WITH A CHECK, KOBE WRITES HIS ENDING

You didn’t hear much about the end of the Kobe Bryant rape case. But then, crying is more interesting than check writing.

Crying brings out the TV cameras and the breathless reporters and the 100-point headlines and the interrupted newscasts. Crying sells, and there was plenty of crying when this saga began – Kobe in tears, next to his wife, lamenting his terrible “mistake”; the young woman who accused him, reportedly in tears, not only over having her idol treat her like a hooker, but over the way outsiders ridiculed her, leading her to drop out of college and move from town to town.

Crying gets our interest. Jail time gets our interest. A hero falling from grace, facing prison, all over the jackpot of tongue-wagging news junkies – sex – that gets our interest.

But check writing? Settling out of court? Where’s the ratings in that?

Perhaps this explains why last week, buried on the inside pages of newspapers, under no glaring lights, far from a police station or a courtroom or a bed, Kobe Bryant wrote a check to the woman he allegedly raped and she presumably cashed it.

And both swore never to speak of it again.

Now that’s a real Hollywood ending.

A mess of a situation

Problem is, nobody learns anything from it. The only lesson is that if you’ve got enough money, your problems can be solved.

“In Kobe Bryant terms, the check will be small,” a Denver trial lawyer named Larry Pozner said last week. In the accuser’s terms, “the check will be gigantic. Kobe just bought her a home.”

Great. So what we learned is that Kobe has more money than she does?

We didn’t learn if the man who made millions passing himself off as a smiling, confident, all-around good guy actually forced a woman barely out of high school cheerleading to bend over a chair and submit to him an hour after they’d met.

We didn’t learn if this woman, who allegedly had another man’s semen in her underwear when she went to the police, was a hussy of the youngest and worst kind, scheming to pin her troubles on Bryant and walk away rich.

Our kids didn’t learn anything about how you can’t trust a manufactured image. They didn’t learn about responsibility for your mistakes. They didn’t learn about avoiding quickie sex. They didn’t learn about standing up for what’s right if you’ve been wronged.

In fact, if there’s a kid out there today, dribbling a basketball and dreaming of the future, all he has learned is that he better get a really big contract, just in case, you know, one of those “Kobe-kind-of-women” comes after him.

Sounds of silence

By writing a check, Bryant avoids ever having to go on record with what happened that night in Colorado. But by accepting the check, the woman surrenders what her lawyers once claimed was her only interest: to see a rapist brought to justice.

The only for-the-record accounting of this was Bryant’s statement when the accuser dropped her criminal case last fall. Kobe said, “I now understand how she sincerely feels that she did not consent to this encounter.”

As confessions go, this is not much more than, “I admit I was in the room.” It proves nothing. It means nothing. The woman, now married and pregnant less than two years after the alleged rape – and you can imagine how public opinion would view that- took the money and zipped her lips.

And Kobe never missed a game.

That’s a real Hollywood ending. The lawyers meet. Figures get tossed around. A check is written. On a week when Martha Stewart emerges from jail and walks straight back to two TV shows, a week when Bernie Ebbers, former head of WorldCom, tells jurors he didn’t even understand technology, a week when Kobe writes a check and is done with it, we’re not doing a bang-up job in the punishment-no-matter-who-you-are category.

Something terrible still may have happened here. But don’t expect to hear about it. They say you can’t buy or sell morality, but you can buy and sell silence. They just did.

And that’s the end of the story.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or albom@freepress.com. “The Mitch Albom Show” is 3-6. weekdays on WJR-AM (760).

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