So Bill Belichick isn't a Dark Lord of the Sith after all.
The Patriots' coach and Football Emperor displayed a rarely if-ever-seen human side during Wednesday's statement-reading/press conference about the Aaron Hernandez situation.
In the span of an hour or so starting at 1:30 p.m., we had news of his Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge's name, Urban Meyer taking the podium at Big Ten media day (you bet the subject of Hernandez came up there), Belichick's presser and Hernandez making an appearance in court for an ultimately delayed probable-cause hearing.
A few more photos of Anthony Weiner's junk and some more news about Twinkies during that span would have blown up Twitter.
Belichick said much more than anyone expected, which only confirmed the tremendously low expectations that be brings to the microphone every time he speaks. His opening statement was delivered with empathy, pain, sorrow and regret. His body language said much more than his words, which were read from notecards and likely crafted with help from the Krafts, the team's PR staff and legal representatives.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of the victim and I extend my sympathy with everyone who's been impacted," Belichick told the media throng gathered at Gillette Stadium. "A young man lost his life and his family's suffered a tragic loss and there's no way to understand that."
Belichick's initial emphasis on the victim in this case, Odin Lloyd, and not the alleged prep, was laudable. He mentioned Hernandez's name only once, in his intro's intro.
The first question about how the Patriots evaluate players was asked and answered by Belichick.
"We look at every player's history from the moment we start discussing it going back to his family, where he grew up, what his lifestyle was like, high school, college experiences. We evaluate his performance, his intelligence, his work ethic, his motivation, his maturity, his improvement and try to project that into our organization on a going forward basis," he said.
They had "turned around" lots of players with locker room issues and bad attitudes, but a player like Hernandez was a different sort. The Corey Dillions and Rodney Harrisons of the world were "bad attitude" players, but never faced murder charges.
This whole talk about the purity of the "Patriot Way" has been debunked. The Patriots are no different than the rest of the teams in the NFL, they want to get players who will help them win and will pick the best possible players to help them get them to that point. (See Alfonzo Dennard.) There's really nothing wrong with that in the big picture. It's just the hypocrisy that gets annoying at times.
If you want the Patriots to have nothing but altar boys and Eagle Scouts that's fine, but their opponents won't. There has to be a standard along the line somewhere. Is it no arrests? No arrests for violence? No guns?
It's fine to demand the Patriots to adhere to any set standard, but you'll have to change an entire generational culture before you get to purging the NFL of miscreants.
Most of us go through life without ever being arrested for any reason, but none of us are mistake free.
Do we blame the local school board or principal when a teacher gets arrested for "dating" or molesting a student? Does one rogue cop mean an entire police department is bad?
Of course not.
Bill Belichick is not an accomplice in Lloyd's murder, and neither are the Patriots, the NFL, the University of Florida or even Meyer (who is a scoundrel in so many other areas).
That one is on Hernandez and his pals, and no one else.
Far beneath the issue of the Odin Lloyd's murder and Hernandez's alleged involvement in it - that's been the issue in this case: How did the Patriots end up with an alleged killer on their roster?
The Patriots have been taking a beating because they somehow ignored evidence in Hernandez's past that should have prevented them from not only drafting him, but signing him to a five-year extension before the 2012 season that included a $12.5 million signing bonus, $16 million in guaranteed money, and a maximum value of $40 million in additional money.
That deal was flushed down the toilet once Hernandez was arrested and cut by the team. That came hours before he was charged with Lloyd's murder.
He's also being investigated in the killings of two men in Dorchester last July, allegedly shot someone else in the face in Florida earlier this year and hit a waiter while he was at Gainesville restaurant called "The Swamp" with Tim Tebow back in 2007. Reports that he failed "six" drug tests while at UF have been denied by officials there, but they have never specified another number.
Wednesday, Belichick said the Patriots would continue to examine their efforts in checking out the background of players, but at the same time didn't really say anything of substance about major changes or shortcomings in the current way of doing things. The issue isn't the method of gathering information but rather what they do with it.
Successful, powerful people, like Belichick and Kraft, believe they have a unique ability to change people, no matter what flaws their character contain. It's in the ego. Belichick and Kraft as sounded as much in shock that they failed to "fix" Hernandez as they were of what Hernandez allegedly did. Belichick Wednesday was as disappointed in himself as he was in anyone else.
