Erin Andrews, Privacy, and the Internet

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erinIt's Saturday, July 18th at 5 pm and I'm sitting at work right now because this is what happens when you're me, but that's another story for another time.  We've got something very serious to cover right now and I won't have any distractions.  I was innocently cruising the internet whilst eating my lunch a few hours ago, and I started with my Google Reader.  I hadn't looked at the net at all yesterday or the day before, so my Reader was chock full of goodness.  But let's just skip right past the death of Walter Cronkite and the arrest of the Fight Club-inspired jackass who torched a Starbucks a few months ago, and jump right to the good stuff.  Several posts on the sports blog Deadspin charted the story of video clip of a naked Erin Andrews.

Here's the story with it: while on the road in a hotel and in, what her lawyer called, a "state of extreme undress," i.e. totally naked, she was videotaped through the peephole of her hotel room door.  The video was shown on a site called and was removed in a very short time after ESPN sent an army of lawyers into the ether to get it quashed from the net.  For the people who live on the net and had been waiting for this day to come all their lives, this was clear confirmation that it was in fact Andrews in the video and a search for the Google cache was then on.  The video was found, and somehow posted on a few more sites, as the lawyers chase the links.

If you don't know who Erin Andrews is then you are either a gay man or you don't follow sports, those two things being in no way related.  On the off-chance you're neither of those things and still don't know who she is, let me explain: she is a sideline reporter for ESPN and also maybe the world's perfect woman.  She's great looking, tall and blond and perfectly shaped.  She has amazing breasts.  She's also, obviously, totally into sports which puts her over the top.  As well, she seems really normal and easy going and maybe even funny; at least Bill Simmons (who had her on his podcast twice) and Chris Connelly constantly sing her praises.  I'm well aware that our height disparity (she's 5'10 and I'm not) means that she will never date me, even if all the other stars aligned, but the rest of the world doesn't share my firm grasp on reality.  Which means she is, let us say, a favorite of the blogoshere.  Or maybe the word is obsession; a Goggle Image search for her returns 306,000 results.

The aforementioned Deadspin has an "Erin Andrews" tag because they write about her so much, whether it's to cover what she's wearing to the ESPY's, anytime someone gets a picture of her, or even to break the news that she has a sister who is also good looking.  Earlier this month, while covering a Mets-Dodgers game, Andrews got hit in the face with a foul ball and this apparently necessitated four, count 'em four, posts on the event, which is one more than they wrote about the incident of the naked video.  Other sports sites get in on the act too, the Big Lead lead that day with "Balls. Face. Erin Andrews. (Get Your Mind Out of the Gutter, It Happened at a Mets Game)", even TMZ covered it.  And Chick Ludwig, of the Dayton Daily News, wrote a blurb about it with the title "Sportscaster Erin Andrews Gets a Facial" which has since been revised, but was preserved for posterity also on the Big Lead because they care a lot about setting the record straight and not childish references to sex acts.  And also because they love Erin Andrews and also kind of hate her, just like nearly everything the internet feels strongly about.

It pretty much goes without saying at this point in time that if people like something or someone than other people hate that thing or person with an intense passion that can only be expressed through the series of tubes that is the internet.  Sometimes I think this is what the internet was invented for, so people can anonymously spew vitriol and sometimes even slander anyone they happen to hate at the moment.  Erin Andrews has a special spot in this virtual world since she is lusted after like a starlet and also resented because of the way a lot of male sports fans feel about women being involved.  She is adored for her looks and also derided for them, because she's only on camera (or employed) because of them, some feel, and she's been dogged by this for years.  (Last year, a fellow female sideline reporter told Andrews to "suck it" out of bitterness and jealousy.)  It was talked about for around twenty minutes in her most recent appearance on Simmons' podcast and is seemingly never far from her mind.  I assume this incident with the video won't help that.

Deadspin, who had originally written about the suspicion that it was Andrews and then the litigation-fueled confirmation that it was her, also took the time to post a "don't blame the blogosphere" meditation by Editor AJ Daulerio.  Among other things, Daulerio's point is that he doesn't feel good about this and takes "full responsibility" for the legs of the story and specifically for posting the name of the site that hosted the original video in his first post on the matter.  Daulerio is also drawing a line between what this person did and what he does on a regular basis, check out these posts about her ass that also refer to her as "sideline princess."  It's not unusual for people to grow remorseful when what they perceive as harmless fun turns into something much more foul, but I think we all need to accept that the internet's dark side cannot be denied any longer, that said dark side is powerful and alluring and everything that we pretend not to be most of the time but turn out to be when alone.

Because I'll admit that, yesterday, I really wanted to see Erin Andrews naked.  I would have loved for that to have been in person and in the heat of passion, but let's not kid ourselves here.  And yet today I'm not so sure (but, full disclosure requires that I did in fact find the video).  It's just too seedy and immoral.  A video shot through a peephole is just too dark for me.  For some reason, it feels different than any of the million nipple slips or getting-out-of-a-car-snafu shots that float around constantly.  The invasion of privacy is too great to make it fun or funny, it's simply awful, and another example of how privacy is an increasingly rare commodity these days.  I recognize that some might feel this to be a kind of prudish and yet I really hope that I find myself in the majority on this one, a position I rarely find myself in.  It would be nice if one time, the internet did a little moral policing of itself.  I frequently wonder how an instrument that so often is used to point out the hypocrisy of others can subsist on the notion that there is no moral relativism at all.  I don't often find myself thinking that the best of us might come through, but I'm really hoping for it this time.  Maybe this is because I've seen Peeping Tom one too many times, maybe it's because I really do carry a ridiculous torch for her, maybe it's because the juvenile bullshit of the internet was fun for a few years and now it's so goddamn tiresome I can't take it anymore.  Or maybe it's because it's soul crushing that we've come back to be a society where our best ideas are expressed with words just to have those words be full of anger and hate.

I just hope that this might cause the sports blogosphere to grow up a bit, but i doubt it.  Or maybe this incident will get some people off Andrews' back, but that's a small price to pay for what she'll always remember as one of her worst days ever and an incredible invasion of her privacy.  Certainly, there will be people who don't really care or are actually happy about it, in a philosophical sense I mean, not just to have glimpsed her flesh; if she got famous because of her body, then it's fitting it would catch up to her this way, live by the sword, die by the sword, they will write.  I'm sure the comments section of any of the Deadspin posts will back me up.


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    Quick update: a few places, Deadspin among them, are now reporting that the video may have been taken from an adjoining room using a small fiber optic camera that would have need only a quarter-inch hole in the wall. Since it's unlikely that the Best Western (or wherever) that Andrews was staying in on the road had concrete walls, this does seem a viable possibility.

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    I was going to post as some anonymous "boo-ya comment leaver" but instead I'll just keep with the John Goodman alias that is already on my firefox from the last time I commented, but basically I think the anonymity of the internet makes for poor self-policing. What was that website with Chris Farley's autopsy pictures? Oh yeah, I think it was rancid dot com. Well, I guess we see it re-iterated here.

    John Goodman

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    [...] - What was the biggest disappointment of the weekend? My rain coat is not entirely water PROOF.  Not really too bad, sorry.  Maybe I should make something up.  I lost $350,000 in online gambling!  My house collapsed!  I accidentally ended up in a snuff porn where I was the victim!  Someone put a video online of me naked in my hotel room!  There!  Are you happy now, Matt? [...]

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