We’re not always the smartest animals. We’re convinced of things that aren’t true all the time. Lying wouldn’t be a problem at all if it wasn’t effective. Combine our easily manipulated minds with an overwhelming urge to find easy answers to difficult questions, and the result is someone who calls into sports radio programs with strong opinions on topics about which they’re largely ignorant.
However, expressing an uneducated opinion on the pass blocking skills of the Philadelphia Eagles offensive line is one thing; fervently judging the legitimacy of murder accusations against an athlete are quite another. Sadly, the unwritten rules that govern our freedom to utter sports-related beliefs without proper evidence extends into the real world all too often for the sports fan when he or she is presented with a sports-related story that has actual social implications.
This ugly phenomenon has most recently been seen in the case of South African Olympic inspiration and Paralympic champion Oscar Pistorius, who was charged with the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, a popular South African model and spokesperson for women’s rights. On Tuesday, as Steenkamp’s body was buried, Pistorius told his version of events to a courtroom for the first time during his bail application.
I woke up to close the sliding door and heard a noise in the bathroom. I was scared and didn’t switch on the light. I got my gun and moved towards the bathroom. I screamed at the intruder because I did not have my legs on I felt vulnerable. I fired shots through the bathroom door and told Reeva to call police. I walked back to the bed and realized Reeva was not in bed. It’s then it dawned on me it could be her in there.
This, unsurprisingly, contradicts the case laid out by the prosecution which included a very different sequence of events leading up to the shooting death. According to prosecutor Gerrie Nel, an argument between Pistorius and Steenkamp erupted while the two were in bed and the victim locked herself in the bathroom to avoid further conflict. Pistorius then got out of bed, put on his prosthetic legs, grabbed a gun from the bedroom, walked over to the bathroom door and fired through it multiple times.
She couldn’t go anywhere. You can run nowhere. It must have been horrific.
According to Nel, Pistorius then broke down the door with a cricket bat and carried her body downstairs.
As the case was being presented, it wasn’t a door, but the athlete who broke down, this time in tears, sobbing loudly enough to prompt the magistrate to halt the proceedings.
My compassion as a human being does not allow me to just sit here. I know it’s difficult. You can’t go back to the police station not understanding what has gone on here today. Do you understand?
Pistorius confirmed that he did, and the proceedings continued, lasting a total of five hours with plans to continue tomorrow. It’s expected that the Pretoria courtroom will once again be packed.
This is all for a bail hearing. We can only imagine the media circus that would be created by an actual trial.
Let’s not forget about the importance of such a process. This isn’t merely the outcome of a sporting event, where we might get away with offering our hollow “analysis.” This is the death of a human being, and the potential destruction of the life of another. This is the reason a person accused of premeditated murder goes through an entire trial before they’re convicted or set free. The process is important.
However, the integrity of that process is going to be incredibly difficult to maintain, not only because of the public profile of the case or preconceived judgments that sports fans can’t help but form, but also the salacious details that continue to emerge. The latest element of the saga includes assumptions that Pistorius and Steenkamp were fighting over a text message that was sent to the woman by Springbok Francois Hougaard, a rugby player on the South African national team.
There’s no evidence of Hougaard’s involvement, at all. However, it’s the type of information that will emerge throughout this process and be used to further sway opinion in the least reasonable way possible. Two days ago, it was a bloody cricket bat found at the scene that was “obviously” used as a weapon. There’s nothing obvious about any of it. And today, it was revealed that “boxes and boxes” of steroids in every imaginable form were found at Pistoius’s house during his arrest.
If you’re entirely convinced of either the prosecution or defense’s story, I’m entirely convinced that you’re jumping to conclusions. Burglars in bathrooms? Genuine tears? Love triangles? ‘Roid rage? There are far too many questions associated with every explanation for anyone to be reasonably convinced of anything.