Fame vs. familiarity

Aaron Hernandez case demonstrates how little we know about celebrities

Aaron Hernandez didn’t have long enough a football career to be as famous or accomplished as O.J. Simpson. But both figures illustrate an important societal truism:

Celebrity doesn’t equate to familiarity.

We’re always shocked when a celebrity is accused of deeply inappropriate or even criminal behavior, such as football stars Simpson and Hernandez. Simpson was famously acquitted in a criminal trial, then found culpable in a civil trial, in the savage murders of his ex-wife and her friend. More recently, Hernandez – a University of Florida star and New England Patriots player – was charged in the shooting death of an acquaintance.

Further allegations erupted recently that Hernandez may have been a person of interest in a 2012 double murder in Boston – and that the latest killing may have been an attempt to silence a witness in that case.

Hernandez is presumed innocent under the law. But if the accusations are true, the case
will represent a stunning fall for a rising star – albeit for a star whose off-the-field troubles have long given football officials pause. Some say his reputation for trouble led his stock to drop in the National Football League draft.

It makes you scratch your head, again, if true. How could someone with such world-class athletic talent and such a bright future be so shortsighted and depraved to take another’s life?

But the case is also a reminder of how seductive celebrity can be. We hear, see and read so much of the world’s celebrities that we’re fooled into thinking we truly know them. We don’t – as the late columnist Mike Royko once reminded us about Simpson. All that Royko knew about Simpson, he said, was that the guy ran well with the football. That’s it.

That pretty much describes the extent of our familiarity with most luminaries.

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Rick McKee Editorial Cartoon