We never really knew Aaron Hernandez

We don’t know anybody.

As members of the media, it’s part of our chosen profession, to be able to bring people closer to subjects of interest; politicians, actors, athletes. But here’s a little secret that becomes more and more evident with each passing story of sorrow and shock: It’s impossible.

Forget that we live in a digital age filled with public relations savvy and fleeting fame, even at the core of one-on-one interaction, we never really know what we’re getting from someone. Image reins over truth in most circumstances, leaving a door closed in every respect of a person’s being, the intent to sell oneself as a likeable commodity the one true goal of utilizing the media.

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Aaron Hernandez used us. He used you, and he won’t be the last. What started out as a promising, if not injury-filled, NFL career is now in shambles after the former Patriots tight end was released by the team Wednesday, only 90 minutes after his arrest. Instead of exposing defenses on the field, Hernandez must now worry about his own as he faces first-degree murder charges. Like it or not, Odin Lloyd’s name will forever be associated with the darkest story to infiltrate Patriot Place.

Maybe the Red Sox were on to something when they hired a private investigator to follow Carl Crawford before signing the outfielder. Had the Patriots done their due research on Hernandez’s past, they might have understood the potentially troubling risks involved in drafting, molding, and perhaps most egregious of all, paying that risk to the tune of $40 million.

Remember when the slimiest thing you thought about Hernandez was his “make it rain” touchdown dance? Remember when you thought he was a guy with a sense of humor, taunting the Red Sox in 2011 by eating grilled chicken in the Patriots locker room? Remember when he lied to you last summer and professed change after seeing a payday reserved for very few in this world?

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Nothing changed, and everything is worse than we could have possibly imagined in the days leading up to his arrest. While it seemed obstruction of justice was in the cards, the crime is being portrayed as more pre-meditated than anybody wanted to admit it could have been. If we’re to believe the prosecution, Lloyd is dead today simply because he associated with people Hernandez didn’t like at a Boston nightclub. That was June 14. Three days later, Lloyd was killed. In three days time, Hernandez either couldn’t lose steam over the incident, or meticulously plotted the murder.

And yet, this is a man you paid to see every week. This is a man whose name adorns personalized jerseys throughout New England. This was a man who showed up at schools and other various charities in the name of his team. This is a man whose likeness probably was torn down from more than one bedroom yesterday, where a young adolescent has to try and grapple the hard realities of perception and fact.

Patriot fans let Aaron Hernandez into their homes in various ways. But we never knew him despite society’s insistence to tell us otherwise.

Celebrity, fame, marketing, and advertising go together to sell you, hoping that you’ll have a connection with the shiny face or sultry voice pushing whatever. We have this eminent insistence to associate with the famous, whether it be a Kardashian or star quarterback. We buy into personalities without ever really knowing where the line of reality begins and ends. We thought we knew Aaron Hernandez because he wore our team colors, ignoring his past because he was good at catching a football.

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A man is dead and another is the shattered center of one of the worst moments in NFL history. Aaron Hernandez won’t go down in infamy like Ray Lewis, but more like Rae Carruth and Jayson Williams. The New England Patriots may have done the right thing in cutting the tight end immediately after his arrest, but they have to understand that they are still on the hook for ignoring Hernandez’s checkered past. Their arrogance got in the way of what got them so much success a decade ago; character guys, team-first players.

As it turns out, they are no different than any other team. They didn’t know Aaron Hernandez.

They seemingly don’t know anybody any more.