The only thing better than watching the internet uncover more shots of Connor Stalions stalking sidelines of both Michigan and their opponents, like they're photos of some black ops guy walking behind the fence on the Grassy Knoll at Dealey Plaza, is watching Michigan Men try to act like it's all one great big Royale Nothingburger.
First, it was "We have no idea who Connor Stalions is." Followed by some version of, "Stalions is just some low level staffer with no responsibilities." Then "It might have gone on, but Jim Harbaugh was completely in the dark about it." Now it's fallen to the level of "Everybody does it." Mixed with an unhealthy dose of Whataboutism.
Take for instance, Desmond Howard today on ESPN. Being one of only three Heisman winners in school history comes with certain obligations. And damned if he didn't try to meet them with a bit of persecution complex:
Listen, I can empathize with Howard. Yes, he crushed my dreams with a 99-yard kickoff return to make Super Bowl XXXI a 14-point game (why Bill Parcells decided that he had to abandon the run game at that point, with 18 minutes left, after Curtis Martin had just ripped off an 18-yard touchdown is a question I plan to ask him when we meet in purgatory), but I harbor no ill will toward the man.
But then, I think he doth protest too much. As Ralph Waldo Emerson famously put it, "The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons." The arguments here, if there actually are any, are all over the map. Arguing that they're being persecuted by the Big Ten simply for being so super awesome, while claiming the SEC teams would never want to take down Nick Saban. And making repeated use of the Michigan Man buzzword of the day, "Due Process":
I consider myself a reasonable man. Due process is more than just a basic right, it's a cornerstone of our entire system of justice. I won't argue that this sounds like trying to get off on a technicality, the equivalent of Harbaugh claiming he was never read his rights. That would be demagoguery. Because everyone accused of wrongdoing is entitled to a fair hearing.
But what is the defense here? That Connor Stalions didn't attend all those games that everyone has the ticket receipts for? That he wasn't in the coaches' ears, like during the biggest blowout Notre Dame suffered in the Brian Kelly era?:
Or that he was, but it's only being made an issue because it's Wolverine football and no one would care if it were Alabama?
Whatever the defense of the moment is, no one gets to argue they don't have to present one. That works in regular due process, but not here. I have some experience when it comes to football teams being accused of cheating. I don't remember Desmond Howard screaming about the Patriots' rights to a fair trial when they were charged with filming the Jets sideline in 2007. I don't remember Michigan politicians signing a letter threatening Roger Goodell when he wiped his pasty ass with Tom Brady's presumption of innocence when some footballs got soft in the cold. And for sure, I never remember anyone outside of New England demanding justice when draft picks were being taken away and suspensions were being handed down over nothing.
No, then the talk was all about demands that the camera guy be hauled before congress to give sworn testimony. Journos went to the houses of Jim McNally and John Jastremski. The Deflator and Dorito Dink. The R2D2 and C3PO of the Deflategate saga. And everyone in the country demanded that Brady hand over his personal phone to the very people who were trying to destroy him. Worse, when he refused, they took that as proof of guilt. And for certain all the yelling we did about other NFL coaches saying they all taped opponents' signals (Jimmy Johnson) and quarterbacks saying how they doctored balls (Aaron Rodgers, Eli Manning, Brad Johnson) fell on deaf ears.
So don't talk to us about due process. The bar for football team cheating scandals was set a few Patriots "-Gates" ago. Let Michigan come clean. Prove their innocence. And quit hiding behind the law. It's totally unfair, but we didn't make the rules. The rest of America did.