Washing my hands of Hernandez
On Monday the New England Sports Fan Friend and I watched game 6 of the Stanley Cup playoffs together, and our conversation inevitably turned to what we euphemistically referred to as the New England Patriots’ “tight-end problem.”
“These guys were supposed to be the future of the team,” I said. “But Gronkowski keeps having surgery, and it looks like Aaron Hernandez is headed to jail.” Hernandez had yet to be arrested, but it was quite clear that an arrest was imminent, and on Thursday he was led away from his North Attleboro mansion in handcuffs. Almost immediately, the Patriots cut Hernandez, and I breathed a sigh of relief.
Innocent until proven guilty and all that, but I’ve read the indictment, and the reports about the February incident in which Hernandez is accused of shooting a man, and today’s shocking new report that police are investigating whether Hernandez is connected to a 2012 double homicide, and I don’t want the team I root for to have anything to do with Hernandez anymore. Because right now he looks like a guy who is on the fast track to life in prison.
In the aftermath of the murder of Odin Lloyd, Hernandez’s home security system and cell phone were reportedly destroyed; video surveillance footage shows Hernandez and Lloyd entering the industrial park where Lloyd’s body was later found. Circumstantial evidence? Sure. But it certainly looks bad, and I see no reason for the Pats to stand by Hernandez and wait for the process to play itself out. If he’s acquitted, well, great — he can attempt to come back to the NFL. Although it seems unlikely anyone in the league will want anything to do with him. And that’s saying something.
I’ve always liked Aaron Hernandez, who struck me as a talented player and hard worker who had unfairly been tagged with the “bad character” label for smoking pot and having some unpleasant friends. There seems to be this growing sentiment that the Patriots should have known Hernandez would one day be arrested on murder charges because he failed some drug tests in college. I know plenty of people who smoked pot in college and managed not to grow up to become murderers, and professional sports is full of guys from less-than-ideal backgrounds. Frankly, I don’t really know how anyone could have seen the Hernandez arrest coming, which might explain why I’m getting tired of moralizing sports columns about how we all should have known better.
In a column with the title “We Never Really Knew Aaron Hernandez,” the Boston Globe’s Eric Wilbur writes “And yet, this is a man you paid to see every week. This is a man whose name adorns personalized jerseys throughout New England. This was a man who showed up at schools and other various charities in the name of his team. This is a man whose likeness probably was torn down from more than one bedroom yesterday, where a young adolescent has to try and grapple the hard realities of perception and fact.”
OK, I’ll be the first to admit that I never really knew Aaron Hernandez. How could I? I WATCHED HIM PLAY FOOTBALL ON MY TV. I don’t think I was under the illusion that I really knew him, or had looked into his heart and truly gauged the depth of his character. And, sure, I invited him into my home each week. BUT THAT WAS BEFORE HE WAS ACCUSED OF MURDER. Now that he’s been accused of murder, the invitation is rescinded. I won’t be cheering for him anymore.
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