“The saddest thing in life is wasted talent….And the choices that you make will shape your life forever” – from the movie A Bronx Tale
“Let no man’s ghost come back to say, my training let me down.” These are the words that are prominently displayed in the New York City Fire Department’s Training Academy. As a firefighter, we are also taught to “Train for life,” and that is what we do. This is not limited to the specific skills and details of the work we do. They are included, but “Training for Life” encompasses so much more. It is how you take care of yourself, both physically and mentally; what you do to enhance your skills and keep them sharp, not resting on your laurels; who you associate with, and how they may have an influence in and on your life. These are the things that disturb me so much in the case surrounding Aaron Hernandez. At this point, even his number one fan would have trouble defending his innocence. But it goes beyond that. We hear all the time how athletes are given advantages and special privileges that the general population does not receive. Attendance in school and breaks in the law are usually the most talked about. As long as an athlete is performing at a high level, it seems as though they could get away with murder. That is, until it actually happens. For the record, I do not know Aaron Hernandez, nor have I ever met him. He was the player that wore the franchise tag for my fantasy football keeper league, and someone I liked watching play since his days as a Florida Gator. I know he is someone who had a long list of female admirers, a lot of tattoos, and a style of play that changed how defenses lined up. That is the extent of my relationship with Aaron Hernandez. It is easy to say in hindsight, that there were so many warning signs in his past. He lost his father at the age of 16, and apparently it was widely known he filled that void by joining a gang in his hometown of Bristol, CT.
Right in the shadows of ESPN’s headquarters, an elite athlete was being raised with no direction. No coach reaching out to intervene or take him under their wing, he was passed through the system and most likely thought of as a cash cow. Perhaps my friend Drey summed it up best: “He didn’t have any true friends. Your friends, the ones that are smart, won’t let this happen at all.” As I write this, and as you read, it sounds absurd to think this needs to be said – it just seems so obvious. But Aaron Hernandez is not the only one, he is just the only one who had made it big. For me, the saddest part to it all is not even the crime he committed. Before you scathe me, be aware I am not in agreement with murder, and the life of Odin Lloyd should be remembered and honored. I am so bothered by his motives and his logic, and how he seemed to be living in a fantasy world. He and his accomplices were less than a mile from his home, and it appears he is unaware of cameras and witnesses, and recorded logs. If it is true that he was also involved in the double murder of Daniel Abreu and Safiro Furtado, it becomes even more outrageous. The only apparent motive at this time, is that it all stemmed from a nightclub brawl, and he felt disrespected. He will have his day in court, and there will be a lot more that comes out, but for now it seems his Grand Theft Auto fantasy has crossed over into the real world. We have seen other athletes get in trouble with the law, and it was only a matter of time before something like this happened. Aaron Hernandez is 23, the father of an infant daughter, and now a former NFL superstar. As you watch the case unfold, despite the heinousness of the crimes committed, keep in mind the phrase “Train for Life.” Aaron Hernandez’s training indeed let him down. He has a lot of responsibility to bear, but somewhere along the line, his behavior was accepted. It doesn’t take a lot to make an impression on someone, especially a developing adolescent. We can all play a part in this, no matter who or where you are. Look at your surroundings, and I guarantee there is someone in your life whose training you are a part of. Do not let the ghost of a man come back to say, “My training let me down.”
Your thoughts and comments are encouraged and appreciated. I understand this is a sensitive topic, with a lot of emotion attached to it. With the imposed gag order in this case, much will have to be speculated until further details are presented in court. Hernandez is next to appear in front of a Judge on July 24th, so rumors that come out between now and then will be in abundance. This is a piece of American History that will go well beyond just the sports world. As such, I anticipate it will be a topic of conversation for many years to come. Thank you for allowing me the platform to voice some of my thoughts on this story. As someone who played team sports through college, and then later coached youth in AAU, this surreal tale has hit a nerve within. As a parent of two boys, I cannot think of a more sad and fearful outcome. Many lives have been taken by ignorance and a lack of nurturing. Perhaps someday this can be viewed in a positive light, as something that inspired change and growth within our communities. You can also follow me on Twitter @PeoplezPen