Friday, July 5, 2013

You Don't Know Me And You Never Did (On Aaron Hernandez and the Media Cliches)

I’ve been watching the coverage on Aaron Hernandez and his impending trial for murder for the past week. Haven’t had much to say but in light of the evidence, it appears Hernandez was involved deeply in the murder of Odin Lloyd and perhaps more.

Right on cue, I’ve seen some folks in the media turn it into inaccurate soapbox preaching. Many are blaming the Patriots for not doing due diligence on checking him out. Some are blaming the culture of violence and street cred. Some are saying the cliché of “we really don’t know these athletes.”

I’m trying to avoid being shocked when an athlete does something major and replace it with other emotions. Granted it's hard when murder is involved. I’m more sad that Hernandez threw away all that money and a promising career because he had to keep it real. I’m angry that he wasted an opportunity many would take advantage of.

All the handwringing and pointing the blame are nice but it doesn’t get to the point. So let me say something to for my media brethren as well as us sports fans in the words of that fine rapper Clifford Harris.

You might see me in the street But Shorty you don't know me  
When ya holla on the street Rememba you don't know me  
Save all the hatin and the poppin Pimpin you don't know me  
Quit tellin People you my partna Listen you don't know me  
Don't be a groupie keep it movin Shorty you don't know me  
Hey I ain't trippin pimp the truth is Really you don't know me  
Ya you know they call me T.I. But you don't know me

In other words, stop pretending you know these guys. Stop with the moral handwringing of “We don’t know these guys” You don’t. I don't. We never did. Unless you kick it with their inner circle, you don’t. We just cover them and might be lucky enough to do a feature.  

It’s fine to be surprised but stop pretending to be conned. Don’t fall for the con in the first place. The media has spent the last 40 years demythologizing athletes as much as they’ve built guys up. They’ve sold us stories and then get mad when they deviate from that.

Our job as reporters is complex. We don’t just tell stories about on-field exploits but the story behind the story. How an athlete approaches their craft, tell their back story to understand their motivation and so on. 

All we knew about Hernandez before last week? What we saw on the field and whatever tidbits the media gave us beforehand. Based on that, we have no reason to feel misled or conned. We also have no reason to throw dirt on the Patriots because how could they know one of their own could be mixed up in a murder or more?
Basically we as media are the drug, the needle and the patient. We get used by athletes and teams to tell stories and at the same, sports fans use us to gain enlightenment and insight. Why should we be mad when athletes mislead us when at times, members of our community mislead the public with stories/analysis that's drenched in hyperbole.

So you understand why I can’t get mad at the media outrage. The feeling of being cheated is being reciprocated by the fans you misled by mythmaking, whether good or bad.

Of course we didn’t really know Aaron Hernandez. Nobody does except for his family and to an extent, his teammates. We need to stop fooling ourselves and stop pretending we know anything besides how they are as athletes and whatever small tidbits we can glean off social media.

It’s okay to be surprised when somebody royally screws up. But you/me don’t need to tell us/folks you didn’t know these athletes. Hernandez has chosen his path of self-destruction but maybe we should be more honest about what we actually knew in the first place instead of stand on our soap boxes delivering cliches.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting perspective here, Ev. I think that media members feel like they know these guys because of the extreme coverage these days. The media are constantly in the locker rooms, on the field, texting and calling athletes. So I don't blame some for feeling like they "know" these athletes. You make good points about how we can't pretend to know these guys, because we really don't - other than the business and professional side.