Now that our celebrity athletes have almost no privacy at all, what do we, as fans, do with all that information? In a must-read Grantland conversation with Bill Simmons Gladwell lays out a choice:
My problem, though, is that we've moved past exposing hypocrisy to exposing ordinary imperfection.
So John Edwards had an affair and didn't want to tell the world about it. Yes, that's pretty lousy behavior. But does that really justify the Justice Department spending years and years going after him? And do we really have to shake our heads in dismay as if someone lying about an affair has never happened before?
Same with Roger Clemens. So he allegedly used steroids and then allegedly lied about it. It's not like he was spying for the Soviet Union. He was embarrassed and bullheaded and had a terrible lawyer and got worried about his chances of getting into the Hall of Fame -- which makes him as flawed and imperfect as the rest of us. And by the way, who -- outside of his mother -- even for a moment believed him when he said he'd never used steroids? For crying out loud, he went 18-4, with a 2.98 ERA at the age of 42.
It strikes me that we have to make a decision.
One option is to judge behavior harshly. But that requires that we respect privacy. In other words, we can frown on gambling only so long as we permit the Michael Jordans of this world to go to Vegas every now and again and gamble in peace.
The second option is to take away all privacy -- to tweet every public sighting, to comb through trash and to dissect every utterance on the Internet. But that means we have to be a lot more forgiving about human frailty. If we want to tweet "Jordan is down $500,000 at the Bellagio," we have to agree that if an adult worth hundreds of millions of dollars wants to spend his money foolishly placing bets in Vegas that's no better or worse than an adult with millions of dollars foolishly spending his money on private jets or Ferraris or subprime mortgage bonds.
Take your pick. I'm for option two. I'm happy to know that Roger Clemens and John Edwards lied. But having learned that fact, I couldn't care less. The Justice Department has now spent tens of millions of taxpayer dollars pursuing fruitless legal cases against those two guys. Can I please have my money spent on something that actually matters?