Aaron Hernandez Verdict A Cautionary Tale

cautionThere is an old saying that adversity doesn’t build character, it reveals it. Along those lines, after the conclusion of the Aaron Hernandez trial yesterday I was left with this – fame and money do not suddenly make someone a better person who is worthy of being a role model, it reveals their true character.

I don’t make this statement to try and run down Hernandez – lord knows there’s been plenty of that already. I say it because¬† we need to be very careful of who we put on a pedestal. There were many people in my home state of Connecticut crowing about how great it was that Hernandez was one of “ours” and a great example of how someone from a tough town can make good and become a star. Good luck finding those people now.

Troubled people do not change when suddenly given millions of dollars and an abundance of fame. In fact, if you look closer, the opposite is often the case. The only thing that changes is their ability to hide their transgressions or buy their way out of them.

Unfortunately the NFL is loaded with examples like this. Look at all the cases of domestic violence, the bullying case of Richie Incognito with the Dolphins (and I guarantee that is just the one that came to light), or the downfall of Lawrence Phillips in jail for assaulting is girlfriend, and who is now suspected of killing his cellmate in prison. Adrian Peterson was arrested for whipping his son, several players have been jailed for dealing drugs, and several others for fraud. Then there are the more extreme examples of Hernandez and OJ Simpson.

There are numerous examples of musicians and actors jailed for a wide range of crimes. Rappers seem to lead the way these days, though it is not an exclusive club. Bobby Brown has gone to jail more than once. Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul & Mary did time for having sex with a 14-year old back in 1970 (he received a pardon from President Carter in 1981). Chuck Berry did time for armed robbery and sex with an underage girl. Steve Earle did time for drugs. Producer Phil Spector is doing life for murder.

Now, on the opposite end of the spectrum, look at all the incredible charity work done by many celebrities who find themselves in the position of being able to afford to help. What Drew Brees has done for the children of New Orleans is amazing. Peyton Manning has his own foundation to help children, and donated millions of dollars to a hospital in Indianapolis. London Fletcher’s foundation, London’s Bridge, has helped numerous children from underprivileged backgrounds. Albert Pujols of the Angels runs a foundation designed to help families and children who live with Down’s Syndrome. Bill Gates donates more money than the GDP of some small countries.

To be sure, there are far more people doing good works than committing crimes like Hernandez, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need to be very careful in choosing who we hold up as role models. Fame does not necessarily equal good.

Finally, why is it that we are more likely to forgive a sports star, musician, or actor who makes a mistake, but we don’t extend the courtesy to people from everyday walks of life who run into trouble. There is something very wrong with that.


Curt Schilling and Bloomsburg U. Set Fine Example

Angry_faceIn this day of online nastiness and mob mentality, it has been refreshing in the last month or so to see people fighting back and companies holding people accountable for their thoughtless, hurtful comments.

When Curt Schilling’s daughter was the target of some vulgar tweets after her father announced her decision to play softball at Salve Regina University, he immediately fired back and outed the offenders. One of them fired from their job, another suspended from school, two suspended from their college hockey team, and received letters of apology from several other student-athletes who joined in the “fun”.

He continues to search for the others so that they can be held accountable. The young man fired worked in the ticket office for the New York Yankees. Another was a disc jockey for a community college on Long Island. Schilling named names in some of the cases. He also said he is considering legal options in some cases because many of the tweets were of a sexual nature and his daughter is underage.

“These boys have yet to understand one of life’s most important lessons,” Schilling wrote in his blog. “In the real world you get held accountable for the things you say and if you are not careful that can mean some different things.”

As a father of two daughters (who are now adults), I know exactly how he feels. When my girls were that age, if they had been subjected to that kind of harassment I would go to the ends of the earth to see that those responsible were punished. Frankly, with my temper, it would have been hard for me not to throttle them personally. I am sure it crossed Schilling’s mind too.

I liked Curt Schilling before. I like him even more now.

Just a couple of days ago, a bullet-headed baseball player at Bloomsburg University baseball player posted an offensive tweet when he found out that Disney was considering a movie about Mo’ne Davis, the female Little League pitcher who took the country by storm in 2014. This rocket scientist actually called her a “slut.” She’s thirteen, for God’s sake! Not that anyone should be called that, but good heaven’s, does this kid’s elevator actually go all the way to the top?

Bloomsburg immediately bounced the offender from the baseball team. Frankly, bouncing him from school would have been more appropriate. Sometimes extreme measures are necessary for people to learn a lesson.

To Davis’s credit, she and her coach actually contacted Bloomsburg President David Soltz to ask him to reconsider and reinstate the miscreant. How’s that for maturity? A 13 year old trying to help out the 20-year-old idiot. Good for her. But what’s wrong with that picture?

Granted, these Mensa candidates mostly did their dirty deeds under their actual names with their pictures attached. That was helpful, but not strictly necessary. Despite what people think, you’re not truly anonymous on the Internet. Even if you create a screen name, you can be traced – and there are plenty of people out there who know how to do it.

I would love to see examples like this become the norm rather than the exception. If more people start to fight back and hold people accountable for these attacks, perhaps we’ll start to see a swing in the other direction.

I’m not holding my breath, but it has to start somewhere.