Since the beginning of the Patriots’ dynastic run with Bill Belichick, football has witnessed all manner of bad behavior, from drunk driving to murder to suicide, the spectrum of malfeasance is so broad that it threatened to take entire teams down into the gutter with it.
And there we were up in the 6 weird little states that comprise New England, Belichick and team owner Robert Kraft with a stern hand on the wheel, not a care in the world as our beloved team stomped everyone in their path – on the football field, that is – shut out from the horrors that enveloped other franchises…
…and then, yes.
Anger. I am angry. Perhaps I have no right to be - but as a fan of football, a fan of the Patriots and, most importantly, a fan of humanity and truth, I am angry that on an early Monday morning, a young man that I never knew, a big man, a linebacker for a semi-pro football team was in a situation in which he was powerless to use his strength and his heft, then someone fired a bullet into his brain.
I am angry that someone had such hate in his own brain and heart that he would stand behind this powerful yet powerless man and purposely end his life.
I am frightened. Frightened that this young man who is considerably younger, bigger and stronger than I was overwhelmed and executed. How many men did it take to do the job? One? Two? More? Did he die immediately or was he left to bleed out in that lonely patch of weeds?
The details, we don’t need to know. That is for a jury to hear, see and live with for the rest of their lives. All we need to know is that a young man is dead, and someone killed him.
Was that someone Aaron Hernandez, one of his friends or someone else altogether? Regardless, 27 year old Odin Lloyd will be laid to rest soon, leaving many family and friends with a huge void in their lives and hearts.
Everyone assumes that they know Hernandez to a certain extent, the “Rainmaker” who wears tattoos all over his body as badges of honor, of courage, and as tributes to his late father - either the fans that know him as a skilled pass catcher and count on him to deliver on the football field, or the close friends who know him in his personal life, the ones who call him “Chico”…
…but who knows Odin Lloyd? To most of us, he’s some dude that turned up dead in some weeds near an industrial park, a bullet fired into the back of his head, execution style – and the guy that got Hernandez in hot water.
This is wrong.
Lloyd didn’t ask someone to put a bullet in his brain, he didn’t force someone to stand behind him and end his life. Whoever is found to be responsible for the death of the man, should and will be punished, and if it turns out to be Hernandez, then the pro bowl quality tight end will have to trade in his Patriots’ silver and blue for whatever garb is appropriate for prison wear these days.
Whoever did this got themselves in the hot water.
Odin Lloyd played on high school football fields for the Boston Bandits, in a semi-pro football league where players have to pay for the right to play, in essence - some in hopes of being noticed by some lower level scout and given a chance to play for pay in the Arena League or maybe even in Canada.
Most are just regular guys, trying to get by and not ready to give up on the game they loved as kids.
“Firefighters, dentists, accountants. These guys play for the love of the game and for the actual physical contact.” says Tom Torrisi, the CEO of the well-established New England Football League, of which the Bandits are a charter member.
“Things are hunky dory, well and good, and this ruins everything,” Torrisi continued, “The sting is devastating. This isn’t the NFL; we’re not equipped for this.”
Nobody is equipped to deal with something like this - not even the murderers, who don’t stop to think that they are taking someones son, father, brother from them, not until it’s too late - if they did stop for a split second to ponder this notion, perhaps it wouldn’t have happened - but it did, and in the end all that anyone can hope for is that the killers are caught, though that won’t ever bring back the dead.
Same for the people who know about the murder and try to cover it up. That’s a crime as well. Obstruction of justice, accessory after the fact, what have you. If Hernandez was involved, he needs to pay the price. If not, then we’ll still cheer for him on Sundays…
…but it needs to be remembered that Hernandez is not a victim here – not in any way, shape or form. He may not have pulled the trigger, but he knows something about how it happened and, thus far, he isn’t saying. But it bears repeating – Even if it turns out that Hernandez is being set up, as some Patriots’ fans are speculating, he still is not a victim.
Victims don’t choose to put their careers, friends and newborn daughters on the line, choosing the plaudits of punk friends over the love of their family or the adoration of their fans. They don’t hand over the spoils of their charmed lives for the violence of the streets of their youth. Victims don’t choose handguns and iron bars over touchdowns and millions of dollars.
Victims die in fields. Victims get a knock on the door in the early morning hours to be told that their son had been murdered.
Victims lie on a cold stainless steel table down at the coroner’s office while their families and friends shed tears of grief – victims sit in courtrooms and watch helplessly as the man or men that they thought they knew and loved are sentenced to prison for the better parts of their lives - because when someone commits a murder, it ruins lives on both ends of the gun…
…and whoever killed Lloyd is a punk and a cold-blooded murderer. If that turns out to be the Patriots’ star tight end, then I suppose no one really knew Hernandez after all - and at least one person wishes he’d have never met him.
If the people we love are stolen from us, the way to have them live on is to never stop loving them. Buildings burn, people die, but real love is forever.
Odin Lloyd, dead at 27.