Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Aaron Hernandez -- Sociopath or Societal Mishap that Failed a Young Kid.

A Tragedy or Poetic Justice of a Classic Mythological Titan's Fall 

This will cause a lot of controversy but this is one of the most fascinating complex case studies as a sports fan, sports franchise and mental health clinician.  Personally, and professionally, this lost life just makes me ache.  Earlier this morning, a callus radio talk show host said such negative hateful verbiage that I questioned the host's humanity.  His negative statements could easily reveal his secrets as what would make him project onto Hernandez so subjectively.  How often the ones that cast damnations from the most high are the ones that have the greatest psychic sins -- or worse, the most to hide.  Strom Thurman, or Ted Haggard come to mind.   

This love-them-when-they-are-stars-hate-and-desert-them-when-they-are-gone
is not what mankind is ultimately striving for.   I have worked with troubled youth/teens; and, I have worked with families having horrific difficulties.  I have worked in the prison system. Although not intimately, I know this family, this story too well.  Many of you will have an opinion and some will have strong belief about this person named Aaron.   What is interesting for me is that I have been following this story for SEVERAL years now.  In fact, I almost blogged about him extensively during the Superbowl as Hernandez joked about not attending the White House visit.  Poetically viewed as a symbolic Greek tragedy as the visit occurred today.  I waited to write about him arrogantly knowing there might be a better opportunity to blog about him.  Then again a few weeks ago his fiance was in court and there was ample NEWS coverage and social media discussion of her taking his last name despite not being married.  I waited again for the perfect time to write about this case study.

As I felt engaged with the Hernandez story I used his life as a way to connect with my work.  A few years ago I was having high resistance and difficulty in group therapy with my AdSEG/SHU prison inmates (the very population that Hernandez might have been at one time).  By incorporating Hernandez's life story into group topics the inmate discussions suddenly became alive.  The inmates understood him, related to him, and connected to him.  Hernandez had meshed with people whom he had never met. He was a human being.  Symbolically, Hernandez was a powerful Titanic of a hero whom many will say was just a thug, or murderer or sociopath.  Others will counter saying he was a great athlete and child and teenager and brother and childhood sweetheart and son and turmoiled man who did not get the proper mentoring and coaching.  When a son loses his father at an early age or at an age near his right-of-passage, it does something to him.  Any man who loses his father is stunted.  It can stop you from your pursuits and your calling.  It leaves the driver motionless.  Those of us who had strong loved fathers closely attached to our lives have it particularly hard and it can lead to darker paths when we start to recognize this void.  Hernandez suffered a void at a vulnerable age.  This might be an issue that daughters and mothers can not comprehend.  The survival of the adoring son.  So, Hernandez in many ways is challenging us to create a bold new discussion of the Jungian and mythological Archetype of the FATHER figure and the HERO.

This case will potentially become messy.  Heads might roll.  Questions about suicide vs. murder.  If suicide the questions will surface about custody (prison guards) not making 20 minute rounds; what was done to ensure a suicide watch; was he evaluated for recent SRE (suicide risk evaluation) and when was the most recent assessment; what was his mental health; and this is just a starting list.  What is this day in his life history?  This answer now is apparent:  He would have been at the White House today.  He just saw his brother, fiance, mother and daughter last week.  As murder is not to be ruled out.  Was he at risk based on previous articles; should he have been in the prison's AdSEG unit, or protective custody within the prison; was his celebrity status a negative in the prison; was there an enemy list;  were there any ties or connections to the murdered victims that were directly (or indirectly) linked to the prison system which housed Hernandez?  All to say, the Hernandez family and his fiance might be asking question and preparing for a noticeable winnable lawsuit.  

What was happening February 5, 2017 (Was Hernandez thinking about suicide on this day?  Or was he fantasizing about returning to the game).  

Super Bowl, Football, Player, Sport

The Sunday February 5, 2017 Super Bowl was, to say the least, historical.  In the United States of America, the world literally stops on that one Sunday each year. Sofas, bars, snacks, drinks, and yelling!  This year was different.  How many stayed at the game to completion vs. how many told the story of leaving at the 3rd quarter only to learn of the biggest upset in NFL history?  How many thought of Aaron Hernandez.  Sadly, how many of you cared about him as a person?

