“On April 19, 2017 Aaron Hernandez was discovered hanging in his cell by corrections officers at the Souza Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley Massachusetts at approximately 3:05 a.m., lifesaving techniques were attempted on Mr. Hernandez and he was transported to UMASS Leominster where he was pronounced dead at 4:07 a.m. by a physician at the hospital. Mr. Hernandez was in a single cell in a general population housing. Mr. Hernandez hanged himself utilizing a bed sheet that he attached to his cell window. Mr. Hernandez also attempted to block his door from the inside by jamming the door with various items. The Massachusetts State Police are on scene and the investigation continues. Mr. Hernandez’s next of kin have been notified.” – statement from the Massachusetts Department of Corrections
I vaguely remember Aaron Hernandez when he played for Florida and I don’t really follow pro football and certainly not the New England Patriots. But when his name began showing up in the news in 2013 for suspicion of murder he was hard to ignore.
The warning signs for Hernandez’s troubling future began early. It would be very easy to make a number of assumptions about him, troubled home life, coddle college athlete, too much money, to many hanger-ons telling him how great he was, but today none of that matters. What matters is a 27-year-old, a man who could catch a football better than most, a man who was paid millions to play a kids game, a 27-year-old that was a father to a young daughter is dead and I wonder, who is to blame? That may sound like an odd question, “who is to blame” but I find myself asking that question time and time again.
Instances of college and pro athletes getting into trouble are rampant. Some nineteen year old getting busted for drunk driving in Georgia typically wouldn’t even garner a mention in the Charlotte, NC newspaper. But if that nineteen year old happens to be the starting quarterback for the University of Georgia his name, and the story, will not only appear in the Charlotte Observer but on ESPN’s Sports Center as well. Why? Because for whatever reason “we” think that nineteen year old student athlete should be held to a higher standard than say our goofy nephew who would lose his ass if it weren’t attached to him.
Maybe we desire a higher standard because we give them a pass on so much other stuff like actually going to class, or getting a degree in something that has the word “Recreation” in it. We treat these kids like gods when they win, and berate them senseless when they lose. And if one of the 74,000 kids playing college football happens to be good enough to be one of the 1,700 people playing pro football we pay them thousands, millions of dollars to entertain us on Sunday and our treating them like gods morphs into worship.
It would be easy to lay the blame squarely on Aaron Hernandez shoulders for his troubles. That he squandered both his opportunities and talents on senseless, and harmful acts. Maybe he asked for help along the way, maybe he didn’t. But I know there were people, coaches, teammates, fans, family who realized that he had chosen a very destructive path to follow. Could they have helped him? Did they try to help him? Or did they let it go? Maybe they took the approach that as long as what he did off the field didn’t interfere with what he did on the field we would just look the other way? If that is the case, then many are to blame.
Aaron Hernandez, a man who signed a five-year contract for $40 million plus a $12.5 million signing bonus in 2012 for simply catching a football, a man convicted of first-degree murder in 2015, a man who would spend the rest of his life in prison, the father of a four-year old daughter killed himself with a bed sheet yesterday. Something failed in his life. Maybe he failed himself, or maybe “we” let him fail.