Friday, June 28, 2013

The Secret Life of the American Athlete

I find it absolutely fascinating when a professional athlete is charged with committing a crime and then all of these theories and so-called "fast facts" start spewing out of media outlets. Its almost as if they're saying "Let's give you more of a reason to find even more fault in this man. BOO HIM."

Unless you have been nowhere near a TV or radio as of late, you know who Aaron Hernandez is. If you're a New England Patriots fan, you're probably wondering how this all happened and whether you can get a refund on your jersey. Within the past week and a half, Hernandez's name and reputation have been flipped upside down and exploited for the country to see. Not only that, but they (as in private investigators) are also looking into his personal life, such as whether the tattoos that he owns are related to gangs or any other destructive behavior.

Photo from CBS New York
You read that right. They're going the whole nine here.

Aside from the jokes that Aaron Hernandez has now made the "NFL All-Prison Team," this case is receiving more publicity at this stage than the likes of the Michael Vick case, Ray Lewis' murder charge, Plaxico Burress' club folly, and even the O.J. Simpson case. Really. This has become more widespread of a case than the infamous White Bronco. Although there is the argument that the difference in media over nearly twenty years has caused this, the added severity of the crime and the supposed ties that are being implied is making this one of the biggest professional athlete crime cases in history.

While I'm not writing this post to pick on the media, a long stick will be used to some extent. Instead, I will be looking into a question that most sports fans refuse to ask in circles and themselves: "Can fame and fortune screw up professional sports?"

A long time ago, in a galaxy far away, I wrote about how the inception of social media blurs the line between pro athletes and the public. The perks of that may be great supply, but it's rather scary to see how some men and women still hide their personal lives from the public. That might not be a bad thing, but to still be able to wield a giant facade and hide something maniacal in a global village is an impressive, yet frightening feat. There is a long-standing thought that money and fame can ultimately change a man. Some of the most humble of men have been affected by salary directly and indirectly. [Note: When I mean indirectly, I refer to someone like "Shoeless Joe."] Because the opportunity and options are there, forbidden behaviors are easier to access and the alleged "high status" of the professional athlete gives off an air of invincibility internally and externally. When that kind of high-status is involved, one can say that danger seems to lurk at every corner. This could be why you hear more instances of possession of weapons in public settings or domestic abuse cases involving weapons. These actions can spiral out of control and the personal life soon becomes public knowledge.

You see all of those kids liking a professional athlete? Those kids are now being told by their parents that the athlete is a bad person. Everything unwinds. The athletes you may have looked up to as a child may not have been the charity-loving and encouraging person you originally thought they were. While their hearts were in the right places once upon a time, some of the actions that they have taken part in cannot be reversed. In a judgmental society, it doesn't take much to lose societal respect and it could possibly take a lifetime to gain it. You often wonder whether the athlete thinks of the consequences before the action. Oftentimes the answer is no; immediate gratification and fixes subdue any sense of punishment or loss of invincibility. Once a public trial begins, the hope may be lost, regardless of whether the athlete is found innocent or guilty.

Going back to my original statement that this case is one of the biggest in modern American sports history, the expansion of technology and media knowledge is making Aaron Hernandez a household name. Because of the slough of information that is being leaked about the defendant, stories, gossip, and citizen theories are being developed at an exponential rate. For example, back when the Black Sox scandal came about, the only stuff that people knew were things they read in the newspaper or heard on the radio, and when the O.J. Simpson trial came about, there were the previously-mentioned outlets on top of television coverage in the growing age of cable news. The advent of the Internet meme and microblogging websites such as Twitter is making a complicated case easier for the younger audiences to understand. For example, microblogging is an algorithm, and the jokes of the Internet meme make what is a very expansive case almost minute and comical. It isn't necessarily a good thing, but it almost dumbs it down for a younger audience and leaves a hint of innocence and no desensitization.

Sure, when the personal life goes public, nothing is sacred anymore, but you also have to ask the ethical question of why an individual (not just an athlete) would bother to do such a heinous crime or practice to begin with. I am not the type of person to instigate on whether someone committed a crime, but it is often difficult to avoid due to the ability of society to shove something down the throat of someone avoiding all crises. Heck, even fellow athletes in other leagues have their own opinions about it, but there is the decency and common courtesy to not speak out about it; rather, these guys try their absolute best to not do that themselves. However, we cannot be the ultimate controllers of everyone's fates. The secret life of the American athlete may not be so secret anymore, but that should also mean that everyone is in check and privacy isn't so sacred anymore. Everyone might have to practice a little more morality these days.

Invincibility? This isn't a video game!


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