For Americans you can have family unity or decade long fights due to the love of the game. With this year’s Super Bowl, there are still reports and arguments (including introductions of statistical QB yard data) that Joe Montana is no longer the best quarterback of all time -- gasp! Moreover, sports appear to be meshing with politics.  At least six titanic teammates from the five time Super Bowled New England Patriots are not attending the traditional Super Bowl invitation to the White House to commemorate their win against the Atlanta Falcons because of social political principal.  One might argue that this is the most significant Super Bowl game of the past several decades. The surprize and almost impossible victory that seemed taken from the Atlanta Falcons was not the startle of the New England Patriots skills but the daunting and arguably entitled comeback in the 4th quarter.   

Hernandez Past Troubles Come into Focus.

But there was a story during the super bowl that is of equal tale.  Overshadowed. And darker. There was another New England Patriot who jokingly reported that he would not be attending the White House invitation:  His name was Aaron Hernandez.

Last year, while providing group therapy for a population highly resistant to treatment  I introduced Hernandez as the fallen titan to the group (the demographics within this group was predominantly Latino and African American).  Upon revealing Hernandez past the groups resistance to talking and refusal of treatment faded.  What emerged was a connection and interest and quest for understanding what went wrong with the $40,000,000 Hernandez.   

Hernandez current life in Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center

Could the glory of Super Bowl 2017 had been even more epic with the 27 year old tight end Hernandez powering the limelight of affection and adoration of his mortals on and off the field.  If he were not a convicted murderer currently serving time in a maximum security prison would his life have meaning; would life be as painful to all directly and indirectly affected by his actions?  He might really have come into his own as a young athlete despite being well within the sophomore of his promising career.  But for now? Hernandez current life in Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center is filled with four walls, solitary confinement, AdSEG, suicide watches, custody finding manufactured shanks and playing tic-tac-toe via mail with his brother. During the past several months, the purpose has not been to discuss Hernandez athletic greatness.  The fact of his being a convicted murderer is not neglected.  The controversy of Hernandez’s April 14, 2017 double homicide acquittal is not neglected.  Since, what was in his mind when he showed emotion that day in the courtroom?

Lost dreams and a storybook future terminated.

What is silenced are the themes of what ifs; lost dreams; soon to be forgotten hopes; and symbolic and literal stolen lives. Many involved with sports and the excitement and newness of drafts know of this youthful, handsome, 6’2” demi-god of sports as he was characterized.  Sadly, and fearfully his awards, records, titles, honors and recognitions are all stripped away from the halls of his high school, and the New England Patriots NFL franchise. With all his looks-good-on-paper presentations ranging from high school honor roll, admission and attendance to University of Florida before high school graduation, and even being validated as the top high school athlete in the nation still gloomed an overlooked shadow to his youthful storybook persona.  Hernandez past was troubled and filled with landmines which he seemed to avoid -- but the explosions eventually caught up with him.  

Hernandez was not always the sociopath that he was so grippingly portrayed in the media.  

As a case study to assess and understand Hernandez we literally have two sides to the young 27 year old tragedy.  The Hernandez Gangster thug life that is so easy to portray hence it allows us to blame Hernandez and take away social accountability for our actions and participation in this epic tale.  As he was a good kid that got caught up in things over his head and this is what makes the story so misfortuned.  How did the community at large fail this bound to be future Hall-of-Famer.

Aside from Hernandez universally engaging tale was his significant identity as a Latino figure within the sport.  As Fox News Opinion’s Ortiz stated in her June 27, 2013 article Aaron Hernandez, From Inspiration to Cautionary Tale the NFL’s Hispanic representation is below one percent (or about 13 noted athletes).  Ortiz stated, Hernandez “had the ability to identify with the league’s hispanic market in a way few players do, to connect on a shared cultural level.”  But this is not just a tokenism type statement.  Many accounts reveal that he was charismatic connecting to all people.  As reported by D.J. (Jonathan) Hernandez, his brother, “He had a very big heart. …”That’s what’s craziest about all this.  There is a disconnect.  He would open up his arms to anyone.”  He engaged and was comfortable with thugs, kids, to Myra Kraft (deceased wife of NEP owner).  He was a people person to some and dangerous to others.   

