It wasn’t the headline I expected to read on a normal Wednesday morning.
Then again, nothing about Aaron Hernandez was to be expected.
When Hernandez murdered Odin Lloyd in June 2013, the most common emotion in Boston was likely that of betrayal. “How dare he throw it all away?” was the cliche thrown around most often over the days and weeks that followed.
Four years later, Hernandez is dead. The 27-year-old ex-Patriots tight end hung himself with his bedsheet and a bar from his cell window, just days after being acquitted of a 2012 Boston double homicide case.
It may be surprising to some that Hernandez would choose to end his life following such good news.
Let’s be honest, Hernandez didn’t have a whole lot of reason to celebrate. This wasn’t O.J. partying at his Brentwood mansion just hours after his famed acquittal. Hernandez was simply to return to his prison cell in central Massachusetts, because of that OTHER guy he murdered.
There will never be a definitive explanation for why Hernandez chose to commit these heinous acts. We can only sit and analyze this puzzling end to a heartbreaking life.
Hernandez grew up poor in Bristol, Connecticut, and grinded his way to a full-ride scholarship at the University of Florida. However, his life in Bristol would always remain central to him, and his friends back home would ultimately help him in committing first-degree murder.
I’ll always wish that Hernandez had had a tighter leash at Florida. As a true freshman in April 2007, Hernandez was arrested in a bar fight. He was just seventeen years old. Then came a September 2007 shooting where victims described a shooter that could have been Hernandez (Massachusetts and Florida authorites continue to work on this case).
The fact that a player with obvious mental issues was able to skate through these two incidents all the way to the NFL astounds me. In fact, it disturbs me, because we have maintained the egregious idea that athletes are somehow untouchable.
Everywhere along the line, Hernandez had no trouble finding trouble. With so many firearms in the picture, it sounds like Hernandez didn’t exactly have a way with words. Shooting took precedent over talking things out, and that is a heartbreaking truth.
If we fast-forward to the winter of 2013, things appear to have changed significantly. At that point, Hernandez was engaged to his longtime girlfriend, and even had a baby daughter, Avielle. Hernandez had just purchased a large suburban home in North Attleboro, Massachusetts, just fifteen minutes from Gillette Stadium. The classic suburban lifestyle was his for the taking.
Until it wasn’t. Several months later, Hernandez drove Odin Lloyd and several Bristol friends to an open gravel pit. He shot and killed Lloyd around 3:30 AM on June 17, 2013. Less than a mile away, his baby girl and fiancee were asleep in the house he bought for them. Had they been awake, they would have heard the shot being fired.
It appeared as if Hernandez had it all, and it’s fair to argue that he did –a cushy, multi-million-dollar lifestyle, a family, and the obligation to play a game for a living. But Hernandez always desired more in his life, and his desirables were dark, twisted, and downright sickening. Murder made him feel good; it gave him control, which was probably what he coveted more than anything else.
A popular debate right now seems to be this: “You don’t actually feel BAD for Aaron Hernandez, do you?” It’s impossible to defend murder, but let’s think about what Hernandez had going for him. He had completed the rags-to-riches story, but he always held on to part of that rag. Instead of investing for the future of his child and future wife, Hernandez concerned himself with what he thought to be more urgent matters. He was more interested in what his boys in Bristol were up to. He cared about brutally murdering people who, as far as we know, were friends.
Hernandez was rich. But he could never shake his roots and bad habits. He could never harness his aggression off the field and, worst of all, he never found sight of what was truly worth fighting for in life.
Forgive me if I’m wrong, but that is someone worth feeling sorry for.