Ed. Note: This column appears in the 9/16 issue of the Albany Student Press, so the style is a bit different then you are used to around these parts. Don’t be alarmed…
Vince Young, upset about his lackluster play and recent injury, storms out of his house wielding a gun after mentioning suicide in an earlier therapy session, prompting a four-hour search by police. His concerned mother spouts off to a local newspaper, leading to speculation that the quarterback is battling depression and may be emotionally unstable.
It is a very odd situation, if not completely bizarre. The dramatic elements are better suited for a Hollywood screenplay rather than the front page of the sports section. Journalists across the country were chomping at the bit for the latest news regarding the Young saga, eager to add another chapter to an already juicy story.
Young’s week of hell has provided countless headlines and plenty of message board fodder, but it begs the question: Is this news?
Ever since O.J. and the white Bronco unexpectedly provided a few hours of must-see TV, sports coverage has become more and more concerned with off-the-field incidents rather than the games themselves. Aside from Tom Brady’s injury, the biggest stories in professional football this season have been a soap opera involving a certain over-the-hill quarterback, a man legally changing his name to a pair of Spanish numerals, and now the Young affair.
Young is part of a ever-growing breed: A hybrid of celebrity and athlete; someone whose name you could find on SportsCenter one day and TMZ the next. The pressure of constantly being in the public eye is wearing on him, and the apparent demise of his emotional state is being played out before the eyes of the general public.
Like it or not, this is what the media has become. The average person has become obsessed with the so-called “newsertainment” phenomenon, and the line between a legitimate news story and the latest celebrity gossip is nearly non-existent.
News outlets will print what their readers want to read, and if that story is about a suicidal quarterback on the run with reckless disregard for the privacy of the parties involved, so be it. Does it matter that it was largely personal issue? Is there anyone that would want a situation like that publicized if it were about them? Of course not. But it makes for an entertaining read, and the average reader will devour the drama.
That’s not to say that there weren’t any reportable aspects of Young’s adventure. If the police are called in for a missing-person search it should be reported. However, publishing speculative stories about someone’s depression and suicide talk is nothing more than taking advantage of someone elses unfortunate situation in an effort to gain a few readers.
Sorry, Vince. Your business is now everyone’s business.