t risk trying to fix them.

Facebook, who was right smack in the middle of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, has provided a response that is basically the shrug emoji when asked about ways to prevent this from happening again while Twitter has clapped back at critics by removing the blue check mark. I don’t even know what that means. You’re verified? I’m not verified, but I know I’m real. Shouldn’t I be verified? Thanks for clearing that up Twitter. You’ve been super helpful.

Ohio State assistant coach Greg Schiano

The speed of the Internet has also created problems for the news gathers of the world, as the need to get a story out first has come crashing into the lane once occupied by the need to get a story right. Corrections can be made later, just get that jam published. Clicks, baby. There’s no time for a story to be examined from a thousand feet up because the ascent takes too long. This isn’t the journalists fault. It’s the fault of the current reality.

In this current reality, Greg Schiano is certainly not the first person to have their reputation besmirched by the Internet. He also definitely won’t be the last. But he was yet another example of the obvious pitfalls of a service that we have all become too reliant upon.

Listen, we can’t trust the Internet, yet we continue to do so. I’m not saying that the entire thing is untrustworthy, but it has become increasingly harder to decipher fact from fiction and until there is a way to better to do so, incidents like Sunday will continue to happen. There also needs to be some sort of mechanism in place that stops the avalanche of propaganda and lies. The lone voice of truth can’t be drowned out by the bellowing cries of a raging mob. That kind of precarious situation should be reserved for real life! At least in real life, the dissenting voice can find ways around the incoming tide. On the Internet, algorithms control narratives. Once the connection between Schiano and Sandusky/Penn State gained momentum, there was no stopping it, only stopping the hiring of man looking for a job.

This doesn’t seem right. This isn’t right. The court of public opinion has always been blind to justice, but it shouldn’t be driven by an anonymous mob hiding in plain sight. You don’t want Greg Schiano to be your team’s football coach? Fine. But be truthful in your reasoning. Say it’s because he was ultimately mediocre at Rutgers, despite playing a schedule that was pre-inclusion in the Big 10 and he was openly hated by his players in Tampa Bay, one of whom said that playing for him was “like being in Cuba.”

Don’t hide behind false narrative and fake stories. Ah, and the Internet makes it so easy to hide. It takes real courage to throw rocks from a thousand miles away. Real courage.

Greg Schiano will probably be fine, but you have to start to wonder, will we be okay as the power of the Internet continues to grow?

Sometimes I’m not so sure and today is one of those days.




Categories: Current Events, Sports

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