The combination of social media and YouTube can turn online audiences into instantaneous judges and juries.
Moments after Gary Harris connected on a 3-pointer with 6 minutes, 56 seconds to play, Dawson clenched his fist and appeared to thrust it toward Carroll. But the clip, one I’ve watched at least a dozen times, is not conclusive. It’s clear that the two were jockeying for a spot on the block just in case the shot didn’t fall. But a punch? I don’t think there’s any unmistakable proof of it.
The Big Ten reviewed the footage and decided against taking any action, according to Tom Izzo. But that hasn’t stopped Purdue’s supporters from launching an online attack against Dawson, a former McDonald’s All-American and Indiana native who chose Michigan State over Purdue in high school.
Dawson, throughout interviews earlier this week, said he didn’t punch Carroll. That, however, hasn’t curtailed the backlash.
"Travis Carroll, he came down, and he latched into me and kind of bumped me," Dawson said Tuesday. "The ball went in through the net, and he kept going. Our arms got tangled, and I kind of smacked down. We kind of had some words, and our guys were talking toward each other, so it got kind of chippy.
"With Purdue and their fans, it was just crazy because I wouldn't do anything to hurt anyone. I was just kind of bummed out about it."
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said the previous day that the Big Ten reviewed the play and found that it did not warrant disciplinary action.
Dawson, a former Purdue recruit, did become aware of comments that Boilermakers fans directed at him on the Internet after accusing him of punching Carroll.
"I was just kind of shocked," Dawson said, adding he learned of fan comments about the idea that he should be injured at Mackey Arena next month when the two teams face off again. "It was just crazy what they were saying, and I was just kind of bummed out about it because I'm a great guy. I'm a nice guy, and I wouldn't do anything to hurt any other player. Coach just told me stay off of it, don't worry about what they were saying."
Purdue’s Matt Painter, who verbally sparred with Dawson during a game last season, was vague when asked about the incident during the Big Ten’s media teleconference.
“The Big Ten needs to handle that. I need to get our guys to make better decisions.”
Michigan State spokesperson Matt Larson told ESPN.com that a video replay in the arena offered another angle that confirms Dawson’s account.
That doesn’t matter to folks with a different view of the incident. History has certainly fed the fire around the situation.
But the limited details from Dawson’s supporters haven’t helped, either. Something happened on the mysterious play that involved Carroll and Dawson. If it wasn’t a punch, what exactly was it?
The problem with the whole situation is that no one has really offered a logical response (with video evidence) to that question, either.