Belichick and the team are wise to say as little as possible. There's always the possibility of a civil suit from Lloyd's family, or anyone else allegedly harmed by Hernandez. Attorneys always go for the deepest pockets and the those of the Kraft family and NFL stretch for miles.
Please do not be surprised or shocked if Hernandez's criminal defense team tries to use his college and NFL career as an excuse for creating the type of behavior that allegedly led him to shoot Lloyd and possibly others.
"All those PEDs he took because of the NFL culture, the pressure to win, the fact that everyone covered for him for all those years created this monster."
You know, the same "victimization" crap that littered the August issue of "Rolling Stone" magazine's cover story.
Some want you to believe that the Patriots, and the University of Florida before them, have been alleged to have known all about Hernandez's background, starting with gang activity in Connecticut, probably guessed he'd be an accused killer someday, and yet still put football above everything else and allowed him to play.
Sure. The truth lies in the middle. The NFL stands uniquely apart from regular corporate America when it comes to giving ex-felons or those with lengthy arrest records a second, third or fourth chance.
Meyer was briefly asked about Hernandez while addressing the Big Ten scribes and a text he had sent about charges that Hernandez had failed multiple drug tests at Florida. According to the New York Times, there have been 41 arrests among the 121 players on the roster of Meyer's 2008 national title team either before or after college.
Hernandez was never arrested in Gainesville, despite allegedly punching that waiter with Tebow present or being questioned in a unrelated shooting.
Somehow, it's assumed that if the Patriots had never given Hernandez a shot in the NFL, he would not have allegedly killed Lloyd or committed these crimes that keep surfacing on an almost daily basis.
In the movie "The Departed," Frank Costello, who is the Hollywood version of Whitey Bulger, said among many great lines:
That's a trait shared by alleged killers in Massachusetts.
Hernandez was not a victim in this case. He was not unduly influenced by his "posse" who forced their way up from Bristol and elsewhere into his life. He fooled a lot of people, and [allegedly] was cunning and brutal enough to pull it off. How much of Hernandez's influence rubbed off on his teammates, especially at his "flop" house, is a lingering question.
The Patriots, Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft "believed in Hernandez." They believed he had turned his life around and thought their money and influence would purge whatever anti-social impulses existed in Hernandez's system. In this case, it exaggerated them.
The biggest criticism facing the Patriots in this case is that they failed to "profile" Hernandez and deny him a spot on their roster, a place in the NFL, or at the very least a contract extension.
Imagine the outcry if Belichick has stepped up to the same podium back in 2010 and said, "We really thought Aaron Hernandez could help this team but we didn't draft him because he has a history of being involved with Hispanic gangs and may have smoked some pot?"
That would have triggered an expletive-storm bigger than Dane Cook's appearance at The One Fund benefit at the Garden.
The NFL has turned a lot of thugs and would-be criminals into millionaires and productive citizens. Children don't play in the NFL, men do. They are all ultimately responsible for their actions, regardless of how imperial or regimented their coaches may be.
The NFL has some humongous issue problems - right now the face of the league is as much Aaron Hernandez and Jovan Belcher as much as it is Peyton Manning and Colin Kaepernick. Those "image" problems are the result of men's actions more than anything else - even PEDs or the "gun culture."
This case is centered around the loss of Lloyd's life, but there is a football part of this story
While Hernandez is entitled to the presumption of innocence in the courts of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, he is not guaranteed the presumption of innocence in the court of public opinion or the "Star Chamber" of Bob Kraft and the NFL.
The Patriots, to their credit, cut Hernandez once news of his arrest broke, and before he was formally charged.
[Ray Lewis, on the other hand, was never not a Raven and even used the team's facilities to work out back in 2000 after his arrest. Lewis eventually pled down to obstruction charges and no one was ever convicted in the murders of Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar.]
Conspiracy theorists across social media and elsewhere want us to believe that somehow the team knew of the specifics of the charges before they were filed because of "connections" with the district attorney.
Yep, and Belichick was in hiding in the grassy knoll when Lloyd got shot.
In the end, the Patriots have as much responsibility for Lloyd's death as the city of Cambridge [where the two alleged bombers lived] does for the Boston Marathon bombings. They offered Hernandez an opportunity to succeed as a football player and human being.
That behavior - giving the underdog a chance to succeed - is lauded every day across the private and public sector in America.
But Hernandez chose to throw it all away, along, apparently, with the life of Odin Lloyd.
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