By Tyler Berry
Ray Lewis. O.J. Simpson. Rae Carruth. Jayson Williams. Aaron Hernandez.
I bet you can already guess what these former professional athletes all have in common. Yep, they’ve all been on trial for murder-related charges. Three of them convicted, the other two acquitted.
That last individual I named, Aaron Hernandez, was convicted just today (April 15) and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He is 25 years old. Think about that for a second. 25 years old and will never eat a steak dinner from Morton’s again, will never get to catch another touchdown pass from one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time AGAIN. He gave everything up. And for what? For anger? For drugs? For pride?
Who knows why he shot and killed Odin Lloyd on the night of June 17, 2013. Who knows if he actually pulled the trigger or if it was one of his boys hopped up on PCP, as his defense council alleged. It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that, in two short years, he has gone from a $40 million NFL tight end with potential to be one of the greats to a man worth nothing, set to waste that potential rotting in a jail cell. What a shame.
It might sound like I’m feeling some sympathy for Hernandez. I’m not. He is clearly an unstable person with violent tendencies who hung around a lot of terrible influences and pushed away all of the good ones. He committed, or at the least, was accessory to, a heinous crime and he deserves every day of his life sentence.
What I’m feeling is a sense of utter confusion. A sense of wonder as to why the hell any professional athlete would throw it all away on something so stupid. 25 years old, set to make $40 million and presumably much more after that, and he lost it all because he couldn’t keep his anger or his friends in check.
Now, the five former pros that I named above are obviously in the minority. They are among the few that have stood trial for something as terrible as murder (or murder-related) charges. But there are so many more pros that, while not committing quite as serious crimes, are still COMMITTING CRIMES.
Le’Veon Bell. Aldon Smith. Justin Blackmon. Josh Gordon.
Those four above. All of them are young guys with great careers ahead of them. They make a lot of money. They get to live out the dream of probably everyone who has ever played a competitive sport. And yet they’re running around, shouting bomb threats at an airport, getting DUIs, getting caught for marijuana use. Dumb. Stupid. Pointless.
Did they hurt anyone? Kill anyone? Of course not. I’m not here to lump them in with someone like Aaron Hernandez. But they’ve still committed crimes. They’ve still put their careers, their fame, and their fortunes in jeopardy. And for what? To seem “cool?” To seem “hood?” That’s stupidity at its finest and it has no place among athletes.
Hey athletes, you want to be hood? Leave the million dollar checks, the Rolls Royces, the pretty girls behind and go be hood. What’s that? No? Not interested in that? Good, then stop messing up.
Be a role model to young fans. Be a provider to your family and children. Most importantly, just go out and be a good person, a good athlete. Life is so much better when you’re not sweating an arrest or a trial or a drug test. I wouldn’t risk my $35,000 a year job and my beat up sedan. You sure as hell shouldn’t be risking $1 million, $10 million, $40 million a year jobs. Don’t throw it all away. Whether it’s as small as Justin Blackmon’s crime or as huge as Aaron Hernandez’s, the outcome won’t be fun.