Aaron Hernandez: Triumph and Tragedy

Aaron HernandezTalk about a modern day, made for reality TV soap opera. This just in: another athlete has given us yet another harrowing, heartbreaking homily on the hazards of mixing giftedness with recklessness. The dramatic, meteoric rise of the footfall career of Aaron Hernandez met an equally speedy fall and sudden stall.

In actuality, the life and death of Aaron Hernandez was a sad, sobering, shocking yarn full of knots and kinks leading to a tattered and torn, threadbare end. The life of this famous yet infamous professional football player was both sewn tightly and frayed badly, full of high drama and sordid saga that finally all unraveled in a lonely Massachusetts jail cell.

Aaron Josef Hernandez, the 27 year old, 6’-1’’, 245 pound, once and future rising New England Patriots star tight end took his own life this past week. It’s as sad a tale that has ever been told. His is a rags to riches back to rags story that seems like it didn’t have to be. It’s so sad and seemingly so senseless.

Hernandez worked his way up to the top of the sports world. He was NFL divinity; he played in a Super Bowl and played on the best team in the league and was an All Pro selection. But he also simultaneously wormed his way down to the bottom of the general population of humanity; Hernandez was convicted of murder and was serving a life sentence at the time of his death.

Hernandez grew up on the “other side of the tracks” and rose to prominence seemingly overnight. Hernandez attended Bristol Central High School and played as a wide receiver until becoming a tight end, and also played defensive end. As a senior, he was Connecticut’s Gatorade Football Player of the Year.

And his star kept rising.

Hernandez caught passes from Tim Tebow when he played college football at the University of Florida. He was a member of the 2008 BCS National Championship team and was voted a first-team All-American. He was widely recognized as a key contributor to that team’s national championship success. Hernandez then became the first Gator to win the John Mackey Award, given annually to the NCAA’s best tight end.

And his star kept rising.

Hernandez was drafted by the NFL’s New England Patriots as the 15th pick in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL Draft even though he was dogged by allegations of failed drug tests. Still, with future Hall of Famer Tom Brady throwing to him, Hernandez shined for New England. He played on the 2011 Super Bowl team that lost to the New York Giants 21-17. On August 27, 2012, the Patriots signed Hernandez to a five-year, $40 million contract extension, running through 2018. The $12.5 million signing bonus was the largest ever given to an NFL tight end.

But it all began to unravel when he was released by the Patriots in June 2013 immediately after his arrest for the murder of Odin Lloyd. We may never know the whole story, but what was once a bright triumph turned into a dark tragedy.

Sports are like life and life is like sports. There are wins and losses and victories and defeats and ups and downs and twists and turns all the way from start to finish. Aaron Hernandez is just another example of how a good run can all come crashing down with a bad decision here and a misstep there. In all, Hernandez spent more time in prison than on the field with the Patriots. In spite of the tragedy, in life and in death, Hernandez taught us that we don’t have to have a dead end.

Reports say that Hernandez etched John 3:16 on his forehead before taking his life. John 3:16, the hallmark scripture of our faith, coupled with the Easter message, proves that God loves us and is concerned about us. Jesus conquered death so that we don’t have to use death as an out or an option. We may fall but we don’t have to fail or give in or give up if we put our trust in Him.

http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/football/aaron-hernandez-ex-nfl-star-kills-prison-cell-article-1.3073294

Moonlighting In La La Land: A Blunder of Oscar Proportions

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This one takes the cake. I mean, REALLY?  How does a firm like PricewaterhouseCoopers manage to muff this one? And then how do you not READ what the dag gum card says? I mean the entire card, since you weren’t sure everything was kosher? And THEN, how do you, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, not take responsibility for the mishap and come on stage immediately and publicly apologize to the winners and — sorry La La Land – the losers – and to your audience? How do you not make an overt effort to clean up the mess? 

It’s called responsibility. It’s called accountability. It’s called taking ownership and showing leadership and bearing the burden of righting a wrong, regardless of how embarrassing it is. We’ve all been there, and we all know that a wrong un-righted will sink the ship. 

There’s plenty of blame to go around on this one. Let’s just hope that when we find ourselves in such a pickle, we don’t point fingers and pin blame, but we readily admit our participation in the predicament, and graciously, but not boorishly, acknowledge our part of the poop and apologize. In theological terms is called asking for forgiveness. Isn’t that what we as believers are supposed to do? 

Here is one spot on spin from a reporter at AZcentral.com: 

“The wildest screw-up in Oscar’s history couldn’t have been more metaphorically momentous for African-Americans who last year shamed the Academy’s lack of diversity. 

The crazy finale turned the entertainment world upside down when “La La Land,” which had mostly white leading actors, mistakenly received Best Picture. It turned out that “Moonlight,” with mostly black actors, had won. 

It wasn’t just the screw-up that stunned (us all). The moment embodied the #OscarSoWhite shaming campaign last year against the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The uncomfortable faces of white entertainers handing over the figurine to African-Africans was simply surreal.” Well said, even though everyone seemed to give the La La Land cast kudos for handing over the Oscar, and handling the awkward moment, graciously. 

