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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