Aaron Hernandez’s smile tells us he doesn’t belong in prison. His tats beg to differ.
The murder case surrounding the New England Patriots versatile tight end took on an O.J. Simpson-A.C. Cowlings quality on Thursday when a helicopter from the local Fox affiliate trailed the tight end’s distinctive white SUV forty miles from his North Attleboro home to his lawyer’s office at the Prudential building in downtown Boston.
Look, he’s stopping for gas! Behold the massive sunroof!
If the parallels between the mid-’90s case-of-the-century and the mounting case against the tight end bother Hernandez, then he might find solace in precedent from that long-ago drama. Contrary to the wisdom of the Shadow, the weed of crime—and crimes involving weed—does not always bear bitter fruit. Crime sometimes does pay. The lesson? Get O.J. Simpson’s lawyers, not Rae Carruth’s.
The facts, at least before the lawyers have had their way with them, don’t look promising for Hernandez. A jogger encountered Odin Lloyd’s body less than a mile from Hernandez’s home (and more than thirty miles from Mr. Lloyd’s home). Lloyd dated the sister of Hernandez’s baby mama. They partied together, along with some Connecticut friends of Hernandez, immediately prior to Lloyd’s execution-style murder. Police found Hernandez’s abandoned rental car near the decedent. Investigators discovered the player’s home surveillance system and cell phone destroyed.
He may not have murdered Mr. Lloyd. He surely has a bead on who did. But he’s been about as talkative with the cops as Bill Belichick is with the media.
Hernandez is used to attention, just not this kind. I cheered him along with 69,000 other fans at a career-defining game against the Denver Broncos in the playoffs following the 2011 season. He caught a Tom Brady pass for a touchdown and strangely rushed for 61 yards on five carries. The spectators, like the Denver Broncos, didn’t expect the spectacle of Hernandez lining up at running back.
One can’t say the same for the predicament in which he now finds himself. “Personally, I've always had concerns,” Hernandez’s high school coach prophetically told the Hartford Courant immediately after the 2010 draft in which the first-round talent found himself faced with fourth-round money. “He graduated [in December 2006] when he was 17. He’d just lost his father. He was going away from home. He’s still a young man [at 20]. He’s leaving college a little early. He’s still finding himself. With the right people around him, he keeps his head straight, he’ll do very well. He’s a good kid. But it’s not only about age.”
NFL teams shied away from one of Tim Tebow’s favorite targets because of allegations that he had failed several drug tests and for rumors that he ran with gang members back home in Connecticut.
Hernandez enjoyed a mansion, a $40 million contract, and the positive reinforcement of such teammates as Tim Tebow in college and Tom Brady in the pros. But all of this was not enough of an inducement for Hernandez to lose the albatross of his associates off the field.
Aristotle had much to say regarding friendship to his son. “If one person stays the same while the other becomes more decent and differs greatly in virtue,” the Nichomachean Ethics asks, “should one treat the former as a friend? Or is this not possible? And this becomes especially clear in a great separation, as in people who were friends as children; for if the one remains a child in his thinking, while the other is a man such as the most powerful, how could they be friends when they are neither satisfied by the same things nor enjoy and feel pain at the same things?” Hernandez never matured enough to recognize that his old friends weren’t really his friends.
“Aaron Hernandez has the talent for a great future,” the Hartford Courant’s Jeff Jacobs explained back in 2010. “He also has the power to ruin that future. His choices, his adult choices, will determine his legacy.” If only Aaron Hernandez could have seen his future the way the people around him could.