Jeff Pearlman

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The weirdest gaggle of people

I am coward. Hear me (not) roar.

I am coward. Hear me (not) roar.

So in case you missed this, my guest on the latest episode of the Two Writers Slinging Yang podcast was Melissa Schuman, the former Dream singer who has accused a member of the Backstreet Boys of sexual assault. You can listen here.

It’s been a fascinating follow-up, in that there’s this legion of largely anonymous women who are A. Convinced Melissa is lying; B. Determined to make it clear—via anonymous social media posts and the #HiSSideToo hashtag—that Melissa is lying; and C. Love the Backstreet Boys.

And while A and B are, eh, confounding pursuits, C strikes me as the weirdest of all. I mean, I get one having once been 12 and falling in love crush with a Backstreet Boy or two. Right? Good-looking fellas. Famous. Excellent haircuts, fashion-forward wardrobes, spanning the world. Again, as a kid who once worshiped at the shrine of Whitney Houston, I understand.

But then … you grow up. You mature. You attend middle school, followed by high school and (quite often) college. You look back and think, “Hmm, that was quaint.” The Backstreet Boys didn’t write their own lyrics or music. They played nary an instrument (Enter Backstreet Diehard: “I’ll have you know, Kevin played guitar on Track No. 6 of …”). Their vocals were dubbed, then dubbed again and again. When singing live, they depended on piped-in music and pre-recorded sounds. The sentiments expressed via pained and heartbroken and amorous glances were manufactured. None of it was real. Which is fine. That’s the very nature of pop music, and why it appeals primarily to those yet to fully develop their emotions.

At some point, you move on. You discover the Rolling Stones, or Vic Mensa, or even Beethoven. Your loyalties fade. It was a thing. A fun thing. But just a thing.

Or not.

•••

People are allowed to not believe someone.

What I’ll never understand, though, is the need to prove someone is lying about being raped (when you weren’t there, and have no idea) … all because you love the Backstreet Boys. It’s warped, but warped on crack and tequila.

Among the points made about Melissa are:

• She’s in it for fame.

• She’s changed her story myriad times.

• She followed Nick Carter on social media—and why would you do that if he raped you?

• She’s said nice things about him.

And, indeed, perhaps she’s lying. Perhaps there’s big incentive for gaining fame as a rape victim, because what better line to top a resume? But here’s my biggest issue with these (largely anonymous) dolts: The exact same points they make here have been made against victims of rape and sexual assault for years. Over and over and over and over again. The story has changed. There’s financial incentive. She wants to be known. Seriously—Google this shit. The playbook is worn and tired. And it’s maddening, because everything they say has been explained repeatedly by actual experts who understand rape and the aftermath.

But that’s not good enough. It’s never good enough. Because Nick Carter couldn’t possibly rape someone. Look, he’s sensitive. And funny. And, oh, so cute. And so what if he’s been accused of sexual assault once before? So what? She was lying, too. Because Nick … well, have you heard Nick sing on “Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely”? God, he’s so perfect.

Final thought: Perhaps Nick Carter is (in his mind, at least) innocent. Perhaps what she now deems rape he read as consensual sex. Perhaps this is all bullshit and nonsense. Being serious—maybe that’s the case.

But who are you (and who would I be?) to say someone is lying about being raped? Again, it doesn’t mean you have to believe a person. But to say Melissa Schuman is, factually, creating a fake sexual assault is … well, an impossible argument. We weren’t there. You weren’t there. It’s no different than the defenders of Jerry Sandusky or Brett Kavanaugh, certain in knowledge that they can’t be certain of.

So love the Backstreet Boys.

Love Nick Carter.

But don’t act like you know the truth—when you can’t possibly know the truth.

PS: And for Christ’s sake, if you’re gonna OPENLY ACCUSE SOMEONE OF LYING, AT LEAST HAVE THE FUCKING DECENCY AND COURAGE TO PUT YOUR REAL NAME BEHIND IT. FUCKING A.

Showtime Book
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Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

— Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life