Curran: Hernandez couldn't walk the walk

Curran: Hernandez couldn't walk the walk
June 23, 2013, 2:00 pm
Share This Post

Sunday morning, agent Brian Murphy sent out a tweet praising one of his firm’s clients, Rams receiver Austin Pettis.
“AP embracing the term role model and stepping up to give back to the community. A1 family is very proud!” tweeted Murphy.
A1 is Athletes First and it’s been a tough week for the firm since another one of its clients, Aaron Hernandez, was sashaying around this week with an Athlete’s First sweatshirt on while a murder investigation swirls in his living room.
So good for Austin Pettis for doing good. And while it’s Athletes First's right to chest-puff about the good deeds of a client and every community appreciates it, I’ve been thinking this week about how easily we in the media and fans swallow the “good works” narrative we’re spoon-fed by organizations whose ulterior motives for good works is also good publicity.
Last August, Hernandez signed a contract and immediately cut a check to Robert Kraft for $50,000 to go toward the Patriots Charitable Foundation.
Despite the events of the past week -- and whatever Hernandez may have been involved in or on the fringes of in the past few months -- I don’t doubt that he meant well at the time. And I don’t doubt that Kraft was truly touched by the gesture because only a beyond-salvation cynic would think the Patriots community commitment is only done for the positive press it engenders.
My issue is with self-congratulation and cultivating a holier-than-thou, above-the-fray, not-in-our-house image when, as we all know by now, nobody is all good. Nor all bad.
We in the media were all made well aware of Hernandez’s gesture and ran with the implication that, “Hey, the kid gets it now and he’s a real good guy . . .” Happens a lot.
This offseason, the Patriots traded for running back LeGarrette Blount. He’s got a bit of a checkered past. They also acquired running back Leon Washington who is seemingly pristine.
When I asked running backs coach Ivan Fears about what Washington brings to the running back group, Fears answered, “He’s a great guy. That’s all we ever have. We don’t go for the other stuff. Our guys are solid people. They really are.”
And in my mind, as Fears said that, I’m thinking about Blount.
Has the Patriots’ organization cultivated the notion of a so-called “Patriots Way?”
No doubt.
Not on the football side, necessarily, where the highest compliment Bill Belichick pays a player is often “football is important to him,” but the organization has propagated the idea that they hire great young men and, when they go outside that box, it’s done very carefully with the expectation the player will come out clean after his baptism in the Patriots culture and be an upstanding citizen or be gone.
That’s what they want. That’s what they are committed to. But to succeed in the NFL, a player has to embrace the side of his personality that welcomes physical violence, extreme toughness and a “baddest man on the planet” persona. Being a sweet person is at cross-purposes with being a great football player. Many, many, many NFL players -- the vast majority -- can toggle back and forth between the two personas. They are mature enough to understand the difference, the demands of their job as professionals and the responsibilities they have to the people paying them millions.
The Patriots have a group of outstanding people on their football team. Tom Brady, Jerod Mayo, Vince Wilfork, Logan Mankins, Devin McCourty, Matt Slater, really, I could go on and on.
And they have had those players for more than a decade in an abundance. The Vrabels and Bruschis and Phifers. The Harrisons, Izzos and Lights.
They have also had players who grew up and grew into their maturity. Willie McGinest being the most prime example, in my opinion.
They have a lot of players who seem to have more character than I had at 25. And probably more than I had at 40, too.
But it’s not going to be universal. Never can be. And pretending it is, and wearing your moral superiority on your sleeve is whistling past the graveyard. It also is going to make folks take a certain amount of glee when that narrative blows up in your face.
Aaron Hernandez has made the Patriots look like fools. If he plays another down for this team, I’ll be stunned no matter how the Odin Lloyd murder investigation turns out.
The senseless death of a 27-year-old is, quite obviously, the real tragedy here.
But when it comes to Hernandez, the saddest thing to me isn’t the wasted football talent. It’s the wasted opportunity to do good with his mere presence in the community. The fact that he didn’t want to walk it like he talked it when he said he was all grown up.
Walking it like you talk it is damn hard. Sometimes not talking at all is the best approach.