This double sided darkness dives us into the deep unconscious within the American fabric. The sociopath (and it seems Hernandez might fit the traits of an antisocial based on accounts).  If we look at this yet to be made blockbustered big budgeted Hollywood tale from the lens of mental health, or an analytic psychodynamic lens one is faced with ongoing thoughts:   Did the dominant culture of the National Football League understand Hernandez?  Where was the mentorship, the setting boundaries, special training and psychic parenting for this kid?  Who provided him with healthy mindful rewards (is a $40,000,000 bonus a reward or truly an numbed over exposure to the tangible darkness of emptiness)?  And who set him up with healthy consequences early on for preventative behavior adjustments?  

If we re-visit Hernandez’ childhood and adolescent period we have the narrative of a great kid and the signs of Hernandez bleak future.  A man or child that could have been saved.  Perhaps that is why his brother, D.J. Hernandez easily reflects upon the best friend relationship and daily phone calls they shared.  This closeness has a price.  D.J. also fell victim to lost dreams, hopes, and a stolen life.  He too, like his brother, was of hometown football royalty following in the footsteps of their father, Dennis.  D. J. not only set athletic records but was a success based on his football accolades, collegiate and graduate studies and a promising coaching career.  The imaginal:  How soon in the future could we have seen D. J. and Aaron as head coach and star of an NFL franchise?  After all, they were both demi-gods thriving in their early mid-20’s.  But now?  D.J. has a tarnished association as being the sibling of his loved brother.  Dreams, hopes are now his working in an obscure town in Texas as an owner of a roofing company.  In January, D.J has a football coaching position relocating to Connecticut and is an hour from the family. Additional oddity to Hernandez completed suicide as his brother returned to the area from Texas.

The story of D.J is one of two compelling subplot to the narrative because at surface level we have accounts of the demise of younger brother.   The father died unexpectedly during a routine surgical procedure.  All accounts show that Dennis’ death greatly affected Aaron.  But the dominoes fell as their mother, Terri, had multiple bankruptcies:  Indications of poor financial boundaries and planning?  Also, her remarriage was laced with domestic violence and a new husband who had trouble with the legal system.  News reports can often be skewed with a truth that is more salacious than the truth in ordinary life.  D.J. paints the family and Aaron’s developmental milestones as authentically good natured.  We could continue with the hypotheticals but the story has many losses aside from D.J’s.  Odin Lloyd, Daniel Correida de Abreu, and Safiro Teixera Furtado, and their families.  Shayanna Jenkins and the estranged relationship with her Sister Shaneath is perhaps the second compelling subplot.  Her apparent loyalty is complexed as she is the mother of Hernandez’s child, and they have been childhood sweethearts since the age of 10.  She recently added his last name as an indicator of her commitment and loyalty.  As of a few months ago Hernandez’s fortune has been absorbed in legal fees and civil suits.  She never legally married him so upon his death how can the estate of Hernandez impact her?  Would she have faired better by severing ties with her fiance rather than move forward in the relationship.  However, whether shortsighted or admirable, she chose to legally engage with him through changing her last name to include Hernandez. There is something hauntingly romantic and stoic to be said for loyalty?  It is easy (maybe cowardly) to distance ourselves from the Scarlet Letter. However, the Mike Pouncey’s of the world who focus on their relationships and meanings to loyalty or the Lionel Dahmer’s who visit the darkest of the dark consistently because of the meaning of love make good. We need to work harder as a collective. There was no excuse in us not helping this kid earn his deserved Hall of Fame accolades.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing. Team sports are good for learning accountability, dedication, and leadership, among many other traits. Find the best soccer drills for youth at