Anyway, here’s what happened at the Oscars last night when the envelope for Best Picture was opened (as reported by thedailybeast.com and the inquisitor.com) in case you missed the play by play and the blow by blow: 

“Everybody is talking about that awkward moment at Oscar 2017 now. It’s being discussed above all the glory associated with winning the prestigious trophy. Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, two Hollywood legends by their own merit, became the center of attraction for being responsible for the mix-up.”

To be sure, while Beatty opened and held the card, it was Faye Dunaway who actually announced that it was La La Land that won the Best Picture award.

“When the entire team went to the stage to celebrate the occasion at the Oscars, it was producer Adele Romanski who realized there was a mistake. He declared it was the Moonlight team that should come to the stage.” (http/:/www.inquisitr.com)

 “Beatty lost no opportunity to hammer home his case, telling DailyMail.com’s long time showbiz reporter Baz Bamigboye: “People thought I was being dramatic but I wasn’t. There was something wrong. I showed it to Faye and she said La La Land.” 

Hours after the blunder, accounting firm PwC, which collates votes and administers the awards, issued a statement saying: “We sincerely apologize to Moonlight, La La Land, Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, and Oscar viewers for the error that was made during the award announcement for Best Picture. 

The presenters had mistakenly been given the wrong category envelope and when discovered, was immediately corrected. 

“We are currently investigating how this could have happened, and deeply regret that this occurred. We appreciate the grace with which the nominees, the Academy, ABC, and Jimmy Kimmel handled the situation.” According to reports, Beatty’s wife Annette Bening phoned him as he was entering the ball and suggested he head home but the iconic actor refused, saying once again that he had done nothing wrong. 

According to USA Today, one of the accountants from PwC realized Beatty had been given the wrong envelope within seconds. The accountant jumped up, saying: “He took the wrong envelope!”  Oopps. Too Late? Or was it?

Sports, Domestic Violence and The Joe Mixon Mess


There is no excuse.  There is no plausible explanation. And there is no way that Joe Mixon should play with his team in the upcoming Sugar Bowl game against Auburn.

Here’s the back story from The Early Lead:

Oklahoma Coach Bob Stoops made his first public comments about a 2014 surveillance tape that shows running back Joe Mixon punching a female student and, if anything, his words revealed that when it comes to violent incidents, colleges are still trying to figure it out.

Especially when the athlete involved is a star and, as the NFL found out in the Ray Rice case, awful video of a woman being slugged exists.

“Two and a half years ago, [I] thought we had a significant penalty, a strong penalty,” Stoops said at a news conference Wednesday, defending the one-season suspension he gave Mixon. “Now, it isn’t enough. These individuals can’t have a second chance. Just not acceptable. And they know it anymore, and they’ve been told enough. We have more meetings and things of that nature that instruct and let them know what appropriate behavior is and isn’t and what the consequences are.

“Dismissal is really the only thing that is possible. A young guy having an opportunity to rehabilitate and to have some kind of discipline and come back from it is really not there anymore. Hopefully that message goes down even to the high school level that these things are just unacceptable to any degree and there’s no recovering, I guess . . . it never has been acceptable. What I’m saying is, there’s no recovering from these incidents really anymore.”

In the 2014 incident in an off-campus restaurant, Mixon struck fellow student Amelia Molitor in the face, breaking four bones. Three days later, he told police in Norman, Okla., that he simply was reacting to both a racial slur uttered by one of Molitor’s companions and what he described as a hard swing Molitor took at him. Mixon, in video footage of a police interview published by the Oklahoman, said he felt as if “a dude hit me” and reacted.

“The gay dude … he called me something,” Mixon said in the video. “He was like [slur]. So then I was like, you got me messed up. And then I called him a [slur]. And after that, the girl, she dropped her purse, that’s when she came in my face, pushed me, and then my glasses came off, and then, like, I had, like, jumped at her, like, to watch out. And then she came in my face. I put my head down. And she swung on me.

“And after that, like, I was so shocked, because she hit me so hard. It felt like a dude hit me. And after that, like, my face went boom, my reaction was just right there.” …

“I mean, even though she pushed me, I didn’t think she was going to hit me,” Mixon said, repeating what he said earlier in the interview. “I was so shocked because she hit me so hard, it felt like really like a dude hit me. And then, like, my face just started ringing. And after that, like, it was just like a reaction.”

Stoops, who first saw the surveillance video along with university President David Boren and Athletic Director Joe Castiglione in the district attorney’s office shortly after it occurred, allowed Mixon to rejoin the Sooners team after serving a one-season suspension.” It was horrible,” Stoops said. “I hated it. I hated it as much as anybody did, absolutely.”

Still, he allowed Mixon, who would likely be a top draft prospect if he decides to forgo his last two years of eligibility after the Sooners’ Jan. 2 Sugar Bowl appearance, to play after his suspension. Stoops was asked if that left the appearance that the school condones violence women, especially when committed by a star football player, and Stoops replied that he was “sure to some degree it does.”

“And I regret that,” Stoops said. “In the end, at the time, we felt it was a significant and strong punishment. And, again, some people that seen the entire (video) at that time agreed. And others didn’t. I understand that and I always knew that that was something that everybody would debate.”

