Perhaps more than anything, a signal how much interest the Aaron Hernandez case has generated came Wednesday in an interview that revealed what the former New England tight end would have for dinner. Every detail in the case, where Hernandez is charged with murdering a friend he thought talked to the wrong people, has provided abundant drama.
At least in the O.J. case, the white Bronco was being chased by police. Here, a static shot of a white van waiting for Hernandez to board has been engrossing. Same with just the driveway where the van will eventually arrive.
The case has brought some memorable moments over the past few weeks. Helicopters following Hernandez as he was driving. Reporters surrounding him as he pumped gas. The perp walk when he emerged from his house without his shirt properly on. Hernandez standing stone-faced in court, but cameras catching him mouthing what appeared to be “I love you” to his fiancée. After Thursday's hearing, a close-up of his fiancée crying.
But a case could be made that the ESPN interview with Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson should go down as the most remarkable. It was bizarre, yet encapsulated the inability to turn away. ESPN devoted more than five minutes to reporter Jeremy Schaap going through specifics on Hernandez’s incarceration with the sheriff. Lawyers usually aren't that chatty and there was a gag order on them in this case, but Sheriff Hodgson seemed to be reveling in his ESPN airtime and willing to go long enough to fill a prime-time special.
Viewers found out Hernandez was in a single cell as health evaluations were taking place. That a decision would eventually be made as to where he’ll be housed permanently, perhaps in the general population. That he’ll receive no special treatment, which Sheriff Hodgson told Hernandez. That Hernandez asked what happens when he wants something to drink and was informed that water is in the cell, but other than that, he'll have to wait for mealtime.
Schaap asked what the meals are like?
“They’re pretty straight forward,” Sheriff Hodgson said. “Nutritionally sound. But there (are) no extras. There (are) no fried foods. Tonight, for example, he’ll be eating American chop suey, probably a portion of green beans, and perhaps a piece of bread.”
Coverage of the Hernandez case from the investigation to arrest to two court hearings may not be that different from other celebrity criminal matters. Still, what makes an empty white van and exacting detail about life in jail so engrossing?
Both offer a venue to wonder why. In this case, why a 23-year-old with a baby, fiancée and tens of millions of dollars coming his way would get involved
in something so worthless.
It’s mystifying, difficult to comprehend. The seemingly unknowable will always be the source of fascination. And, yes, make for good TV.