For Aaron Hernandez, America’s game may be all played out
How could a young man whose athletic gifts have made him extravagantly wealthy get caught up in something so bleak and pointless?
Earlier this year, Ray Lewis concluded a stunning NFL career by winning a Superbowl with the Baltimore Ravens. But his accomplishments will always be blemished by the 2000 trial in which he was jointly charged with the murders of two people in a stabbing incident when a fight broke out after a Superbowl party. The charges were dismissed when Lewis agreed to plead guilty to obstructing justice and admitted giving a misleading statement the day after the killings.
Darrent Williams was 24-years-old who had proven all the recruiters wrong after an exceptional season with the Denver Broncos. On New Year’s Eve 2007, he was at a party – hosted by Denver Nuggets NBA star Kenyon Martyn – where some sort of daft row broke out between local gang members and some of the football stars over the spraying of champagne.
The account is detailed by Thomas Lake in a long, sombre essay in Sports Illustrated called “Bad Nights in The NFL”. Egos, diamonds, VIP areas, limousines and guns: it sounds like an MTV video you have seen a thousand times before. Williams had nothing to do with any of the rows: he was killed by a single bullet to the neck when the car in which he was travelling with friends was sprayed with bullets.
Williams was an exceptional football player but such is the reserve of talent that he was replaceable. If Aaron Hernandez is found guilty of murder, he too will be replaced – although it has been noted that the Pats’ have an immediate deficit in tight ends. And if he is acquitted, the NFL is hardly going to welcome him back with open arms: for Hernandez, the game is up.
But how could a young man whose athletic gifts have made him extravagantly wealthy get caught up in something so bleak and pointless? How is it that reports say police are trying to link him to two other murders in the Boston area? Why did a photo of Hernandez holding a handgun, taken in 2009 when he was a student/football player at the University of Florida, only emerge now?
The tattoos decorating Hernandez’ arms symbolise events and people central to his life. Most prominent are sayings he associates with his father, who died suddenly seven years ago. Since then, Hernandez has been defined by personal turbulence and athletic excellence.
The gladiatorial element of the draft system, which is designed to reduce the field of potential professional candidates to an elite handful every year, is a condensed version of the American dream. In American football – a game of tactics, speed and relentless violence – the auditions never stop. Make that shortlist and instant wealth, adoration and fame awaits you. Just 200 new kings are anointed ever year and Hernandez was one of those.
Whether Hernandez is another example of the troubled interior of the NFL or just another young American male with a gun is of little use now to OdinLloyd and his family. Meanwhile, the New England Patriots’ pre-season schedule starts on August 9th.