The crazy case of Aaron Hernandez

The crazy case of Aaron Hernandez
June 27, 2013, 2:15 pm
Share This Post

Last week, when news broke of Aaron Hernandez’s possible connection to a North Attleboro murder, I was on a flight out to California, and following everything online. I had at least three windows open to Twitter, I was watching the live helicopter feed of his drive down to Gillette and read every new story as it popped up into my feed. After about an hour, the woman to my left tapped me on the shoulder:

Her: “Is that Aaron Hernandez?”

Me: “Yeah, it’s crazy. Apparently he’s being questioned in connection to a murder. Check this out. They’re chasing him down 95 in a chopper.”

At this point, her face dropped and she immediately turned to wake up her snoring husband and relay the news.

“I’m sorry,” she said, “This is crazy. We know Aaron.”

Turns out they were from the town over from Bristol, CT (where Hernandez grew up) and their son had played on Hernandez’s AAU basketball team. She described Hernandez as a normal and happy kid, who lived a pretty typical middle-class lifestyle. She also mentioned, like many have, that something changed after Hernandez’s father died unexpectedly in 2006 (when Aaron was 16), and that by the time he was down in Florida, there had been a very apparent transformation.

“I remember he came down back for a basketball game after his freshman year of college, and when he walked in, it was like a different person. His attitude. The way he dressed. He looked so angry. It was kind of scary. But we never thought anything like this could happen.”

Obviously, she wasn’t alone. In the week since that flight, this Hernandez story has reached depths that no sane person (on the outside looking in) could have foreseen, and with every passing day it only gets worse. Today, Hernandez is not only connected to the murder of Odin Lloyd, but he’s charged with shooting Lloyd himself, execution-style. He’s locked up without bail, and more terrifying reports continue to surface.

The whole thing is so surreal. I mean, at this point we all know better than to pretend we know the athletes that we root for. We barely know the people that we live and work with on a daily basis. But this is on another level.

As little as it matters right now, Hernandez truly was one of the most likable Patriots of these past few years. On a team that’s typically void of entertaining personalities, he stuck out. He was always smiling. It always seemed like he was having more fun than everyone else. Talking smack after every play. Making it rain in the end zone. While he could never stay healthy, when he was on the field, the dude played his heart out. And when the Pats extended him last season for five years and $40 million, the contract was celebrated. He was a guy that everyone was eager to build around and spend the next five years cheering for. Even if he was still a little young and stupid, there was reason to believe (especially given the birth of his daughter, and the Pats large investment), that Hernandez was ready to take his career and life to another level.

Of course, that’s all meaningless now. It doesn’t feel right to get wrapped up in nostalgia surrounding a guy in Hernandez’s position. You’re not supposed to feel sympathy for him.

That said, something tells me that that woman on the plane does. It must be impossible to escape the memory of a happy teenager with the potential Hernandez had, knowing that it’s all been wasted, and in such an unforgivable way. Just in general, it’s depressing to watch someone, anyone, piss that kind of talent and opportunity away.

But it’s gone.

The former Patriot has been charged with first degree murder. He’s now reportedly being investigated for his involvement in a 2012 double homicide. At this point, any image of Aaron Hernandez the football player (never mind the teenager) feels like a fairy tale. It’s been replaced by the photos of him in cuffs, and details of a cold-blooded murder.

There’s no use in speculating over where the story will go from here. A lot of people seem to think that Hernandez will spend the rest of his life in jail, but who knows? With all the money at his disposal and the current absence of a murder weapon, nothing is set in stone.

All we know is that Hernandez’s once promising future in New England is over. And that’s the least of his problems.