You would think by now, getting the message would be easy.
After all, in this sound bite world of sending a message, being on message and world-wide messaging, it's pretty much all we do.
But since the wireless society now has the attention span of a half-minute update, so many messages seem to get half-baked in this 24-hour news stew.
When many of Tremain Mack's Bengals' teammates objected so strongly to Channel 5's investigative piece last week showing him driving several times without a license, the news stew churned out the perception the Bengals are shooting the messenger while ignoring a crime.
But how many times does linebacker Takeo Spikes have to say it? He says what Mack did was wrong. Bengals President Mike Brown said Mack was wrong. Yes, the team understands it could be a violation of Mack's probation pending a Dec. 6 hearing.
No one with the Bengals condones Mack breaking his probation and the club is obviously prepared to accept the ruling.
But the Bengals do have a right to wonder about fairness without being seen as defenders of a man convicted of three DUIs in two years. They should be able to have some objections without being portrayed as a heartless corporate entity looking to unleash death on the streets.
But that wouldn't fit a 30-second sound bite.
Continued from Homepage
It's the double edge of celebrity. Many Bengals, like others in the sports, entertainment and political fields, feel the media unfairly singles out headline names. They feel there are countless other nameless citizens who have committed the same crime, and yet go about their business without being secretly staked out by a TV crew for several weeks.
Even Charlie Rubenstein, Cincinnati's chief deputy prosecutor, told Tim Sullivan of The Cincinnati Enquirer that the number of people with more than 10 DUIs is, "scary."
But players see how this game is played. The headline name gets the sound bite. There's no time for context. Only celebrity in the news stew.
There's little mention Mack has tested negative for alcohol during 10-20 tests per month for the last year and a half. Or that he was caught driving to and from work and no place else. Or that he has spoken to groups of children about the evils of drunk driving.
It still doesn't make what he did right. But is he still a public menace? Or will he become one if he goes back to jail?
Yet there's only time for the next sound bite, and that can get to you if you're the one biting off the sound.
Players live, too. They pay taxes and raise kids and bury parents, and go food shopping and host Thanksgivings and wonder who will be the 43rd President of the United States.
They should know that's the kind of scrutiny they sign up for when they put their name on the golden line yielding money the other 99 percent of us will never see.
But still, is it fair? And if it's not, why can't you say so without being demonized?
Tremain Mack broke the law. Everyone knows it and no one defends it.
But it makes you wonder what else is broken.