It’s sad to say, but most sports journalists could benefit from some exposure to the field of law.
Whether it’s something as national as Kobe Bryant being accused of rape or as local as a football player getting into a fight at a bar, each writer seems to cover his or her share of athletes in legal trouble.
Anybody that has had the (mis)fortune of covering the Michigan men’s basketball team this year has already seen one of its players go from the front page of sports to the front page of news, but not in a good way.
Junior guard Daniel Horton pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charge of domestic violence at a pre-trial hearing on Valentine’s Day, a sad irony to say the least.
The shadow of the crime has affected plenty of people connected to Horton, the least of whom include his teammates. Michigan coach Tommy Amaker suspended Horton indefinitely on Jan. 25, and he has missed the last six games as a result. Probably not so coincidentally, Michigan lost all six of those games, as part of an even larger eight-game losing streak.
But it’s easy for any sports writer to break down this suspension in terms of X’s and O’s — that’s their job. And in their rush toward statistical trends and explanations for Michigan’s failures this year, it’s also far too easy to forget about the source of all these problems and explanations.
As Michigan has floundered and the media has broken down each aspect of the team’s eight-game losing streak, Horton’s name has only appeared in reference to his suspension and his two pre-trial hearings. He has not been allowed to travel or even practice with the team. His locker, the one that used to attract the most members of the press after games, sits curiously empty. Even though his absence in games is a factor the Wolverines can’t seem to escape, it wouldn’t be a stretch if Horton somehow felt like the forgotten one.
If you step back and take a look at it, what should a case of domestic violence have to do with basketball? What should have been an argument that stayed between Horton and his girlfriend snowballed into something ugly. It reached the court system, and rightfully so, where a judge will decide on March 9 just how much Horton should pay, either through a fine or through jail time.
But does any of this have anything to do with basketball?
It’s hard to imagine what Horton and his accuser have gone through during this whirlwind period. The mental anguish is incomparable, and the media would much rather take the easy way out and write about how it has affected Horton’s team — not how it has affected Horton. It’s easy to write the XYZ’s on what Horton’s absence has done to the Wolverines. It’s right there on the court. But to even dare to venture where his state of mind must be right now goes well beyond the boundaries of sports journalism.
Well, Daniel, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. Horton’s lawyer, Gerald Evelyn, said that Horton decided to plead guilty at his second pre-trial because the name of his accuser had been released by media outlets that were already trying to contact her. Horton didn’t want her to have to go through the same public scrutiny that he has faced, so he made the decision to just put the whole incident in the past.
Maybe I’m a sucker, and it could just be one big ploy in order to beat the system, but I believe him.
I’m willing to bet that what Horton has gone through has been enough emotional torment to pay for a crime like this. If he truly regrets what he’s done and sincerely cares about the well-being of his accuser, then all this time off from the sport he loves was justified.
But now he’s willing to take what the justice system considers a fair punishment and accept it. We all should, too.
Daniel Horton needs basketball after what he’s gone through. This nasty episode from his private life gone public has nothing to do with the sport he loves, and, if he’s supposed to get back to normalcy, then basketball is one way to do it. Not for Michigan’s sake, but for Horton’s sake.
Josh Holman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.