Why Did Aaron Hernandez Fumble It All Away?

“When All the Laughter Died in Sorrow,” an autobiographical book written by troubled Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Lance Rentzel in 1972, seems like the perfect title for the story of former Patriots football star Aaron Hernandez.

The daily news that keeps unfolding regarding Hernandez has led me to ponder his sudden and precipitous fall from grace. How does a guy who seemingly had it all; good looks, charm, charisma, talent, a star tight end in the NFL, receiving passes thrown by Tom Brady, a huge contract, and family, decide to embrace the dark side and flush it all down the toilet? I’m flabbergasted by how a person in his position could act in such an irrational manner to jeopardize the dream life that he had built for himself.

I’ve racked my brain trying to figure out why. I also know that this kind of thing has happened many times before. I know that O.J. Simpson’s presumed actions in Brentwood, California in 1994 bear a similarity. I know that former Carolina Panthers wide receiver Rae Carruth was found guilty of conspiring to murder the woman who was carrying his child in 1999. It’s just hard, knowing about these past crimes, to comprehend the rationale behind someone following suit, ignoring good fortune and allegedly committing cold-blooded murder.

Does this man truly know what he has done? Does he know that he had it all and just fumbled it all away? Did he know, before his alleged poor judgment, how lucky he was? Did he know that he had been handed the key to the kingdom and rudely threw it away? I’m assuming that he will probably be found guilty and spend a long time in jail, although the possibility of his lawyers working miracles, to dare I say, have him acquitted, has crossed my mind. I mean, stranger things have happened, right?

I know that there are star athletes who have made the mistake of falling in with a bad group of people. For whatever reason they would rather socialize with the wrongdoers than mix with a better brand of people. They’re use to a certain way of life and can’t abandon it no matter the level of their success. They become victims of past associations, unable to leave their old street life behind. So, instead of doing something beneficial, or productive with their lives, they end up being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or become an accomplice to some sort of illegal activity.

However, you can’t apply this type of scenario to the Hernandez situation. From most accounts reported by the Boston media it appears that Hernandez wasn’t the victim of being pulled or lured into a bad situation. He ostensibly invited it. He apparently was the bad person. He was the one who purportedly orchestrated the execution of Odin Lloyd in North Attleboro, Massachusetts on June 17th.

This clearly didn’t jive with the public persona of Hernandez, who looked like a well-mannered, nice, fun-loving guy. People around the team knew him as a polite, likable and courteous guy who was accommodating to the news media and fans. That’s why when news of Hernandez’s possible culpability in the murder of Lloyd came to light it was such a big surprise.  In a flash, a seemingly decent man with a promising, bright future became an alleged violent criminal right before our eyes. The gridiron god was now being painted as a villain, a murderer, a sociopath. And, just like that, as a bewildered Robert Kraft stated at a news conference, “We were all duped.”

It was fascinating watching the image of Hernandez transform into one of a monster as evidence began surfacing of his unscrupulous behavior. There were photos of him dressed like a gang-banger while proudly wielding a firearm. But nothing beats the image of a defiant looking Hernandez being led from his house in handcuffs with a white T-shirt haphazardly draped over his arms and torso.

Of course, the media, doing its due diligence, wondered why the Patriots organization didn’t properly vet the player before signing him to such a high-priced contract. There was news that other NFL teams took Hernandez off of their 2010 draft boards because of his questionable background. But who can fault the Patriots for taking a gamble on such a talented player with the 133th pick in the fourth round whose only real negative trait seemed to be that he smoked a little weed?

Last week the Patriots let fans swap their Hernandez jerseys. According to Will Brinson of CBSSports.com, 1,200 Hernandez jerseys were returned, costing the Patriots $250,000. The team plans to destroy the jerseys by grinding them up so they can donate the material for recycling purposes. When I heard about this I felt like Hernandez-the-player had been extinguished, erased from existence.

All of this brings me back to my original question: Why would someone like Aaron Hernandez allegedly commit a violent crime and throw his great career and life away? I’m sure we’ll probably never know the answer. And, that is all so terribly puzzling, sad and tragic.

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Kraft gave me Super Bowl Ring too!

Cash, Kraft & BLING

In light of the recent news that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin allegedly took Robert Kraft’s Super Bowl ring I thought I’d share my own Kraft/Ring story with you. It involves my encounter with the Patriots owner in Las Vegas some years ago. See, I met Kraft at the Stardust hotel after seeing Don Rickles’ show. It was seemingly the unlikeliest of introductions with the affable, extremely hospitable Patriots owner.

