Yesterday we saw what can happen when the mighty fall. First, former New England Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez was found dead by his own hand, having used a bed sheet to hang himself in his prison cell. Serving a life sentence without parole for killing a man who’d spilled a drink on him at a party, Hernandez’ suicide cast a pall over what should have been a happy day for his former team. The Patriots were due to visit the White House for a ceremony honoring them for winning the Super Bowl in February.
Hernandez’ former team had worked assiduously to separate itself from any association with their former star tight end. On the day they were to be honored by President Trump, the Patriots became inextricably and permanently linked with him. In the end, Hernandez, may have been able to break tackles, but he couldn’t break from his past.
Later in the day, serial sexual abuser and egomaniac Bill O’Reilly was fired by Fox News Channel (FNC). Despite having spent $13 million settling sexual harrassment claims against O’Reilly, FNC had continued to stand by him. His ratings were stellar, as were the rates FNC could charge advertisers.
The man Keith Olbermann frequently derided as “Bill-o the Clown” was a blowhard in love with the sound of his own voice and self-ascribed brilliance. The ratings garnered by “The O’Reilly Factor” made him bulletproof…until FNC could no longer withstand the shitstorm generated by public outrage.
Hernandez had opportunities most young men never have. He had wealth, success, and fame…and yet he still strayed into criminality. He had Tim Tebow as a college teammate and Tom Brady during his career in New England. It might be tempting to call what happened to him a tragedy, but as I heard Colin Cowherd say, a tragedy is a bus full of children going off a cliff. It’s difficult to know how to classify Hernandez’s suicide, but “tragedy” seems wholly inaccurate. Society isn’t worse for his passing; in fact, a case could be made that humanity is better off without him around. His death might be a sad coda to his fall from grace, but it’s not tragic.
O’Reilly was done in by his own ego and lack of humility. Perhaps the most well-known cable news celebrity, he had a platform and an eight-figure salary…and it wasn’t enough to satiate his arrogance. Who knows what drove him to believe his position and fame allowed him the right to force himself upon women? Then again, who cares? Society is better off without his hypocrisy, his self-serving egomania, and his massive sense of entitlement.
I suppose the lesson to be learned from the examples of Hernandez and O’Reilly is that self-destructive behavior doesn’t respect tax brackets. Moral turpitude, immaturity, and arrogance cross all socio-economic boundaries. It would be easy to enjoy the fall of the high and mighty, but while I’m not about to shed any tears, I take no joy from these stories. Yes, they certainly reaped what they sowed. They most assuredly deserved their fates, but that fact provides me no cause for celebration. Many innocent people suffered because of their actions; perhaps that should be the takeaway.
With any luck, neither O’Reilly nor Hernandez will be long remembered. It’s not as if they offered much in the way of anything positive to begin with.