If this is somehow the first you’ve heard, former NFL tight end and convicted murderer Aaron Hernandez apparently committed suicide in his prison cell early Wednesday morning. Many media outlets have expounded upon the tragedy of his life, on the arc he followed. There’s a tragedy here, alright, but it isn’t the one most stories are covering.
I’ve probably read a dozen times now how Hernandez had all the talent in the world, and that it is just so very tragic that his life turned out as it did. You know whose life was tragic? Odin Lloyd, the man Hernandez was convicted of killing. He didn’t have a choice in when or how he left the planet. Neither did Daniel Abreu or Safrio Furtado. Hernandez was just acquitted last week of their murders. Hernandez was acquitted, but they’re both still dead, not by their choice.
What’s tragic is all the hand-wringing over what might have been a long and great career, if only poor Aaron could have somehow found it in his heart not to shoot people. When a player wins All-SEC honors, All-American honors, and is voted the best tight end in college, yet somehow falls to the fourth round of the NFL draft, there’s usually a good reason. For Hernandez, he was (allegedly) quite the impact player off the field in Gainesville as well on the field.
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As a freshman in 2007, a complaint was filed against Hernandez for felony battery, as he allegedly punched a restaurant employee. As happens so often in college towns everywhere (Waco, Texas, for instance), if you can play football, you don’t face charges. Later that season, Hernandez was one of three Florida Gators questioned in the shooting of Corey Smith and Jeremy Glass. As Hernandez was still just 17, his name was redacted at the time. You can read more about this incident here.
As someone who follows the Seahawks, I am exceedingly grateful that when the question of player conduct arises in Seattle, it’s because a player is upset about a coaching decisions, instead of who just spilled his drink.
Character assassination? Hardly, just reporting the facts of Hernandez’s “tragic” past. Most college freshmen, even most college football players, manage to avoid being named in complaints of assault and questioned in shootings. If you choose to view this as character assassination, I’d say that’s infinitely better than the variety of assassination Mr. Hernandez practiced.
What I see as tragic is that no one ever writes about what a great nurse’s aide Cathy Wood was. She was convicted of killing five people. Or how Hans Schmidt, also a convicted murder, was just such a wonderful priest. What is truly tragic is the ridiculous hero worship heaped on those who play games, to the extant that when a convicted murderer, one who by the way was still facing a wrongful death civil suit, is eulogized as a tragic figure.
If anything other than the victims’ deaths is tragic, it’s that Hernandez never faced actual justice until he had taken another man’s life. After punching someone in the head and walking away from it with no repercussions, *probably* being involved in a shooting and walking away yet again, perhaps it’s no surprise someone might think they can get away with anything.
Perhaps most telling of all, Hernandez said this when he signed his $40 million contract extension with the Patriots in 2013: “I’m engaged now and I have a baby, so it’s just gonna make me think of life a lot differently and doing things the right way. Now, another one is looking up to me. I can’t just be young and reckless Aaron no more. I’m gonna try to do the right things, become a good father and [her] be raised like I was raised.”
Just a few weeks later, Odin Lloyd would die at Hernandez’s hands. That’s the tragedy.