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Chris Gay: Aaron Hernandez situation a tragedy long before his suicide

Posted: April 23, 2017 - 1:26am

Let me ask you a question.

What would you say if a convicted murderer, a guy who's been involved with guns and drugs among other things, killed himself in prison? Would you call this a tragedy? Would you have sympathy?

I got in my car about 7:30 Wednesday morning en route to playing golf. The radio was on the Mike & Mike show on ESPN Radio, something I never listen to. ESPN bores me with its countless "analysts" talking about the NBA or NHL or something else that doesn't interest me. Who's going to be the NBA MVP? (Who cares? But we all know it's going to be Russell Westbrook.) Who will the Cleveland Browns take in the first round of the NFL Draft? (Who cares? But we all know the Browns are going to take defensive lineman Myles Garrett from Texas A&M).

I'm sometimes guilty of listening to FM or AM radio for several minutes before I go: "Why am I still listening to this?" That was the case the other morning. I was trying to get in the mood to play golf, about to fire up the playlist on my phone. Before I could, the guys on Mike & Mike were discussing the breaking news of the morning - former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez committed suicide hours earlier. They called it a tragedy. I then turned off the show.

A tragedy?

To recap: Hernandez, a talented tight end who played at Florida with Tim Tebow and helped lead the Gators to the 2009 national championship, played three seasons in the NFL for the Patriots. In August 2012, he received a five-year, $40 million contract extension, which included a $12.5 million signing bonus. His life was set. Or so it seemed.

Less than a year later, Hernandez was arrested following the death of Odin Lloyd, a semi-pro football player in the New England area. Two years later, Hernandez was convicted of first-degree murder. Because Massachusetts doesn't have the death penalty, Hernandez was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. In other words, his playing career and his life, for all intents and purposes, was over.

Last week, Hernandez was acquitted on charges of murdering two men in a drive-by shooting in 2012. Despite the flashy headlines of the acquittal, the cold reality was this: Hernandez was still going to rot in prison for the rest of his life.

On Wednesday morning, Hernandez hanged himself in his cell. His death marked the end of a 27-year-old who was so talented on the football field. But was it a tragedy like the guys on Mike & Mike referred to it?

In 2007, Hernandez was involved in a bar fight while attending Florida. As a 17-year-old, he was accused of trying to walk out without paying for two alcoholic beverages. Tebow tried to intervene, offering to pay the bill and telling Hernandez to leave. Unfortunately, he didn't listen. Hernandez punched the manager after a confrontation. Hernandez could've been charged with felony battery, but no charges were filed.

Despite getting off easy, Hernandez continued making bad decisions. In 2012, he impregnated his girlfriend. Their illegitimate child, a daughter, was born in November of that year.

Hernandez should have done right. He should've married his girlfriend - they became engaged around the time their daughter was born. He should have focused on becoming a great father. He had so many things going for him: A multi-million dollar contract, a mansion, a child, a fiancee. He could have - he should have - had a wonderful life. Instead, he killed Lloyd in 2013.

If you're going to feel sorry for anyone in this situation, feel sorry for Hernandez's 4-year-old daughter. If Hernandez had not killed himself, he still was never going to be able to do the little things for his daughter. That's the real tragedy.

And that's not just the tragedy with the Hernandez situation. That's the tragedy with a lot of guys who would rather be sperm donors than fathers, guys who either have children out of wedlock and disappear or just aren't good fathers, whether they're in a committed relationship or not.

In my profession, one of the things I do is read and observe people. On Friday, I spoke to Norm Cox, one of the great guys in Columbia County. Norm, who I met years ago as Lakeside's girls basketball coach, is now coaching three of his four daughters in lacrosse. I spoke to Caleigh Cox after the Lady Panthers' contest at Greenbrier. I can tell she and her sisters really love their dad. That was heartwarming to see.

I also see situations on the other end of the spectrum. I coach a youth baseball team at the Family Y with another great dad, Isaac Green. He and I are the only two fathers coaching the 11 players on our roster. Some of the children on my team have some fantastic, hard-working dads who are busting their butts to support their families and don't have time to help coach. And there are some dads who just aren't there, and that's sad to see.

Aaron Hernandez made the decision he wasn't going to be a great father. There's not enough space in this column to cover the entire Hernandez plight. You can go online and read it yourself. And when you do, ask yourself a question: Is this a tragedy?

 

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