The fall from grace of Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez should be no surprise. Football is a violent game, war by other means (albeit with black-and-white-striped referees). Here we have young men, taught from an early age to be brutal and then handed extraordinary riches for acting savagely. Conceived of this way, the remarkable thing about the Hernandez saga is not the charge of one murder (and perhaps three), but that it doesn’t happen more frequently. The boundaries of civilization that constrain most people don’t apply to NFL athletes. They can do whatever they want, indulging in their darkest and most vicious impulses mostly without consequence.
There is a surface appeal to the above, and I suspect more than a few reading it are nodding their heads in agreement. But it is also, utterly, nonsense. According to crime reports, NFL pros are not, on the whole, more prone to behaving badly than the rest of us. If anything, they are more law-abiding. And from there should pop the balloon of commentary that has followed Hernandez, commentary that has struggled to find the meaning of it all, as if one arrest must somehow tell us something important and deep about sports and ourselves. It doesn’t. Hernandez is — allegedly — a bad man. There are bad people everywhere, in all walks of life. And some of them, it turns out, happen to be famous.