The world is down one piece of garbage this morning. Former New England Patriots “star” tight end Aaron Hernandez was found hanged in his jail cell a little after three this morning. A coward way out for a coward, but good riddance.
Hernandez was serving a life sentence for the murder of Odin Lloyd, an acquaintance who was dating his fiancé’s sister. Lloyd’s body was found a mile from Hernandez’s estate in February of 2013 and the New England Patriot star was arrested and charged with his murder in June of that year.
Most recently Hernandez was acquitted of the murders of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado in 2012 only a week ago at a trial that had all the makings of a good “Law & Order” episode as pictures were posted in the wire services of Hernandez blowing kisses to his four-year-old daughter who was eight months old when he was incarcerated.
There was some initial shock over Hernandez’s original arrest but soon an avalanche fell into the public of a long history of violence, criminal and gang activity as well as other illegal activities regarding the Patriots’ tight end.
On field Hernandez lived a charmed life and those in football circles from high school, college and the NFL until his conviction. A standout player in high school who was already showing some off field bad behavior it was overlooked by then Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer. Hernandez helped Meyer and the Gators win a National Title and looked the other way at his off field activities. Twice it was documented although both swept under the rug in 2007 when Hernandez attacked a bouncer at a club where the then 17-year-old was caught drinking underage and escorted out of the club. Not long after that five shots were fired into a car with three occupants at a stoplight seriously injuring two of them. The third that was uninjured described the assailant who fit Hernandez’s description. He refused to talk to police and no charges were filed. Following Hernandez’s part in the murder of Lloyd, Massachusetts’s police reached out to Gainesville police to determine whether the star tight end was involved with the 2007 unsolved shooting.
Before Hernandez was arrested and convicted for his part in the murder of Lloyd there was the double homicide indictment that he was not guilty of last week and only illegal possession of a gun and a 2013 shooting in June in Miami of Alexander S. Bradley who claimed the NFL star shot him while the two were riding together. In 2015 the Patriots tight end was indicted on witness intimidation involving the shooting. Bradley lost an eye in the shooting and refused to cooperate with police. He did file suit against Hernandez twice, the first dismissed for improper paperwork filing and the second, attorneys for him filed for a postponement of the trial because it would be legally unfair to permit the lawsuit as they were already defending him for the murder of Lloyd.
Ironically Hernandez died an innocent man. In Massachusetts since he had not exhausted all forms of appeal before his death despite serving a life term for first-degree murder, he was still technically innocent.
Hernandez had a long history of violence dating back to his teens, which it was believed he was a gang member, although never officially confirmed. His tattoos and mannerisms mirrored those of one – especially the violence. But time after time until that fateful night in 2013 law enforcement looked the other way. And it wasn’t until his arrest that revelations of his bad behavior and violence while at the University of Florida became exposed.
Aaron Hernandez is a prime example of why I am no longer in love with the sport of football as I once was. As a kid I lived a breathed football. My father who played football aided this. One of my best memories of my dad is his teaching me how to throw a spiral in our back yard when I was two. Our weekends were spent together watching college football on Saturday afternoon with Keith Jackson and the NFL on Sundays. And then when I found out they even played a game on Monday night you would have thought I won the lottery.
I lived and breathed the sport – almost obsessively. I am still a big fan, but as I got into college it started to change. I noticed the behavior of the players not the same. As a kid football players were heroes and business leaders. Of course this was an era before social media when people led private lives when not in front of a camera or in a stadium. What little was known by some players I found out on the back of their trading card or an occasional biographical book that was sometimes available in grade school when we could buy books from some scholastic book company our teachers would hand out to us twice a semester to order recreational reading books. I bought every book about football and still have one in my bathroom to day about football stories of some historical NFL games. My favorite as a kid was “Griese/Csonka: Miami’s One-Two Punch” about the Dolphin’s quarterback and star running back and how they led the team to the famous undefeated 1972 season.
In college I noticed players getting away without going to class, getting free meals and getting away with petty crime and in one case a rape allegation. And it just wasn’t football it was basketball a well. I remember having class with one of the stars of our nationally ranked basketball team and he never took his headphones off in class. Our instructor had just handed back out our graded term papers and this guy turned around to me, pulled off his headphones and asked me what I got on the paper. I told him I got an “A”. He said he got a “C+” but would have gotten a higher grade if his tutor had handed in the paper on time.
And before I go off on football let me say football is still my favorite sport. I love the sport of football – not the business. And that’s the problem. Football is no longer a sport; it’s become a business – a mega-billion dollar and soon to be a trillion dollar business beginning with youth leagues and of course the pro game. Before million dollar player contracts, billion dollar TV contracts, naming rights to stadiums and college sporting events sports like football, baseball, basketball, hockey – and so on and so forth were sports that followed particular seasons. In school youth sports schedules were based upon the calendar with football in the fall, basketball in the winter and baseball and track in the spring into the summer. Student athletes used to take part in all sports they felt compelled to play despite their ability – or lack thereof. Even the worst of the worst got a minute of playing tome or an at-bat.
But everyone loves a winner and unfortunately winning encompasses reward and money. When you’re 12 years old you should try out a lot of things sports or otherwise. And even if your ability is not scout worthy you are participating in not only a social or extracurricular activity you are getting a degree of exercise that was encouraged in schools until the last couple of decades. Anyone remember the President’s Council on Physical Fitness back in the day? To be a well-rounded individual schools not only provided education, they offered arts and physical fitness. But that is a bygone era as we live in an era of specialization.
