As a fan of the NFL, I was saddened by the shocking news that struck the world in 2012. Aaron Hernandez, New England Patriots budding superstar Tight End, in fact was not a man beholden to the Patriot way. Instead, he was a deranged lunatic who committed senseless murders, whose only motive could be traced to PCP-induced paranoia and spilled drinks. Aaron Hernandez’s short time on this Earth proved him to be quite a bit of things: football player, psychopath, father, tragedy. His life feels like one of the final lines from Mystic River, as Jimmy Markum is questioned on the whereabouts of Dave Boyle, he drunkenly points down the road, saying “that was 25 years ago, going up this street, in the back of that car.” Hernandez, the person we thought he was, left this earth a long time ago, consumed instead by a thuggish brute with a predilection for extreme violence.
This story is a literal tragedy. The lives it has touched, the lives it has ruined are beyond anything I’ve read about before. I’ve never experienced the full-story arc, the rise and fall, of a man with this kind of platform, this kind of potential and talent. In what promises to be a day full of incredibly tone-deaf puns, jokes and takes, let me be the first to say that a man with an incredibly high ceiling only a few short years ago met his end via the ceiling today.
Perhaps the most jarring aspect of Hernandez’s story is the lack of a truly telling sign of impending trouble in his life. He was born in Bristol, Connecticut and lived in a two-family, seemingly middle-class home until the death of his father when he was 16. It was then that people believe Hernandez began to rebel against authority and first dove into the abyss. He was an apparent associate of the Bloods gang, he was questioned in Florida nightclub shootings. There are rumors he showed up to the NFL combine strung out and extremely paranoid to ask Bill Belichick for help, that people were trying to kill him. Holy shit, would I have loved to have been a fly on the wall for that conversation.
The world is absolutely a better place without Aaron Hernandez in it. Nevertheless, his story is a tragedy. It is a tragedy for the victims and their families. It is heartbreaking for his daughter who just wanted to be with her father, and at some point will have the face the harsh reality of who her father really was. He was a young man who was handed a golden ticket to life, a $40 million contract extension with the premiere American sports franchise, the New England Patriots. Instead, he chose to quietly shred that ticket and lead another life as a hardened thug with criminal associates and an appetite for extreme violence. I am saddened that the man who was once a young and promising football player named Aaron Hernandez left us, and even more deeply saddened for those affected today, yesterday and forever as the enigmatic Hernandez leaves this world forever.