An American tragedy is now complete. Convicted murderer Aaron Hernandez is dead, found hanged in his prison cell earlier Wednesday morning.
An awful story has an awful, if unexpected, ending. Hernandez, 27, is gone, as is Odin Lloyd, the man he killed four years ago. There can be no sympathy for Hernandez, of course, but a shudder should run through all of us, for Hernandez once was a young man we thought we knew, living a life in sports so familiar to us, on stages of all-American joy and success, until it all went so terribly wrong.
Hernandez caught touchdown passes from Tim Tebow and Tom Brady. He won a college football national championship at the University of Florida. He went to a Super Bowl with the New England Patriots. He was given a $40-million contract over five years, a sign of his sports ascension. He was born in Bristol, Conn., the home of ESPN, for heaven's sake.
We know this resume, don't we?
How does murder get attached to that biography?
But it did. Hernandez was a young man who lost his father at the age of 16, got into a bar fight soon after arriving at Florida, failed a test for marijuana in college, watched his draft stock plummet and made wrong turn after wrong turn, finally ending with murder.
We can despise him for his heinous actions while also feeling terrible for what he became and how he died. It is not wrong to think both thoughts.
The news of Hernandez's death comes on the same day the Patriots are scheduled to visit the White House, a day of celebration for many players who knew Hernandez as a teammate before he became a murderer.
It is a day now irrevocably altered for them by a true American horror story.
PHOTOS | Aaron Hernandez