To provide some back-story, and context, I was in Vegas for a friend’s bachelor party. The best man was John Stamos, so the weekend was his creation, and had the feeling of an episode straight out of the hit TV series Entourage. It was a good time, filled with gambling, drinking and clubbing. Maybe looking back on it now, I should have been expecting the unexpected, like meeting Mr. Kraft. In fact, the weekend turned into my ultimate Patriots experience. I’ll explain….

As part of our scheduled entertainment, Stamos arranged for us to go see Don Rickles’ comedy act at the Stardust. It was a great show. Rickles was on his game and hilarious. At the conclusion of the show, Rickles addressed the audience, thanking certain notable individuals for coming. And, to my complete surprise one of the people he thanked was Robert Kraft, who was there with his wife, Myra. In fact, Kraft was seated in the booth right next to ours. All of my friends knew that I was a Patriots fanatic, and nudged me to go say hello. However, as I started toward Kraft, I was informed that we were heading backstage so that Stamos could say hello, and introduce us to Rickles.

A few minutes later, while we waited outside Rickles’ dressing room, Kraft arrived with Myra in tow. So, of course I approached him. I told him I was from Massachusetts and a big fan of the team. He and his wife were very nice. The Krafts and I spoke for a minute, mostly about the team. Then Mr. Kraft told me that he had to go visit Don Rickles in his dressing room and would speak with me later. I thought he was politely giving me the brush off and I would never see him again.

A short time later, we were ushered into Rickles’ dressing room. We went through the pleasantries with Rickles. We took a few pictures. Rickles was very accommodating. Moments later, Kraft approached me, holding out his fisted hand. At the time, I didn’t even know that Kraft was still in Rickles’ dressing room. Kraft was grinning proudly as he held out his hand. I didn’t know what to do. So, I opened my hand. That was when he gently deposited his shiny Super Bowl ring into my hand. BLING!!!!! My jaw dropped. Wow!

I stared at the ring in utter disbelief. When I came to my senses, I slid the ring onto my finger. My friends snapped pictures. One of them is included in this blog. The ring is an awesome piece of artwork. It was heavy, big and really shiny. Can you say “BLING”!!! My friends and I stood there admiring its luster. After our curiosity subsided, I looked around for Kraft, but he had completely disappeared. I think he had stepped away to chat with someone. But I had no idea where he was. So, I just stood there wearing the Patriots’ owner’s Super Bowl ring. It was pretty cool. Then it struck me… Had Kraft gifted me the ring? Did he want it back? I was secretly hoping that he didn’t want it back. I mean he was gone, and the ‘BLING’ was in my possession. I asked my friends if I was supposed to keep it. They didn’t know. They joked that Kraft had gifted me the ring. I wanted to believe it. And, so, there I stood, perplexed by Kraft’s extremely generous gesture. I mean, just trying the ring on was a really cool experience.

Unfortunately, ( I say unfortunately because I secretly hoped as anyone would that I was being gifted the ring.) Kraft finally reappeared and retrieved his ring. No. I wasn’t going to pull a Putin and keep it. I was happy for my fifteen minutes with his prized possession. Btw, it fit my finger really nicely. :)  After some more conversation about the Patriots, Mr. Kraft and I parted ways. I thanked him for letting me try on his ring. We shook hands, and he smiled, and disappeared with his wife into the night.

You would have thought that this would have been the highlight of my evening, right? Guess what? Not even close. A few hours later, we went to the club Tao at the Venetian, and that’s where I met Tom Brady. That’s right. I met Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady. Actually, he introduced himself to me. Crazy, right? I know. It was like some Patriots fantasy come to life. I not only got to wear the Super Bowl ring, but I got to meet the man who was the architect behind winning that esteemed ring. What prompted Brady to say hello to me? Apparently, someone in our party had learned that Kraft and Brady were in a private room in the club and notified them of my fanaticism for the team.

Meeting Brady was like something out of a daydream. I was standing at our private area near the dance floor and Brady appeared out of the artificial fog, stuck out his hand and said hello. It totally caught me off guard. I think I was practically speechless. My friends were in shock as well. There we were… Brady and me chatting by the dance floor. At least I think we were chatting, because I felt like I was at a loss for words. I was so off kilter that I forget to ask someone to take a picture. Brady and I spoke for several minutes. I told him that I had met Kraft, and got to wear the ring. Then Brady politely excused himself, turned around, took a step and literally disappeared back into the fog.

So that’s my Patriots story. It was quite a night, and quite an experience. It’s certainly an experience that I will never forget.

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