No matter how many times they're explained, some things just don't make sense: Advanced calculus. Cold Fusion. Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) dating Meadow Soprano (Jamie-Lynn Sigler).
The way ESPN has failed to cover the controversy surrounding Ben Roethlisberger is the same sort of impossible-to-understand noggin-scratcher. On Monday, news broke of a civil lawsuit filed in Nevada on July 17 by a woman alleging she was sexually assaulted by the Steelers quarterback. Since then, the story has been covered by the Associated Press, CBSSports.com, Yahoo, Pro Football Talk (now owned by NBC), Fox News, and other national media outlets.
Here's a recap of the big stories SportsCenter had on loop yesterday morning and afternoon: Brett Favre - still unemployed. Roy Halladay - still a Blue Jay. The Phillies - boy, are they good. And, everyone's favorite, "the latest on [Michael] Vick." If you're wondering, the latest on Vick is the same as the not-so-latest on Vick - he's out of prison and looking for a gig. Tell your friends.
All that, but no mention of Roethlisberger. Why?
"At this point, we are not reporting the allegations against Ben Roethlisberger because no criminal complaint has been filed," an ESPN spokesman told me. "As far as we know, this is a civil lawsuit that Roethlisberger has yet to address publicly."
That's true. Roethlisberger hasn't addressed it publicly. And it doesn't look like he's going to any time soon. The Steelers canceled a news conference scheduled for tomorrow that was designed to promote Roethlisberger's involvement with Shaquille O'Neal's new reality show.
But since when has an athlete's silence or lack of cooperation prevented ESPN from covering a story? And Roethlisberger may not have addressed the civil suit, but his lawyer denied the claim on Roethlisberger's behalf and told the AP the quarterback will be "fully exonerated." Sure sounds like he's aware of what's happening.
The sticking point for ESPN seems to be that the woman in question filed a civil suit instead of criminal charges. But a quick review of ESPN's reporting history shows the company has covered several civil suits recently, including those filed against former Cowboy Adam "Pacman" Jones, former baseball star Roberto Alomar, and Lakers point guard Shannon Brown.
Vince Doria, ESPN's vice president and director of news, told me the decision to report on or ignore civil suits changes from case to case.
"Each situation is different," Doria said, adding that ESPN will continue to look at the Roethlisberger situation on a daily basis. "I can give you all sorts of examples of civil suits we have and haven't covered."
Doria said the company spends a lot of time thinking about these things in an attempt to be fair to the athletes in question. Maybe ESPN is overthinking it here. Because it feels like the logic is flawed.
Yesterday, Pro Football Talk reported that ESPN issued a "do not report" memo to all of its outlets and reporters" essentially commanding them to avoid the Roethlisberger story. An ESPN spokesman said that's because the WWL wants all of its entities to handle stories the same way. That makes sense. What doesn't make sense, at all, is that on the same day ESPN issued the "do not report" memo, the company cleared its radio station in Pittsburgh - which, unlike the affiliate here in Philadelphia, is owned and operated by the corporate big boys in Bristol - to discuss the Roethlisberger controversy.
Now how does that track?
If you think the company's decision-making process is capricious and strange, you're not alone. The people responsible for putting content on ESPN and ESPN radio weren't exactly thrilled yesterday.
"People were going insane," an ESPN source told me. "Fox News was doing the story. The AP had it. And they wouldn't even let us mention it. You can't ignore the story. It needs to be on SportsCenter. It makes us look bad. It's not a topic for discussion, but you have to acknowledge that it's being reported, that the story exists."
The story does exist. We all know it. Roethlisberger and his lawyers and the Steelers know it, too. But ESPN - the biggest, most influential sports media outlet on the planet - is pretending otherwise.
Despite ESPN's explanation, I keep coming back to the same brain-frying question: why?
One of the president's advisers, David Axelrod, told the Chicago Tribune that some MLB executives weren't thrilled about the commander-in-chief's wardrobe at last week's All-Star Game in St. Louis: "There was a big controversy," he said. "I think Major League Baseball wanted him to wear the all-star jacket, and he was intent on wearing his White Sox jacket. He prevailed in that." This is complicated. I'd like to help the MLB executives in question understand. Here goes: He's the president. He gets to wear whatever he wants. Savvy? . . . In yesterday's column about ESPN sideline reporter Erin Andrews, I wrote that I was unsuccessful in reaching an ESPN spokesman for comment about the video that was illegally and surreptitiously taken of her and then posted on the Internet. That was true, but there was a reason for it. I accidentally gave the ESPN spokesman the wrong contact number. Here's ESPN's statement on the incident: "Erin has been grievously wronged here. Our people and resources are in full support of her as she deals with this abhorrent act." . . . Just four more days until rookies and selected vets report to Lehigh for training camp. Start knocking the rust off your Eagles chants.