Headlines are written in a way to try to get your attention.

Headlines are written in a way to try to get your attention. As a matter of fact, they say eight out of ten people only read the headline without reading the rest of the story. Growing up in a newspaper and being a mathematician who also teaches statistics to college students, I enjoy having these numbers in my pocket.

A headline is like a fishing lure. A good one will catch more than those two folks out of ten who generally read the story. I’ve never been much of a fisherman, but I do love newspapers and viewing headlines as an “art form.”

Recently, an incident took place in a neighborhood in Salt Lake City, Utah. The story spread virally on the internet to national news and television websites. The headlines were similar, including the following.

After researching this story back to its original source, I found out what I “think” actually happened before the national media got a hold of the story.  The fellow getting all the headlines for being a hero was named “Hendrix.”

A lady (the victim) in Mr. Hendrix’ neighborhood had been having trouble with a fellow at work that seems to have used to be her boyfriend – we will call him, “the stalker.” The stalker was waiting on the victim to leave her house at around 7 a.m. in the morning. After exiting her home, the stalker jumped out of the bushes (he probably still loves her) and knocked the victim down, grabbing her keys and trying to enter her home.

The victim was able to activate a panic alarm she had recently installed because of previous encounters with the stalker (who used to be her boyfriend). In addition, the victim was also giving the stalker a pepper spray bath before anyone showed up.

The first to the scene was an older woman with “a little baseball bat” which she used on the victim. Another older neighbor noted, “…she ended up whacking him a good one.”

Folks in the neighborhood started pouring out of their houses with every weapon they could find. These weapons probably included umbrellas, rolling pins and doorstops. It really sounds like a professional wrestling match that had gotten out of hand.

While this is happening, the Mormon bishop (Mr. Hendrix) is being beckoned out of bed by his son pounding on his bedroom door. The soon to be hero, Mormon bishop gets out of bed, throws on some clothes, picks up his Samurai sword (he keeps by his bed) and runs barefooted down the street to see what’s going on.

After approaching the suspected stalker, the Mormon bishop started waving his sword in the air and pointed it at the stalker demanding that he lie down on the ground. Keep in mind the stalker had been pepper sprayed and hit with “a little baseball bat.”

I have two questions here.

1) What kind of shape was the stalker in at this point?

2) If the stalker can actually still stand up, how does the Mormon bishop know that the stalker isn’t going to pull some sort of Indiana Jones on him? (Remember the fellow with the sword that Indiana Jones just shot in the middle of all his fancy sword swinging?)

The teary-eyed previously whacked in the head stalker decides to run for it. The barefoot Mormon bishop chases him down the street waving his sword.

The stalker gets away, but advertently drops his Chap Stick in the street. This next part is possibly the best. As the stalker is getting into his vehicle, the barefoot Samurai sword waving Mormon bishop stops and picks up the Chap Stick and yells, “Ha! I've got your DNA and I've got your license plate. You are done!'"

Within an hour, the stalker turned himself in to the police. I’m pretty sure the shoeless Mormon bishop attributed the surrender to the Chap Stick capture and his sword waving skills. Honestly, I think the stalker was tired of being pepper sprayed, hit with little baseball bats and chased by a barefoot Mormon bishop swinging a sword and yelling "DNA" and probably "Citizen's Arrest" in a Gomer Pyle tone of voice. Dropping the Chap Stick may have saved his life.

But headlines not only do not tell the whole story, but often do not convey the true story. The Mormon bishop has been all over the internet and television being interviewed, showing his sword waving skills off and donning his Kung Fu outfit with a black belt holding his pants up.

I’ve seen no interviews with the little old baseball bat whacking lady – I really would like to see her. In my opinion, she deserves most of the credit for getting in the first lick.

In the stories, I have learned that the “Mormon bishop” is actually a “pharmaceutical statistician.” This bothers me. The media has the opportunity to promote and glorify folks who do math for a living and they don’t do it. Instead, they bring religion into it.

Whatever “reels them in,” right?

What would you have titled this?

Here are a few that I came up with.

·        Senior Citizen Signs Autographs after Whacking Stalker with a Little Baseball Bat

·        Further Evaluation Gives Granny Credit for Save – Not Mormon Bishop

·        Statistician Swinging Samurai Sword Stops Stalker

·        Barefoot “Whackjob” Saves Neighbor

Don’t believe everything you read in the headlines…

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