On Thursday, the New England Patriots will participate in their second-to-last full practice in advance of Super Bowl XLIX in Phoenix. And while they do that, the murder trial will begin for a man who played a key role in helping them win playoff games only two years ago.
But what’s most amazing about the fact that the beginning of Aaron Hernandez’s murder trial coincides almost perfectly with New England’s first Super Bowl appearance since the former tight end’s rookie season is the fact very few of us in the football world have noticed.
Hernandez’s trial not only isn’t the largest controversy the NFL is dealing with, but it isn’t even the biggest debacle involving the Patriots organization. Deflategate is the talk of the football world now; Hernandez and his alleged actions are old news.
Step back and it’s a little surprising. I realize Hernandez is no longer a member of the Patriots organization, but he was just a year and a half ago, and now he faces the most serious charges in the history of American professional sports. The jury was officially seated on Monday, but at midnight on the East coast there wasn’t a single mention of Hernandez or his trial on the homepages of ESPN.com, CBSSports.com, NFL.com, NBCSports.com, Yahoo! Sports, Bleacher Report, USA Today and Sports Illustrated. The only major American sports site that had it was FOXSports.com.
When the Hernandez charges first broke, this was the only story the sports world was covering. At that point, I wondered if this was going to become the O.J. Simpson trial of our generation. Hernandez isn’t as famous as Simpson, but unlike Simpson he was an active player — a superstar to boot — and he’s charged with murdering three people in two separate incidents.
But for whatever reason, it seems the nation has sort of lost interest. Maybe that’s an indictment on our deteriorating attention spans, or maybe we’ve just become either a) desensitized to or b) tired of incidents involving athletes allegedly committing heinous crimes. Regardless, it seems Aaron Hernandez has fallen from the national radar.
I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. And maybe it’ll change anyway once the events of the trial become public and we have details to chew on. But for now, as we prepare for the biggest game of the year, I’m happy to be focused on football. Or in the case of deflategate, something in that vicinity.