The surveillance video was released by Mixon’s attorneys at his request last week. Mixon is shown from two camera angles on that July 2014 day approaching Molitor at a table at Pickleman’s restaurant. They exchange words and Molitor pushes Mixon, then slaps his neck. Mixon punches Molitor, whose head strikes the table as she falls to the floor.

Mixon, who apologized last month, was charged with a misdemeanor but agreed to an Alford plea, receiving one year of probation with cognitive-behavior counseling and 100 hours of community service. Molitor sued him for negligence, willful and wanton misconduct and intentional infliction of emotional distress, but the first two claims were thrown out by a judge last month. The latter claim remains active.

Stoops told reporters that he did not think it would take so long for the video to be released and the city of Norman was forced to do so after the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, who had filed a complaint under the state’s Open Records Act. The city had until Dec. 26 to release the video or file an appeal and Mixon’s attorneys took a preemptive step last week, with Molitor’s civil suit still pending. In his only interview with members of the media at Oklahoma, Mixon has declined to answer questions about the incident.
By Cindy Boren, Matt Bonesteel, The Early Lead

Plenty of Shame in Ryan Lochte’s Game

Ryan Lochte

Ryan Lochte is swimming in hot water; or deep water; or muddy water; take your pick. Whichever metaphor you chose, each and every one is apropos. Lochte is an Olympic gold medal winner, but he will be remembered for much more than the medals he’s won.

We all know from childhood that lying is bad all by and in and of itself. But lying to the POLICE is something else altogether; and lying to the police in a FOREIGN COUNTRY has got to take the cake.   My word.

Here’s what we’ve heard:

“According to The Associated Press, Brazilian officials claim that some or at least one of four US Olympic swimmers in Rio broke down a gas station bathroom door, vandalized the bathroom, and later falsely told local officials they were robbed at gunpoint. Under this scenario, the swimmers could be charged with filing a false police report and/or vandalism. In Brazil, each offense is punishable by one to six months in jail and/or a fine or probation. But jail time is rarely served for such crimes in Brazil, and a public apology or donation to a charity could help lessen any penalties levied.

The four swimmers involved in the incident are Americans Ryan Lochte, Jimmy Feigen, Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz. Lochte, 32, is the highest-profile swimmer in the group. He competed in his fourth Olympics in Rio, and has six gold medals, three silver and three bronze over his career.”

It’s all so sad. It’s all so privileged and it’s all so entitled. These young athletes obviously felt like they were above the law and above the fray. And what happened? They end up giving the Rio Games a blow below the belt and in turn must bow beneath their dignity public vandalism and then by lying to the law.

Lochte apparently skipped town and got out of dodge before his teammates got taken off of a plane on the tarmac and were interviewed by the local police. Boy, oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. Let’s hope that Lochte and the other lads learn a real big lesson from all of this.

It’s not funny and it’s not frivolous. It was foolish and it was fractious. To be sure, the incident should not be trivialized. But it should not be overblown either. Bringing shame to your game and to your team and to your Country during the Olympics is a black eye that Mr. Lochte is going to have to wear for a while. And he’s going to have to allow time and truth to heal this haymaker he’s hurled that has landed, largely on himself.

A-Rod is Going A-Way

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Alex Rodriguez announced his retirement on Sunday, bringing to an end one of the most hated and reviled professional sports careers ever.  http://ftw.usatoday.com/author/luke-kerr-dineen

And there’s not much more to say. Comparatively, there have been a number of all-star retirements lately: Kobe ended his career with a season-long sendoff that ended with him scoring 60 points in a storybook final game at Staples Center. Tim Duncan closed out his career with a lot less fanfare, but he went out at the end of the season, and was as unpretentious at the end as he had been all along.

But for A-Rod to suddenly and un-summarily drop everything and announce his “retirement” in August when the season is not near over is as fishy and as smelly as the sight and smell of dead fish floating in a polluted river. But it appears that the season has been over for him for some time.

One sports writer put it this way:

Whenever a high-profile sports figure retires it’s only natural to begin debating his legacy. With his last game approaching on Friday, now we shift our attention to A-Rod, and needless to say, the early prospects don’t look good on his post-retirement stock.

So let’s just leave it at that. A-Rod said he didn’t use performance enhancing drugs. And he did. He said the allegations of wrongdoing were false. And they weren’t.  A-Rod was considered A-Fraud by most and many more just had enough of the could-have-been, should-have-been, all-time-great, but wanna-be, boy wonder.

So long A-Rod. You were suspended by MLB for 162 games in 2014 for your involvement in the Biogenesis PED scandal.  And unfortunately, this is what we will remember the most. For his part, when it came to how he wanted to be remembered, Rodriguez acknowledged his past mistakes, with this:

I do want to be remembered as someone who was madly in love with the game of baseball, someone who loves it at every level,’’ he said. “Someone who loves to learn it, play it, teach it, coach it. And also, I’m going to be hopefully remembered as someone who tripped and fell a lot, but someone that kept getting up.

A-Rod With Bat

After you fall down once or twice, keep getting up. That is the essence of a comeback and a turnaround, right?