Monday, January 18, 2016
Since I'm sure everyone who reads this is a football fan, you already know that the New England Patriots won their playoff game yesterday and will travel to Denver for the conference championship on Sunday. A major contribution to the victory came from future hall of fame tight end Rob Gronkowski. Gronk is a fan favorite not only because of his freakish athleticism, but also because of his amiable, slightly goofy persona.
What no-one associated with the Patriots will ever talk about -- and if you ask, they'll pretend not to hear the question -- is that Gronk was once one of a pair of bookends. His opposite number at the position was almost equally big, strong, fast and skilled Aaron Hernandez, and when both of them were on the field no defense in the NFL could match up.
That the Pats managed to survive an $8 million a year hit to the salary cap while said Mr. Hernandez was residing in the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley, Massachusetts, a maximum security prison. He will only emerge feet first, which means that as a young man he will experience maybe 60 years of timeless existence in which the days of the week and seasons of the year are unmarked. This is because he murdered a man named Odin Lloyd, the fiancee of his girlfriend's sister. By his girlfriend I mean the mother of his baby, who lived in his house.
One would think that someone like Lloyd, virtually a member of the family, would get some consideration. But apparently he did something that Hernandez perceived as a slight, although the prosecutors never did establish a motive. It seemed to have something to do with an incident in a bar a couple of nights previously -- Lloyd was talking with the wrong people or something like that.
It wasn't what one would call the perfect crime. Hernandez rented a car -- something he apparently liked to do although he could have afforded anything he wanted -- and called up a couple of his friends from his hometown of Bristol, Connecticut. Small time hoodlums, car thief-drug dealer type guys. They picked up Lloyd, and drove him to an industrial park near Hernandez's house, their location revealed on his cell phone GPS throughout the journey. Then Hernandez shot Lloyd 6 times, the shots heard by security guards.
It's amazing how strong the code of Omerta was with this group. The accomplices obviously had every reason in the world to flip, but they didn't. They'll go on trial later this year. Hernandez had his girlfriend dispose of the murder weapon. Compelled to testify, she claimed she didn't know what was in the box and couldn't remember what she did with it. This despite that she won't see a dime of his money once it's gone to lawyers and lawsuits.
Speculation is that the motive may have concerned Lloyd speaking indiscreetly about a double murder the year before, for which Hernandez will go on trial in a couple of months. Since they prosecutors already have him on ice, they apparently just want to close the case convincingly for the sake of the survivors. The allegation is that a guy spilled a drink on Hernandez in a bar. He considered the apology insufficient, so he followed the guy out, pulled up to his car at a red light, and fired into the vehicle killing two total strangers and injuring two others. Assuming this story is true, does that seem like an overreaction?
The human brain is an extraordinarily complicated machine. A little bit of miswiring can have very strange results. If you were rich and famous, with the chance to get a whole lot richer in the coming years, would you go around murdering both strangers and friends for no particular reason? I didn't think so. Now, he may have been bumped on the head a few too many times in his professional endeavors. It is also alleged that he was a dust head, i.e. a smoker of phencylidine which for some unknown reason is abbreviated PCP. That can drive people nuts. However, research finds that PCP is not strongly associated with violence -- reports of violent acts are largely limited to people with a pre-existing tendency to violence. Since Hernandez also shot a guy in the face while he was at the University of Florida that would seem to apply. (The guy refused to press charges, probably because the incident had to do with drug dealing.)
It seems Hernandez never left behind the small time criminal milieu he grew up in, and that his self image as a strong and manly man was insufficiently served even by being a star in the National Football League. How sad is that?