Oct 14, 2012; Seattle, WA, USA; New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez (81) celebrates a touchdown reception in his own unique fashion. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Body Art: Singular allegiance, many stories

Some do. Some don’t.

Those words appear on Aaron Hernandez’ hands just above the knuckles – and you will never see them on the football field, as his hands are always covered in gloves…but there they are, as different as his left hand is from his right.

Some put in the work to make their lives better, to be the best at what they do, to make the people around them better, to be a better person than most.  Some don’t.

Time was a tattoo was some sort of brutal right of passage for tough guys and sailors, telling either of good times or bad, and they always had one thing in common – they all told a story.

My time in the Navy saw many friends come back off of liberty in a foreign port with some pretty funky body art – sometimes they didn’t recall how they ended up with their tattoo, but most times they did…

…Cryptic in nature, art is in the eye of the beholder.  A story as individual as the person themselves. What means something to one may mean something completely different to another.

Over time, the Tattoo evolved from badges for members only bad boys to that of the common man.

It’s genre knowing no racial or chromosomal boundaries, what was once strictly for the rebel is now for the conformist – a little secret that gives the mundane a sense of dark excitement…

…but when you look at Aaron Hernandez, it’s impossible to ignore his body art…it is right in your face, an advertisement for the man’s emotional being – an emotional man – a man of deep anger, but deeper love.  A man whose motivation is a series of two letter words skillfully printed on the inside of his forearm.

If it is to be, it is up to me

His art is a road map of his life, of what’s important to him, of what shaped his life.

He wants you to know – there’s no secret.  People who wish to remain anonymous, who want stealth as a way of life don’t adorn their bodies in ink.

Only people who know him best know of his motivations – the people who call him “Chico”.  We know only what is printed on paper.  Perhaps the artist that he is the showcase for knows the deeper intellect, even more so than his barber – for grinding takes considerably longer than clipping or shearing.

If you were to sit down with him, would he would show you?   Would take the time to explain?

Probably, but to answer that is akin to spit balling.  Maybe one day I’ll get to ask him.  If I do get the opportunity to speak with him, I would ask him about each Tattoo, about it’s meaning.  We already know what he is on the football field, so to ask him about football would be redundant and perhaps irritating.

Perhaps to ask him about his body art would be redundant and irritating to him as well, but somehow I doubt it.  There are hundreds of hours of work on his skin, and it’s doubtful that he would be what the artists refer to as a cadaver, refusing to speak while the work is being done.

Where his tats seem to have the most meaning also are in the places that prove to be the most painful of places to get them…the underside of the arm, where you  know you’re getting a tattoo…

But I dare not speculate.  Just as the rebel was unjustly labeled in my youth, the chance is taken to mislabel a football player who simply wants to honor a fallen father – so I’ll leave that alone until I get to speak with the man in person.

He is by no means the only member of the New England Patriots with many tattoos, but he is the most prominent – for good or ill, each time he lines up, each time he catches a ball, puts his hand on the ground, makes a block or scores a touchdown, he honors those who have found their way onto his arms through the iron.

His touchdown celebration?  There are as many opinions as there are people who ponder such things and, again, I dare not speculate.  But I do venture that it has a deeper meaning than what most may think…

I don’t pretend to know Aaron Hernandez, but I know many people who have adorned their skin in tribute to the New England Patriots, and in this weekly series I’d like to introduce you to these people, because like Hernandez, they wear their tributes proudly, emotionally.

Their art is easy to understand, but their motivations, in some cases, are just as abstruse as the enigmatic tight end, and it is their solemn pride to tell you all about it.

Tags: New England Patriots NFL

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