Cardella: Don’t Cheer for Cosby

I graduated from Temple University in 1960. At that time Temple was a school with a concrete campus — a school for kids from working class-families. If there was ever a school that needed an image boost, it was Temple.

Temple had one of the worst teams in college football. Never a winning season during my four years there. The Owls lost to everyone. And I mean everyone. Lost to “powerhouses” such as Kings Point Merchant Marine Academy. On our field! I was the sorry-ass who broadcast that game. A guy named Bill Cosby was a running back on the team. If life were a Hollywood movie, Cosby would’ve become a Temple football hero and a football all-American. Cosby became so more and then so much less.

The Owls kept losing. But Cosby turned to stand-up comedy. Soon he was doing stand-up comedy on national TV shows. He left Temple before graduating so he could devote all his time to doing comedy and to acting. While the team remained terrible, Cosby caught a break on national TV and became a budding comedian. One of his best bits involved his time on the embarrassingly bad Temple football team. In fact, Cosby promoted Temple in many stand-up routines. The connection between Temple and the comedian became ongoing.

Cosby left Temple for the bright lights of late-night TV. His comedy albums sold millions of copies. He seemed to be everywhere … even before he co-starred in the groundbreaking hit network show ”I Spy.” Then, in the mid-’60s, came the super-hit, “The Bill Cosby Show.”

Americans loved Cosby. His comedy was different. Cosby broke racial barriers. His hit show cut across racial lines. It depicted a successful middle-class black family in a white man’s world. There was no violence. There was lots of wisdom and warmth and universality in the scripts and in the performances. And most of all, there was the comedic genius of Bill Cosby. Cosby made me proud — and by extension, Temple proud.

And then the roof fell in … 

An operations manager for the Temple women’s basketball team, Andrea Constand,  claimed Cosby drugged her in his home and sexually molested her. Constand had unsuccessfully filed a criminal complaint. She settled a civil suit for $3.4M in 2006. Subsequently over the years, over 60 women came forward against Cosby. Cosby, now 83 years of age, was in the process of serving a three to ten-year sentence at a maximum security prison outside the city. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court in its opinion that the agreement releasing Cosby from prison also meant that Cosby should not have been charged at all. The Court’s legal decisions also freed Cosby last Wednesday.

It is important to understand that in overturning Cosby’s imprisonment on a legal technicality, the Court did not overturn the verdict. No comments by celebrity-friends, no one cheering outside Cosby’s home changes any of that. The signed admission by Cosby that he furnished Quaaludes to the victims for sex changes any of that. No new facts have been entered into the case. Repeat — Cosby got lucky. He didn’t all of a sudden get innocent. And boy, does it hurt to write those words.

Some of Cosby’s supporters can’t accept reality. The words “vindication” stain their lips. But nothing has changed in the facts surrounding Cosby’s guilt. No such thing has happened. Of course the opposite will be claimed by Cosby, his legal team and friends. But there are those who know better. As shameful as the overturning of the verdict would be, the case against Cosby is strong. It would be worse to restore now Cosby’s good name. Don’t allow yet another injustice to be done to Cosby’s victims. The high-fiving is way out of place, folks. This is not a time for cheers. It is a time for Cosby to stay out of public sight, to have the decency to accept his good fortune and move on.

For Temple, it would be nice to support some goodwill gesture to help victims. As for the rest of us, the ring has been dishonored by Cosby to be redeemed by its honorable student body.  We put a little too much faith in tying celebrity to our reputation. We got burned by our search for celebrity. We allowed ourselves to be swayed by the phoniness of the fame that surrounded Bill Cosby. We believed in his TV character. There are real Mr. Huxtables out there whom we can and should honor. We may just have to look a little harder.

It seems like yesterday that Cosby was riding this great goodwill, and that Temple’s sweatshirt was worn so proudly.

Today – -that justice looks so blind. And we who blindly supported Cosby look so foolish.