Why the Mark Sanchez Scandal Really Isn't One

We were about to give you a thrilling account of the issues at stake in the upcoming NFL labor negotiations, including a step-by-step assessment of exactly what we can expect to happen and when, but all that is going to have to wait. Mark Sanchez of the New York Jets apparently had sex with a 17-year-old girl, so everything else is on hold for a while.

There's no way I can know whether I'll be ahead of this story by the time you read this, but it seems to me to be a case of trash being piled upon trash so quickly that it's hard to find the bottom of the pile. I've been sorting through it all night, and as near as I can figure, here's what happened. Take a deep breath:

Mark Sanchez met a 17-year-old girl named Eliza Kruger at a NYC nightclub on New Year's Eve. Sorry to use her name, but at this point, the New York Post has blabbed it all over the place, and her Facebook page bragging about Sanchez is plastered all over the Internet, so no reason not to. (Kruger is the daughter of Konrad "Chip" Kruger, a hugely wealthy businessman.)

Anyway, she flirted with New York's most eligible bachelor - sorry, A-Rod, but he's got about 12 years on you - and asked for his Blackberry number. She told him, "You know I'm 17, right?" (No, he didn't. How could he until she told him?) Sanchez showed remarkable good sense. He told her they could talk but he couldn't see her until she was 18.

Aw, these naive California boys. Our inexperienced hayseed had no knowledge that the age of consent for New York is 17. But Ms. Kruger, a high school senior in Connecticut, knew the rule book and had a game plan, so she told him the news that she was legal.

A few weeks later, after dinner in Manhattan, Sanchez, apparently hedging his bets, took her to his home in New Jersey, where the age of consent is 16. No worries.

How this silly nothing story developed into something that was challenging Lindsay Lohan and Egypt for the top spot on CNN isn't quite clear, but Kruger posted on her Facebook page that "Mark Fucking Sanchez Just Texted Me!!!!" and snapped photos of Sanchez's bedroom with the bed in worse shape than Rex Ryan's face after the AFC title game.

Cut to sometime around mid-January, when someone named "E.K" contacted Deadspin.com's Barry Petchesky claiming that she had received a threatening e-mail from someone at the website who "claims to be doing research for you, it regards Mark Sanchez picking up a girl [sic] in a club around new years ... if you could explain what is going on here I would greatly appreciate it because so far I am being threatened w media exposure regarding false accusation and slander." Deadspin claims they were working on no such story and did not know the person claiming to do "research" for them.

Deadspin's A.J. Daulerio asked E.K. to "tell her version of the story so there would be no misunderstandings." In the interview it was revealed that Mark Dreamboat had given E.K. and a friend tickets to the Bills-Jets season closer, and she was impressed with how "genuine" Sanchez was "even though he's a really popular, good-looking quarterback." At some point E.K. sent Daulerio the bedroom photos, which Deadspin posted.

E.K. revealed to Daulerio "he's one of the kindest people, and he's a genuine person" but "I don't want that image" -- of a girl who seeks fame by having relationships with cute, famous guys - except on Facebook and, apparently, on Deadspin.

Cut to February 4, when Daulerio posted a letter from a California-based lawyer named Richard B. Kendall claiming to represent E.K., "a minor, who we understand may be the subject of an article Deadspin.com intends to publish as early as February 4, 2011, that also relates to Mark Sanchez." Further, "Rather than worrying about her college applications and enjoying her senior year of high school, E.K. has been forced to deal with repeated emails and inquiries from you along with the threat of the widespread publication of an article making false allegations about the intimate details of her private life. Subjecting a private minor" - after reminding Sanchez that she was good to go for sex, E.K. had now retreated to the safety of being a "private minor" -- "to such torment is unacceptable and outrageous journalism under any standard."

The lawyer and Daulerio were in agreement that this wasn't a story - at least until E.K. made it one. "She didn't sell us the story," Daulerio wrote on Deadspin on Tuesday. "We never offered to buy it. We wanted to hear her side of it because, well, it's kind of fascinating to know how romance blossoms just this side of the law."

But E.K. went far beyond acceptable behavior even by the standards of Gossip Girl when, sometime in the first week of February, she e-mailed Daulerio and threatened "if you print about me i'm 17 ill sue." Someone, she claimed, "has my email. I don't know what messages you have received but I have no part in those" and "You can't print my name, I'm under 18. You need consent." Daulerio's reply was reasonable: "You're making this stuff up now." He promised not to use her name, and so far Deadspin has kept to that promise.

"But this is a story," he told her, "and this is a bigger problem than you think it is. The bottom line is you talked to me, you talked to me on the record. You then went back on that. Then you went back on again but told me to say 'a friend betrayed you.' If you want to go through the entire process of where the legal lines are here, I'd be more than happy to go over them with you." And, finally, "I'm not trying to ruin your life, I'm trying to do my job." (It was after that exchange that Daulerio heard from E.K.'s attorney.)

On second thought, I think I do know where this story is going to be tomorrow and the day after -- nowhere. No matter how much this dominates the call-in shows or the Internet, if there's really anything more involved here it isn't evident from what I've seen so far. This is a story about a spoiled rich twit of a teenage girl who wanted some thrills and to brag about them in public but thought that somehow she could undo it when she thought it might hurt her chances of getting into her first choice college.

On third thought, there is one remarkable aspect to the whole silly incident: a pro football quarterback and a website both acted with restraint and good judgment.

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