On The Flip Side: Feigned Outrage

Allegedly, members of the Minnesota hockey team were caught drinking at a campus bar over the period of a couple of months.

You know what’s surprising about it? They were caught. Think about all of the places any college athlete has to drink beer — a frat house, the dorm, the living room of their sexy teaching assistant — and the fact that a group of Gophers risked being filmed in public throwing down a few cold ones is stunning. They could not have believed that the metropolis of Dinkytown, home to Blarney Bar & Grill, where the alleged stein-hoisting occurred, would afford them much anonymity.

Assuming the accusations are true, and the evidence that KMSP television presented seems convincing, have those players violated the law? Yes. Did they violate team policy? Yes. Did what they do hurt their team? Absolutely.

To borrow a line from Jim Bouton, “Pounding the old Budweiser” adversely affects their on-ice play. I’ll go one step further and say that those student-athletes set a bad example for all of the high school players who aspire to play for Minnesota some day. The athletes have to be punished in some fashion.

But please, after a months-long investigation by KMSP, they reached the following conclusion: College Students Drink. Pass out the Pulitzers now. I’m not even sure The Onion would write a fake headline that lame. Remember the old inspector from Casablanca, “I’m shocked to find there’s gambling going on here,” as he collects his winnings?

If any news outlet secretly followed any group of college students for a two-month period, they would encounter the underage consumption of alcohol. It does not make it right, but we ought to tone down the histrionics when confronting an issue that everyone knows occurs and that many accept as a fact of life. To expect a group of hockey players to act any differently from the rest of the U.S. violates common sense.

Feigning moral outrage is a cottage industry in this country. We go out of our way to expose other people’s flaws, while neatly ignoring the beam in our proverbial eye. Too much time is wasted playing the baiting game, all so we can have our jollies by forcing people like Minnesota coach Don Lucia to defend the honor of their institution by issuing public statements like this:

“I am disappointed and concerned with the choices that some of our student-athletes made in connection with recent reports of underage drinking. This is an issue we take seriously and one that we will deal with internally, just as we would with any other situation that arises within our program. This is an opportunity for myself, the University community and players’ parents to continue to educate these student-athletes on the issues surrounding underage drinking.”

You can bet that once the legal matter is resolved, we’ll force the players to issue a suitably remorseful public apology too.

Let me be clear that I’m not excusing the players’ actions, especially given the rise of binge drinking, but one has to question the type of zeal that leads to a news outlet staking out a bar for two months on this issue. Too often, the result is nothing but hypocrisy.

The author of the Book of Virtues has a gambling addiction. The leading crusader for moral rectitude on talk radio is addicted to OxyContin. Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” merits a massive fine and public flogging.

All of this petty squabbling distracts us from confronting the genuine moral calamities that befall our society. It took a hurricane to expose the deep poverty in New Orleans. The Washington Post reported this week that the CIA has several black-ops sites across the world where they allegedly torture prisoners. Let’s spend our investigative energies debating these issues.

Once upon a time, New York Times reporter R.W. Apple called his editor to inform him that President John Kennedy was having an affair. His editor told him that it wasn’t news.

After all, there was a Cold War going on.

My sincere hope is that the remainder of this underage drinking case is handled away from the public eye. Let the players involved quietly suffer whatever sanction Lucia imposes and hopefully they learn a lesson. And that the next time a news station or anybody discovers that a group of college students have gained illegal entry to a bar, they report it to the right people — local law enforcement.

Sparking a genuine conversation about underage drinking would be news. Discovering that college students drink? There’s a reason the movie was entitled Old School.

Other stories on the KMSP evening broadcast:

• Some people at a bar drink too much, then sing loud and off-key — Our hidden microphones captured it all!

• College dining hall food is not as good as Mom’s — In a blind taste test, we compared the meat loaf and the spaghetti and found that even with the soft serve fro-yo, the dining hall doesn’t measure up.

• Michigan State fans dislike Michigan — We’ve secretly videotaped thousands of Spartan fans and found that they used profanity when referring to the Wolverines.

• Without Will Ferrell, Saturday Night Live is not as funny — Contrary to what Lorne Michaels said, we’ve watched hours of SNL and did not laugh as much.

• Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker’s father — Our hard-hitting news team has the CGI evidence to prove it!