Did you really need to see the full video of what Ray Rice did to his future wife to be aghast at who he is and the paucity of the punishment that the National Football League and the state of New Jersey inflicted on him? Wasn’t the partial video of him dragging her out of the elevator like a sack of potatoes enough? Even if she was only drunk, and not cold-cocked by Rice, his complete lack of sympathy and delicacy for her condition should have set off red sirens to this man’s sociopathic thuggery.
The question is valid. Did you really need to see the video to be outraged?
This column is not going to be about football. Nor is it going to be about domestic violence. It is about numbness. Unless something is shoved in our faces to be forcefully fed to us in an incessantly continuous loop, we as a society simply do not seem to care about important things. And then we feign indignant rage that such things could exist; because everyone else now appears to care.
Ray Rice was going to sit two games, receive some form of counseling–which most likely was nothing more than an act of contrition with no real adjustment of personal attitude–and then he would be right back on the field. His stock in fantasy football would be measured by performance. His shirts would be on sale. That’s it.
But then the full video came out via the new and last conduit for moral rectitude in America, TMZ.
And now we are shocked…shocked I tell you…to find out that Ray Rice was not a good guy. He has justifiably been inaugurated into the “Worst Than Hitler” Club. His shirt is no longer for sale. Rutgers, Rice’s alma mater that has a recent history of recruiting nefarious characters, has edited out footage of him from highlight reels. He has been castigated by commentators—his very existence is being wiped from memory.
I have a term I use for this kind of lynch mob mentality towards events that should have been an outrage when first reported. Selective solemnity.
The short explanation of how it works goes like this:
Something or someone sucks—but we either ignore it or give it a pass. Then in the media or Twitter (same thing) a video or a “smoking gun” factoid comes to the fore and the story has fresh legs. Then everyone crawls over each other to show they are overwhelmingly dismayed by the whole thing.
And then we have the truly scary part of selective solemnity. The need for overreaction.
Public figures simply cannot condemn Ray Rice for knocking out his then fiancee; or be appalled by Adrian Peterson for whipping his young son with a tree branch. Nope; not enough. They must be on live TV in a staged rage that such things could happen—in spite of evidence that this happened months ago. We need to overreact and we need to do that now!!!
The NFL now has a “Vice President of Social Responsibility”. Whaaaa? CBS pulled a song from its opening credits of its football telecasts because it featured the singer Rihanna—who was the victim of a highly publicized domestic abuse story with former boyfriend, rapper Chris Brown.
A football announcer was suspended for suggesting that Janay Rice, Ray Rice’s victim and now wife, should be questioned about why she is with him.
And of course, there is the above-mentioned Adrian Peterson. OK, he beat his kid with a tree branch. How does that affect his “fantasy value” for the season? I got action on the Vikings this week!
Peterson would not be in the trouble he is right now if the Ray Rice story did not grow legs. My rationale for making such a declaration? History.
The barn doors are wide open and the morally shamed horses are in the field. “AP” might well be indefinitely suspended by NFL by the time this column goes to print. And all those ESPN commentators who squirt tears and wait for the red light on Camera One to flick on so they can exude their over-aggrandized approbation are pathetically short-sighted.
ESPN especially should look inside their offices when manifesting hyperbolic moral outrage at current events. They hired Ray Lewis as one of their 937 NFL commentators. In early 2000, Lewis was involved in some way with the stabbing death of two people who confronted Lewis and his friends outside a nightclub. Lewis’s suit from that night disappeared. The blood of one of the victims was in Lewis’s limousine.
Lewis was offered a plea deal. He ratted out his friends in return for an obstruction of justice conviction. He admitted he lied to investigators, paid off the families of the victims and became a t-shirt selling machine for the NFL.
“Ray, you were a teammate of Ray Rice. In your expert opinion, did he screw up concealing the evidence?”
ESPN, the network so immerse in caring for domestic abuse victims that it allowed noted misogynist rapper Drake to host its own ESPYs award show this summer. In that show, Drake appeared in a comedic skit with Chris Brown—the same one who beat up Rihanna.
ESPN: we abhor domestic violence!
And let us not exclude colleges from the selective solemnity hypocrisy. On Wednesday morning, reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston was suspended for one half of the next Florida State football game this weekend for making an obscene comment about a female student in front of a room full of people. Winston was cleared, sorta, of rape last year in a case in which prosecutors have been criticized for sloppy work.
And recently, a recruit for the University of Wisconsin football team was convicted of raping a student on the Madison campus. The school has sanctioned the use of the rap song “Jump Around” to be played before the 4th quarter of home football games. Somehow, the following lyrics are omitted from this tradition:
“I’ll serve your a** like John McEnroe. If your girl steps up I’m smackin’ the ho.”
Then the song’s singer tells an adversary if he wants to fight to bring a shotgun.
We care about the safety of our students at the University of Wisconsin!
It’s a sick world we live in when TMZ has to remind all of us what is important. And the insincerity of television commentators who only seem to care about bad people in sports when there is video evidence that is profane to the senses is nearly as bad as the offenders themselves. Silence is complicity. Many waited too long to think Ray Rice was a bad dude.
This is the world we inhabit. It ain’t a story until we see the video—and that lamentable story is such an affront to the senses that we need to group hug in a pool of tears to overcome our grief. We created this world. We are also the victims of it.