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

Note From Oregon and South Carolina: “We’re The Little Engines That Could!”

Oregon vs. Kansas

I am so happy for the Oregon Ducks. I am. They KO’ed Kansas, and now they’re on their way to the Final Four. They have players like Tyler Dorsey and Dillon Brooks and Jordan Bell. Go Ducks! The Oregon motto was “Don’t sleep on us.” And Kansas did just that, to their peril. The Associated Press said this: “With swagger and verve and downright prolific shooting, the plucky team that everybody wanted to count out rolled to a 74-60 victory over the Jayhawks on Saturday night, earning the Ducks their first trip to the national semifinals in nearly 80 years.

‘You feel so good for so many people,’ said Ducks coach Dana Altman, who is headed to his first Final Four after 13 trips to the NCAA Tournament. ‘It’s a team effort. You feel good for a lot of people.’ Indeed, a whole lot of people had a hand in it.

Tyler Dorsey hit six 3s and poured in 27 points, and Dillon Brooks added 17 points; and what about the defense of Jordan Bell? Bell finished with 11 points, 13 rebounds and eight blocks in a virtuoso performance for the Ducks (33-5). Bell was a man among men as he single-handedly shut down the Kansas offense. Oregon seized the lead with 16 minutes left in the first half and never trailed the rest of the way.”

South Carolina Coach and Players

And what about the South Carolina Gamecocks? They took on and took out Duke and Baylor and Florida, and now they’re on their way to their first Final Four, ever. In the Elite Eight, South Carolina was seeded as a No. 7, and Florida, seeded as a No. 4, with its portfolio of postseason pedigree, couldn’t stop a determined South Carolina squad.  Their victory “T” Shirts read: “Cut the Nets.”  To the victor goes the spoils.  And I love their coach.  Just look as his facial expression. Frank Martin coaches with the intensity and the  propensity to push and pull and poke and prod his team on to victory.  Love it. 

So the correlation is clear. You must believe that you can! Just like the children’s book entitled, “The Little Engine That Could,” first and foremost we all need to dig deep and double down and stop listening to the naysayers who say that we don’t have the right stuff and we don’t do the right things and we’re too awkward and too backward and we’re too this and too that, and blah, blah, blah.  Phooey!

So here’s a homework assignment. Let’s all go and find and get and read “The Little Engine That Could,” again, or the first time. It’s an illustrated children’s book that became widely known in the United States after publication in 1930 by Platt & Munk. The story is used to teach children (and dare I say adults?) the value of optimism and hard work, something we all need a little more of. Amen

It’s Tim Tebow Time in Philly!

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Timmy Tebow is an Eagle. A Philadelphia Eagle. As of this writing, he’s (apparently) made the team and now he’s the third string quarterback on the squad coached by Chip Kelly, a man who’s not afraid to make bold decisions (just ask DeSean Jackson and Shady McCoy).  Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah — Tim Tebow’s an Eagle!

Tebow has played well at times this preseason and finished well in the fourth preseason game against the New York Jets. It has been speculated that he could be a two-point conversion specialist, and Eagles coach Chip Kelly used him in that role early in the third preseason game.

Tebow’s history is an up and down and all around affair. He’s bounced from team to team and from town to town and he’s taken a lickin – but he keeps on tickin. If Tebow does make it back to the NFL, and apparently he has, it would be a remarkable, comeback story. 

Tebow played college football for the University of Florida, winning the Heisman Trophy in 2007 and appearing on BCS National Championship-winning teams during the 2006 and 2008 seasons. Tebow was selected by the Denver Broncos in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft.

As a member of the Denver Broncos, he started the last three games of his rookie season and became the team’s full-time starting quarterback beginning in the sixth game of 2011. The Broncos were 1–4 before he became the starter, but began winning with him on the field, often coming from behind late in the fourth quarter, until they won their first AFC West title and first playoff game since 2005, defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers in overtime.

Tebow was traded to the New York Jets during the offseason after the Broncos acquired free agent quarterback Peyton Manning. Tebow received little playing time for the Jets and on April 29, 2013, the Jets released Tebow after drafting quarterback Geno Smith. He signed a two-year, non-guaranteed contract with the New England Patriots on June 11, 2013. But then he was cut by the New England Patriots at the end of the 2013 preseason. He was a free agent for a long time before the Patriots signed him, and spent the 2013 regular season out of football. That’s right, OUT OF FOOTBALL! (Hear that RGIII?) He joined ESPN’s SEC Network and it looked like his football career was over.

After two seasons away from the game, Tebow signed a one-year contract with the Philadelphia Eagles on April 20, 2015. The Eagles, with a coach who thinks differently about a lot of things, gave him a shot this year. Tebow played a significant amount through the preseason and Kelly defended mistakes he seemed to make. Reports indicated the Eagles wanted to keep Tebow on the roster. The news seemed positive on Tebow; it was just hard to figure out if they would keep him instead of Barkley, the presumptive third string QB on the team, who played ahead of him all preseason.

And this just in: The Eagles just TRADED Matt Barkley to Arizona. Go figure! Without Barkley around anymore, Tebow’s chances of making the roster and completing a really fun story got a lot better.

Tim-Tebow-Eagles

So the moral of the story is this: it ain’t over till the fat lady sings. And it ain’t over till God says it’s over. And that should encourage someone and anyone and everyone out there whose hopes have been hampered and whose dreams have been dampered and whose determination has been derailed. There’s still hope.

Tebow’s not what he used to be, but now, maybe now, he’ll be even better. Not just at football, but at the game of life.

Narrow It Down To Four

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It all boils down to four; four teams who are playing their best at the right time of the year. Some say they’re the best teams; please notice that I didn’t say that these are the four best teams, but they are the four teams who are playing their best. Florida, Kentucky, UConn and Wisconsin – all are legitimate contenders for the title. So the lesson is this: save the best for last. Be at your best when life gives you its worst. Do all of the little things that add up to one big thing. And don’t take your opponent for granted.

Wisconsin Win

Finally we have a four. Four represents completeness. Four winds, four corners, four quarters and four quadrants (we will omit four letter words). Biblically speaking, we have the four rivers of Paradise in Genesis and the four horsemen of the Apocalypse in Revelation. When you have four you have two pairs –  two half parts of a whole. It all has to boil down to four, and then to one.

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On paper and on the court, by all accounts, it’s a fine Final Four we have. Florida dispatched the darling of the ball Dayton; Kentucky is playing their best ball and they won the best game of the tournament against Michigan; UConn unraveled Michigan State; and Wisconsin bested Arizona. Now, Wisconsin will face Kentucky and UConn has a rematch from an early season game with Florida. Each team will realize that their opponent is going to be, to mix sports metaphors, a tough Out.

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So narrow it down; narrow it down to a maximum of four. To avoid being overwhelmed and undermanned, outgunned and inundated, narrow it down. We try to do too much and then wonder why we accomplish so little. We try to cram it all in, and in the end we end up having it hang all out. We try to achieve it all, and in the end we don’t do that much at all. We have too much stress and too little margin in our lives. So narrow it down! Doing four things well is better that doing fourteen things halfway. Narrow your wants and your wishes, narrow you fancies and your fantasies, narrow your longings and your cravings, your anticipations and your expectations, and focus on what means and matters most to you.