He had it all. A star athlete in a sports crazed town with a forty-million dollar contract in hand to purchase whatever luxuries he could imagine. He was a twenty-three year-old kid getting the best tables at the best restaurants and VIP accommodations whenever he felt the urge to go to da club. Aaron Hernandez was living the dream, but he just couldn’t shed his profane loyalty to an image that had become inextricably woven into his character. He liked being a thug and any slight - real or perceived - would not and could not be tolerated. Getting disrespected on the street, from where he grew up, is dealt with extreme prejudice.
And speaking of where he grew up, Bristol Connecticut is not what springs to mind when we think of the mean streets. Hell, that’s where ESPN is beamed into living rooms across the country, how tough can it be? Well it may not be a notorious bastion of gang activity like Watts and Compton but it is a blue-collar, hardscrabble town that can cultivate its share of bad guys, gang bangers and street thugs. It appears Aaron Hernandez was one of those guys and chose to stay one of those guys despite the boundless opportunities and unfathomable riches that were lavished upon him for being able to catch a ball better than virtually anyone one the planet.
But now he’s behind bars, contemplating the rest of his life, a life that has been irreparably damaged regardless of how this drama plays out. And from the way things look right now, Hernandez will be able to thoroughly embrace his true identity and surround himself with all the bad guys he can handle. Hernandez has suddenly realized he is not bulletproof after all. All his fame and fortune will only afford him the best legal counsel money can buy but even the legal eagles from the law firm of Ropes & Gray will have a herculean task of getting their client anything less than a life sentence.
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Did the Patriots Goof?
Hindsight is always 20/20 and we are all prophets of profound perspicacity when allowed the luxury to view events in our rear view mirror. But before we pile on the Patriots organization, wag our fingers and collectively admonish Bob Kraft with an, I told you so, let’s not forget that Hernandez was plucked in the 4th round of the 2010 draft with a fair amount of baggage but produced a remarkable return on investment. It appeared that their risk was well rewarded prior to the morning of June 17th when his friend Odin Lloyd was murdered in a desolate lot forty-five minutes south of Boston. But that’s all changed
So if you want to revel in the misery that is the failure of good judgment on behalf of the New England Patriots then you should also turn your attention to the Baltimore Ravens’ decision to welcome Ray Lewis back into the fold after his own involvement in a murder investigation thirteen years ago. Oh right, he was cleared of murder one because he copped a plea to obstruction of justice in exchange for his testimony against his two companions, Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting.
Lewis went on to a Hall-of-Fame career and his inspirational pre-game sermons had all the trappings of a Hollywood movie. He is idolized in Baltimore and his million-watt smile lights up whenever the camera turns on. Did the Ravens make a mistake with this Ray Lewis? Well, he never killed again, er, should I say was never charged with obstruction of justice again. Were the Ravens smart or just lucky? Maybe you should ask the Patriots.
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The Boston Celtics traded their coach Doc Rivers for an unconditional 1st round pick in 2015 to the LA Clippers, ending all the speculation and uncertainty surrounding his future. While Boston fans are jeering Doc’s exit as he heads for greener pastures in LA, the fact is he is doing what he feels is best for Doc Rivers. I have no qualms with that because I understand that while coaches and athletes are venerated here in Boston they have no moral obligation to reciprocate that affection. They understand it’s just a business even if the fans don’t.
The Celtics are in a rebuilding mode. Last season proved they have finally drained every ounce of gas in what was once an overflowing tank. Ray Allen exited last year for less money to Miami in anticipation of ending his career with another championship ring or two on his finger. It wasn’t that he disliked Boston or the fans or even Celtics management. He, like Doc Rivers, simply felt a better opportunity lay elsewhere.
Tell me dear readers, how many of you would stay with your company because everyone thinks you’re a swell guy if another suitor came calling with enticements that you just couldn’t refuse? You’ve grown so close to Mary in accounting, cracking jokes and swapping pictures of the family. What about Bob in sales with whom you have a standing golf date every Saturday, never leaving you without a laugh when you get together for a few cold ones on the 19th hole? The coworkers you’ve grown to respect and the customers you’ve forged relationships with will all be a thing of the past if you pack up and move. How dare you! How can you?!
Well, it’s bittersweet no doubt but family is first and the folks at the office can never replace your own peace of mind. NBA coaches and players are no different except the dollar signs are bigger, much bigger. My only bone of contention with Doc Rivers is that he wants it both ways. He was the one who fueled speculation about his tenure with the Celtics when he refused to answer questions concerning his desire to fulfill the third year of a five year deal. The Celtics gave him 35 million reasons to stand strong but he was evasive. When Danny Ainge caught wind of Doc’s wanderlust, he did what any good GM would do and began to explore what he could get for his valuable asset. The Clippers engaged and Ainge struck a deal.
However, now Rivers wants to be wearing the white hat when he rides out of town while throwing Ainge under the bus. His desire to coach a team on the precipice of greatness like the Clippers instead of toiling in the trenches with a decrepit and aging Celtics squad was the spark that fueled the fire. But Doc initially declared he was an innocent party after the deal was announced ... until he offered up this gem to the media.
“I told Danny, ‘I don’t know if my heart’s into rebuilding, but I don’t know that it’s not,’?” and, “I didn’t think (the players) had tuned me out, but I thought it could be time for that, yeah. I was concerned by that. But, no, I thought they were very coachable, the group that I had. But that was a concern.”
Give me a break Doc, give us all a break. Rational fans would understand that you enjoyed your time in Boston but prefer to coach a team that’s already constructed for greatness not one whose foundation is eroding rapidly. We get it, or at least some of us do. I don’t blame you a bit for curing what ails the Clippers, but don’t try to sedate the Boston fans into thinking this was not of your choosing. After all, you might be Doc but you ain’t no doctor.
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Bruins Come Up Short
It’s strange times when a Stanley Cup runner-up is relegated to the back pages of the sports section. The bitter taste of the Bruins Game 6 loss is still lingering but Boston sports fans are fixated on other things like, oh I don’t know, a murder investigation involving a star football player.
The Bruins waged a valiant effort to wrest the Cup from the Chicago Blackhawks but came up short and now it’s time to figure out what’s next.
We now know that the B’s have bid adieu to veteran defenseman Andrew Ference, bit player Jay Pandolfo and future Hall-of-Famer Jaromir Jagr. No surprise there. We also know that Tuuka Rask is getting paid big time. But the interesting question is whether or not Bruins brass shells out for Nathan Horton and if so, how will they continue to pay $5.7 million annually to Tyler Seguin? Those and other questions will be answered as the offseason progresses.
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