Even when I was still in grade school I soon saw fathers concentrate this son’s for one particular sport. I watched dads hang out at practices and “coach” from the sidelines. Instead of participating in each sport offered guys were soon playing only one sport year ‘round. At first thought was for a scholarship as collegiate sports started to become big time draws in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s to thoughts of turning pro.
One by one the parents, then the coaches attempted to program kids gifted in a certain talent, be it running or throwing a football, swinging a bat or throwing a ball through a hoop to concentrate on that sport and that sport alone. Besides teaching them fundamentals they soon worked on creating a supreme athlete with superior strength, endurance and skills for that one sport. A lot of pressure was being put on kids to achieve success in these sports to basically take the burden of supporting the family off the shoulders of the parents but into the futures of these student athletes.
It wasn’t until the mid 1970s that the NFL became a legitimate career. Old school trading cards would tell you what kind of jobs the NFL player held in the off-season. Hall of Famer Alan Page was an attorney. Place kicker Garo Yepremian owned a tie shop. Back in 1960 NFL Commissioner Buddy Bell spoke with the players and told them playing football was not a career and don’t expect to live off the salary. The average NFL player was paid $12,000 a year back in 1960. In 2015 the NFL minimum salary for a rookie is $465,000. That’s a lot of money for most who don’t even graduate college these days. And that’s the minimum. This for playing a game, a game a lot of children play but because the powers that be figured out how to monetize and monopolize it, it’s a biased business with all the fun of competition thrown out and replaced by bottom lines.
Athletes used to become part of the community and towns they played in. Now it’s an old-fashioned statement to call someone a hometown hero. From high school, college and were they where drafted players became part of the community because they not only played there, they lived there. Once free agency began first in Major League Baseball in 1970 and late the NFL in 1993 players no longer became part of the town they played, instead they became hired hit men. Instead of being loyal to a team they went to work (or play) for whomever paid them the most. Loyalty and tradition were thrown out the window. When a player is now inducted into the Hall of Fame when they had played their career for one, maybe two for the last year or two of their career because of attrition, some have played for three or more teams and they must decide which team’s uniform, hat or logo they want emblazoned on their bust in the hall.
Sports and celebrity is a microcosm of what’s wrong with this country. Past generations taught and touted a work ethic. No longer. Everything today is specific specialization, instant gratification with maximum reward for little or no effort. Here’s s good example. Reality star and Dallas Mavericks owner is more famous for being a billionaire than how he became a billionaire. People are more interested in what he does with his money and how they can emulate it than how he initially earned it. All the talk about billionaire Warren Buffet is about his opinion and what he says to invest in instead of how he created his wealth. Both have bought into the ego gratification the media has given them and its easy for them to say you should do this or that, no one is explaining the how and why and responsibility involved. People are now told to just look at the bottom line. It’s like math. The purpose of math is not just numbers it’s esoterically a lot more. It’s problem solving, problem solving that can be applied without the use of a calculator but real life experiences. In other world real world applications and more than just numbers.
We have become a society that is enthralled with celebrity. People these days will do anything to become famous and in some cases infamous. That is the only explanation for the genre of reality TV, the influence of social media and how people use these tools to further an agenda or go down in history and infamy in an attempt to go viral. With Facebook Live alone and apps like Periscope people are using these tools to record themselves doing a number of activities including now suicide and murder.
For the rich and famous many look the other way or make excuses to excuse their behavior. In the most recent NFL draft there are a number of players with domestic violence charges and sports writers while not condoning the behavior, the only things they say about it is that it will probably drop their draft position – not hold them accountable but will only hurt them short term financially.
Sports are notorious for looking the other way. Current NFL players like Adrian Peterson missed an entire year involving child abuse, recently retired NFL quarterback Michael Vick was sent to a federal penitentiary for bankrolling a dog-fighting ring and was welcomed back with relatively open arms by the league and fans. People were more upset over Colin Kaepernick for kneeling during the National Anthem than domestic violence charges. The only reason Ray Rice didn’t sign with another team had noting to do with the elevator tape of him hitting his fiancé, but the fact he was at that age when most running backs begin to get shelved (late 20s/early 30s with rare exceptions like Peterson and Emmitt Smith). Greg Hardy’s domestic violence and weapons charges didn’t stop the Dallas Cowboys from signing him in 2015. Even Hall of Famers aren’t immune. We call know the infamous OJ Simpson murder trial, acquittal and aftermath. Let us not forget Hall of Fame quarterback was charged with domestic violence charges in 1996 for allegedly choking his wife. Many of these guys still have loyal fan bases that look the other way because they can play a sport that is really a child’s game.
The NCAA and the NFL looked the other way on the bad person that Aaron Hernandez won. I have no respect for either anymore. Growing up as someone who loved the sport I still watch and am skeptical at the product on the field. It’s all about money and not sport or actually representing the town for which the team represents. And it’s ironic he played for the New England Patriots who despite their “dynasty” should be under a real investigation for all the many coincidences during Bill Belichick’s tenure as head coach. There are too many “gates” to list. Urban Meyer had all of Hernandez’s behavioral issues brushed under the rug and the Patriots used that behavior to draft him in a lower round than he should have. Ironically just before Hernandez was arrested for the murder of Lloyd he signed a $40 million extension. Not bad for lack of a better way to say it – a career criminal.
The best news I’ve heard in a long time is Hernandez’s suicide. A coward way out. Finally a useless individual that got what he deserved. Good riddance.
– David N. Marks
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