Aaron Hernandez is a tragedy, but a self-inflicted one. The manner in which he lived his life and how he ended it Wednesday morning when he hanged himself by a bed sheet in his prison cell in Shirley is one and the same: He did this, every last brutal plot-twist, to himself.
How can anyone muster genuine sympathy for a 27-year-old sociopathic “Scarface” wannabe who was convicted of one murder and had an ancillary role in at least two others just because once upon a time he had a breathtaking gift for making the first tackler miss?
Feel for the family of Odin Lloyd, whom Hernandez was convicted in April 2015 of murdering two years earlier.
Feel for the families of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado, who have neither closure nor justice after Hernandez’s acquittal last week in their murders.
Feel for Hernandez’s 4-year-old daughter, brought to court last week to demonstrate the killer’s human side, a little girl who will grow up to discover that her biological father could not or would not subdue his evil tendencies for the sake of being a dad.
But there should no paeans to an athlete dying young. This wasn’t promise lost. This was promise deliberately snuffed out in the same deliberate way in which Hernandez and his toadies discarded Lloyd’s body behind an office park.
Hernandez knew right from wrong; he pandered to the Krafts with a charitable donation after signing a contract extension, selectively turned up the charm, which he possessed in abundance, and, as we learned during his months in court, always tried to cover up the wrongs. But he never stopped choosing them.
It’s not just that Hernandez could have had it all had he resisted the urge to kill; he did have it all. The sweet McMansion in North Attleboro, a beautiful child with a woman who loved him, adulation as a distinctively talented player in the midst of the greatest prolonged football dynasty in history, and the requisite riches ($12 million bonus, $16 million guaranteed) that come with the coveted second NFL contract.
That football career ended abruptly with his arrest in the Lloyd case and subsequent release by the Patriots in July 2013. It feels like longer ago, many of the images of him on the football field having long been deleted from our minds and replaced by images of his smug, defiant, occasionally menacing face in a courtroom.
He was just 23 years old when he played his last game for the Patriots, a 9-catch, 83-yard performance in an AFC Championship game loss to the Ravens. He was unreliable at times, but there was reason to believe then that the remarkably versatile player would become a cornerstone on another championship team. He is forever tied to the franchise, and yet a relic of a relatively distant past, at least in football years, as well.
The Patriots endured the scorn he brought to the franchise, winning a pair of Super Bowls while he was incarcerated. But the guilt-by-association finger-waggers persist, attempting to link him to their current status, as if the franchise should possess shame for the association with a disguised psychopath. That is as silly as Bob Ley’s suggestion on ESPN Wednesday that the Patriots should have postponed the White House visit in the wake of his suicide.
He is not one of them, and has not been for a long time. But we can just imagine the outrage had he caught that Hail Mary in Super Bowl XLVI and become a full-fledged, Disney-shilling Super Bowl hero.
To call this a fall from grace for Hernandez is to suggest he ever had any at all. We’ll never know why he was that way, though the amateur psychologists out in abundance Wednesday are happy to take a guess at it. Those who knew him in his youth suggest that the unexpected death of his father when he was 16 years old triggered a metamorphosis into a monster. Others speculate that he might have been suffering from football’s ruthless brain scourge, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.
It’s clear there was something severely wrong with his brain, football-related or not. What drove him to end his life Wednesday morning? Unless a yet-to-be-discovered suicide note exists, we can only speculate.
What we do know is that he chose the life he lived. And in the black morning of a single jail cell, when there was no one left to harm but himself, he chose his death. It’s a tragedy. But I’ll reserve my sympathy for anyone who had the misfortune of running into him at the wrong time along the way.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Follow Chad Finn on Twitter @GlobeChadFinn.