Seems like a rite of passage returning back to school and we’re asked to describe what you did on your “summer vacation.” For Bills fans in 1994, I remember that summer as the time Bills fans got smacked in the face and had to learn how to deal with our undeniable athlete worship for a guy named OJ Simpson. This, just after reeling from being clobbered in the Super Bowl too many times. Yea, that’s what I remember doing during the summer of ’94; trying to wrap my head around all the weirdness.
The Buffalo Bills shining Hall of Fame star may or may not have killed his ex-wife and her friend. Aside from the obvious brutal crime itself and its horrific nature, for a Bills fan in 1994, it was like getting up after being smacked in the face four times already only to be smacked down again. Athletes are not supposed to be flawed in any way. The icons of pure physical dominance who fall from grace create very mixed feelings for those of us who worship all things pigskin.
Like a lot of Americans, we may differ in our opinion of how the OJ verdict came down, but the vast majority would probably admit we prefer our athletes to be squeaky clean than toting baggage. When it is revealed that a star professional athlete may possess character flaws to an extreme extent, it presents a dilemma for fans of said athlete. That dilemma is of epic proportion for impressionable young people learning about how the world is supposed to work.
This hero worship stuff aside (not going to go all Joseph Campbell now, but you get the point)… there is something unsettling when you look at photos of a star athlete like Aaron Hernandez and realize there is a possibility that this man was playing in an NFL uniform by day, and possibly committing homicide by night, maybe even more than once!
When the news media reported the accusations of possible involvement in multiple homicides by Aaron Hernandez, it instantly brought me back to 1994. The genuine shock when OJ Simpson was accused of murdering his ex-wife and her friend was replayed in my mind about as many times as the famous CNN shots of the cops chasing the white Bronco.
Patriots* fans are about to experience arguably a worse scourge than losing four Super Bowls in a row. They are about to watch this slow crawl of the news media focused on every move of this event over the next two years or however long it takes for a trial to play out in court in excruciating detail. Of course, the court of public opinion will also go on, no matter what type of evidence is presented.
One thing I learned as a Bills fan dealing with the mind-blowing possibility that OJ Simpson might have done some pretty bad stuff is that it really doesn’t matter what the facts are, or the reality of the situation. “If the glove don’t fit, you must acquit.” Was justice ever served in that case, 19 years ago? It remains a subject that causes heated debate, even after all these years.
It doesn’t matter whether your team is sporting multiple Lombardi trophies or labeled a loser franchise when one of your star players goes down in this type of fashion. What do championships and dynasties mean when they become tainted by more than just Spygate, but also the possibility that one of your team’s star players may have committed multiple homicides as well?
Hard pressed to feel too sorry for Patriots* fans, especially the blowhards who feel the need to invade The Ralph with their obnoxious banter every year since their team has basically owned the Buffalo Bills for more than a decade. It’s been like nails on a chalk board for many Bills fans listening to them scream like a bunch of haaaaahhhyeeenas.
However, regarding the circus that has now become the life of Aaron Hernandez, I do share a bit of sympathy for them (just a bit). If their franchise wasn’t tainted enough by Spygate, this situation certainly doesn’t go far in supporting their belief that there is some sort of magical “Patriots* Way.” Bills fans know only too well where that kind of magical thinking can lead.
Even crafty old Kraft and BellyBoy got busted by a guy who basically hoodwinked them into trusting him to tote around “the brand.” So, the great Robert Kraft and BellyBoy CAN be duped after all? Hooda thunk it. One thing Bills fans had to learn, and now the Patriots* fans will as well is that no matter how much you love your team, they are still composed of individuals whose lives may not in any way, shape or form resemble what they are supposed to portray when they wear the uniform.
No one circles the wagons like the Buffalo Bills, and there is no fan base in sports that knows more about what it is like to have Hall of Fame hero worship shattered by the seedy side of life. Patriots* fans, stand in line behind the rest of us who know only too well what it feels like to explain to your kid that their hero might just be a cold blooded murderer. New jerseys are a nice gesture and all, but if the Patriots* organization thinks that their brand hasn’t been permanently tarnished, they are deluding themselves.
I’ll never forget the summer of 1994 and the footage of OJ Simpson in his white Bronco. That was the day that a harsh reality collided with a lifetime of magical hero worship. For all the glory that has been described as the “Patriots* Way,” their fan base is about to go through years of grueling, grinding, microscopic detail; about how their very own superstar athlete failed to abide by the “way.” It’s tough having to come down off that high horse, but even those riding high eventually experience a fall from grace at some point. It’s what we do after we fall that defines us. And THAT is what I began to learn in the summer of 1994 and beyond, in all matters football related, and in life.