As with most professions, there is something of a hazing period for a young journalist after beginning to work at a new newspaper. You get assigned stories none of the seasoned veterans want to write, such as tulip festivals and day-after-Christmas sales. When I started at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, one of my hazing stories was about people buying fans in the summer. Breaking news, right? People in Atlanta are hot in the summer, so they buy fans to help stay cool.
There's an inescapable "duh" factor to it, don't you think?
I feel the same way about the latest brouhaha surrounding Adam "Pacman" Jones. The cornerback has been arrested six times and involved in 13 instances requiring police intervention since being drafted in 2005 and is believed to have been up to no good.
At the end of the day, I just found myself saying, "Duh."
I am in no way trying to trivialize the lives that have been scarred by the shooting in Las Vegas. As someone who grew up in a violent environment, I am in no way trying to minimize the danger faced by the people who were shot at in Atlanta. I'm not criticizing the incredible amount of legwork it took to put together the report questioning Pacman's involvement, nor am I criticizing the on-camera interview that followed.
But at the core, did we really learn anything new about Adam Jones? We've known for a long time that Pacman isn't just a misguided man who has made some mistakes. He's a bad guy who keeps bad company, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell should not have allowed him back in the league in the first place.
I'm not a hater.
I'm not a self-hating black man.
I'm a pragmatist.
In no other high-profile profession can you be linked to this much unlawful violence and still have the privilege of practicing that trade. Although such a statement spirals into a much larger philosophical discussion about the culture's unhealthy obsession with celebrity, what I find most disappointing is the degree of importance we continue to place on characters like Pacman.
I'm not saying his actions are not worth reporting or being talked about. But why do his actions get more face time and public response than, say, Warrick Dunn and Derrick Brooks hosting a golf fundraiser cleverly called "Brooks and Dunn" for their incredible foundations? In December, Dunn's foundation helped its 83rd family buy a first home, but all we could talk about was Plaxico Burress. An athlete shot himself and the media put together all these "athletes and guns" packages, and the public ate it up for weeks. But what about the "athletes and acts of kindness" package, starting with Dunn or Tony Romo, who changed the tire of an elderly couple stuck on the side of the road after a game?
True, it's not every day an athlete shoots himself in the leg, but how often does an athlete pull over to change a tire for strangers? We can't make athletes contribute to society, but we can decide which athletes to focus on. Why is the negative piece the one with legs -- pun intended -- but the positive piece fizzles as a quirky blip? Is our appetite to see the mighty fall so great that earnestness no longer has a place at the table?
For two years, we have talked about Pacman, a player who has talent but hasn't done anything of real significance on the field. Sure, he made some plays while in Tennessee, but obviously the Titans have done just fine without him. At this point, he's about as significant an NFL player as Paris Hilton is an actress, and until Jones does something on the field that's worth front-page news, I wish we would stop treating the man as if he's, well, important to anyone outside his immediate circle.
I hope Jones is attending regular Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and is trying to turn his life around. I also hope that if he did in fact arrange for the shooting outside that Atlanta strip club, he is punished to fullest extent of the law. Just because you might be trying to make amends does not mean you get a pardon.
But whatever becomes of Pacman, I hope we all keep it in perspective and stop obsessing over this nobody with a bad track record and a thing for strip clubs. The world is full of too many somebodies who do great things whom too few people know about.
LZ Granderson is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine and a regular contributor to Page 2. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.