Pull up a chair America because we have two years of high profile, but little action television ahead of us. Ever since the story broke a couple of weeks ago that former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was connected to the murder of Odin Lloyd, the sports world and news world has jumped on the story like it’s a fumble at the goal line. There is very little real story here and no one in the news seems to want to focus on what actually happened.
The Aaron Hernandez Story is set up as the next great crime drama. What were his motives? How did he carry the murder out? How could no one see this coming?
Trayvon Martin–George Zimmerman, Casey Anthony, Jonbenet Ramsey, O.J. Simpson, Aaron Hernandez—these are not important stories. They are entertainment thrillers that add a little more spice to the gossip columns and a few more viewers to news and (in this case) sports shows.
Take the Trayvon Martin murder. It is horrible that the teenage boy was murdered, no matter the circumstance. The real question in the case is, does his community, in Florida and the United States promote a culture where racial profiling can lead to violence? Of course, if it turns out Zimmerman is not guilty, that opens a whole new issue about racial discrimination.
Does the live coverage of the trial promote that case? Do the experts and legal teams on CNN really turn the argument into a commentary on American society? No, the trial is being framed as a suspenseful television drama based on a verdict that would make a great Law and Order Episode. Not only does it miss the point, but it completely ignores the question.
That is all the coverage of Aaron Hernandez is doing as well, ignoring the fundamental questions. Were Hernandez’s actions a product of the culture in which he was raised? Is there a larger societal problem that needs to be addressed by everyone? What effect does the NFL dream have on communities within American society?
You know what is not the fundamental question?
How could the New England Patriots and other NFL teams avoid drafting such players?
This is the wrong question because these people will still exist in our society. Just because the NFL won’t take a PR hit for the number of players arrested (29 since the Super Bowl this year) does not mean the problem will go away. It just means that society can continue to ignore it.
I would love for the conversation to shift to the issue of violence within our society. Hernandez’s 24-hour publicity is an insult to the man who lost his life, just like with the Zimmerman trial and Trayvon Martin’s memory.
People crave entertainment, but at some point it is news organization’s responsibility to take a step back and look at what they are really promoting. Sure, Sports Center will see an uptick in viewers when they spend a half hour on Hernandez. They sure did with Tim Tebow, but does that mean it’s a story worth retelling every 15 minutes?
America is once again chasing a story, but not chasing the answers.