A former football player named Aaron Hernandez was found dead hanging in his jail cell while serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. It’s a shame. Not to say Hernandez was a decent human being, he wasn’t. He hurt other people and was convicted of murder, while he was also accused of other crimes although eventually exonerated.
So why sad? It didn’t have to end this way. Various people might have helped Hernandez along the way and not only prevented his death but perhaps changed his life in a way that he was able to make a difference in this world. Now, don’t get me wrong, Hernandez and Hernandez alone is ultimately responsible for his death. He took the actions that ended up with his imprisonment, and eventually his death.
The problem here is that Hernandez was an exceptional athlete. He excelled at football from a young age and was named player of the year in Connecticut in high school. He went on to be a star at the University of Florida on an athletic scholarship and won the John Mackey Award as the best tight-end in the country as a junior. He was then drafted by the New England Patriots. His professional career lasted three years and included a big money contract extension after the 2011 season.
It was then he committed the crime that eventually put him in prison and ended his career.
Hernandez had a long history of trouble dating at least back to his freshman year in college and likely predates even this.
Every coach who worked with Hernandez was likely aware of these issues and chose to allow him to continue to play because of his undeniable athletic prowess.
Teammates almost certainly had knowledge of his activity as well.
There is no doubt in my mind that any number of people could have tried harder to help Hernandez but chose not to because of his ability. Because he was a skilled athlete, because he helped teams win games. Winning games is largely what athletics in the modern age has become. There was a time when winning wasn’t so important, almost certainly because there was a lot less money involved.
In today’s world winning equates to cash. It means money for everyone from an assistant high school coach all the way up to the owner of a professional sports team and everyone in between. Announcers, construction contractors who build stadiums, cheerleaders, lobbyists who take politicians to important games, and many more.
There are literally trillions of dollars associated with the skills Hernandez had in abundance. Is it any wonder we find ourselves in an ethical dilemma in regards to talent versus character?
Yes, trillions. Think about every athletic league in every nation from grammar school all the way up. It’s an enormous industry and completely dependent on the talent of the players of the game.
Maybe he would have died in a prison cell even if he wasn’t a star athlete. Maybe he would have died at a younger age in a drug deal. I don’t know.
This is the world and sometimes it makes me sad.
By Tom Liberman
Tom Liberman is a rather ordinary fellow who enjoys spending time with his great family and wonderful friends. He writes Sword and Sorcery fantasy novels in his spare time.
I wonder if, at some point, personal character will be much more important to professional teams than it has been. Teams will be less willing to take a chance on a troubled athlete, with the possibility this draft pick and investment will end up in jail. I am remembering Stanley Wilson caught with cocaine before Super Bowl XXIII. I wonder if someone with a few less catches in college than Hernandez, but worked hard, lived decently, was never absent or late for any practice, and was never drafted, is sitting at home wondering why he is not in the NFL. I also wonder if coaches wake up Sunday morning and look at the arrest reports in the morning paper to see if they have a chance to win that day.
Thank you for the comment. All good questions. I’m of the opinion that the better athlete will generally be the one drafted in those situations. The reality of athletics is, to quote a movie, we need those inches. And a guy who can run a tenth of second faster gives you those inches.