You knew it was coming. Anytime there’s a massive scoop in sports journalism, inevitably, a small but vocal contingent will wait a few days for the dust to settle and then swoop in to try and discredit the story.
And that’s happening with Yahoo’s exhaustive 11-month investigation into the Miami football program, which was written by Charles Robinson. The story has made Robinson a national star, even though the sports world has been familiar with his work in recent years (specifically on North Carolina and Jim Tressel; if you haven’t paid attention, he’s chiefly responsible for both coaches getting fired). Longtime readers of this site have known about Robinson since 2009, when we interviewed him.
The Miami story, in short, is tremendous. There’s no debate about that – the story has generated over seven million page views in a matter of days. It seems likely that Sports Illustrated will make a run at Robinson. Or ESPN will go the, ‘if you can’t beat him, join him’ route and scoop him up like it did one of the BALCO boys (Mark Fainaru-Wada).
But because the doubters – or haters, whichever you prefer – are a persistent lot, here’s their argument (or the jist of it, anyway):
* Nevin Shapiro is a fraud and a crook and a liar and WHY SHOULD ANYONE BELIEVE HIM!? As this gentleman details, Yahoo touts 72 players took money over eight years … but really, the number of players who are implicated is significantly fewer because Shapiro appears to be the lone source on many of those claims. And if your only source is Shapiro, how solid is that?
* Shaprio, who is doing 20 years in jail for a $930 million Ponzi scheme, was talking to anybody who would listen last year about selling a book that would implicate the Hurricanes. In August of 2010, he called the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson and told him, “This will be a tell-all book from a fan and booster perspective…I want to make the average fan aware of what really exists under that uniform…They might be great players, but they’re certainly not great people. I’m speaking of no less than 100 former players.”
Shapiro went on to say some of the stuff he told Yahoo – he felt burned by the players who “turned their back on me. It made me feel like a used friend.” Then, the kicker: “Shapiro will use book profits to pay back investors in the alleged Ponzi scheme but cannot keep any for himself, Perez said.
* A few months after Shapiro talked to the Miami Herald, the New Times profiled Shapiro. This is on page one: “Truth is, Shapiro has lived his whole life surrounded by fraud. He’s a violent, unstable liar who nearly blinded a SoBe club owner with a sucker punch in the mid-’90s and threatened his ex-employees.” The article chronicles the rise and fall of Shapiro (it’s a really good story), and paints him as desperate. This is a voicemail left on someone’s phone in Nov. 2010: “Listen up, you fucking white-bread fucking trash… piece of shit. I’m telling you, you fucking better fucking take a call from me, bro. If not, you’re going to have to get a criminal attorney, I’m telling you… little cunt. OK, bye.”
The Devil’s Advocate to the Yahoo Story: Shapiro, embarrassed and humiliated, is desperate to make some money to pay his investors back (it’s laughable that he thinks writing a book will put a dent in that ($930 million), so he’s willing to bend the truth to get anyone to listen. And now that Yahoo has made him a household name, he’ll be able to sell a book!
My opinion – these doubters are wasting their time. There are far too many records – texts, phone calls, credit cards – that can place players and coaches at the scene of the … whatever you want to call it. Would Yahoo really spend 11 months investigating matters if this wasn’t rock solid?