If you're into visual content — television shows, movies, documentaries — you are living in a truly golden age. The ease and portability of consumption from anywhere, along with the wide open spaces for competition among content providers in the cable and streaming realms have yielded some truly amazing products.
Among all those content providers, Netflix might be the biggest game changer, going from a "mail you some DVDs" outfit to a full fledged Hollywood studio operation within a matter of just a few years. They are also providing some tremendous documentaries, and if you're a sports fan, then you may have already had the chance to take in their latest work, "Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez," a three episode (about an hour each) inside look at the late former Patriots tight end turned murderer. (Actually, as we see in the documentary, he was actually both of those things at the same time.)
If you haven't seen it, see it, especially if you're a football fan. The reviews have been interesting. The one thing everyone can agree upon is that this documentary takes you WAY further inside this story than any of the long form interviews or articles have before. From there, it's very polarizing, as a decent faction of viewers look at this documentary as painting Hernandez as a sympathetic figure, and therefore, trying to explain away the murders.
Undoubtedly, you come away with a much better understanding of just how dysfunctional Hernandez's life was and became, mostly after his father, Darren, passed away while Aaron was in high school. Darren's death led to Aaron's mother, Terri, making some very poor decisions, which directly led to Aaron's downward spiral into guns, drugs, and an inner circle of ne'er do wells. Amazingly, he was doing all this while playing tight end in the NFL well enough to earn a $40 million paycheck in the summer of 2012 — just a few weeks after Hernandez likely killed two people for spilling a drink on him in a bar.
The central figure, other than Hernandez obviously, is Odin Lloyd, whose 2013 murder blew the lid off of Hernandez's double life. Hernandez would eventually be convicted of Lloyd's murder, appeal the verdict, have the conviction vacated when he committed suicide (thanks to an archaic Massachusetts law called "abatement," more on that in a minute), and eventually have the conviction reinstated when abatement was abolished.
There is a LOT to unpack in this thing, and I'll try to hit some of the high points here, but I recommend this documentary highly.
4. Security camera and phone taps
I will probably end up watching this documentary a second time in the summer, when there is time for that sort of thing, and when I do, I am going to try to imagine what it would have been like without the recordings of Hernandez's conversations from inside prison. Those recordings almost provide an eerie first person narration from the subject himself, with everything from Hernandez screaming at his mother for screwing him up as a kid to him giggling while asking his fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins, to send him some Harry Potter books. In addition, some of the security video that was cobbled together surrounding the multiple murders that involved Hernandez was chilling, including footage from INSIDE HERNANDEZ'S OWN HOME. You haven't lived until you've watched Aaron Hernandez dancing around in his man cave the morning after murdering Odin Lloyd, and passing his baby daughter around to his junkie Bristol friends who helped him with the killing. Hernandez might be the dumbest killer in the history of murder, which brings us to....
3. Blue cotton candy Bubblicious
Example number two of just how big an idiot Aaron Hernandez was — on the night he killed Odin Lloyd, Hernandez stopped by a convenience store and purchase, among other things, blue cotton candy Bubblicious gum. Hey, sure, it's a flavor that a nine year old would buy, but whatever. There is a lot of nine year old in Aaron Hernandez! The gum comes into the story because, when Hernandez returned the rental car he was driving the night of Lloyd's murder, he returned with with an actual bullet casing stuck to a piece of the chewed up gum. You can't make this stuff up. This, of course, is the most publicity that the Bubblicious brand has had since the great Gum Wars of the early '80s against Bubble Yum and Big League Chew.
2. Prison tattoo artists
Apparently, when Hernandez was behind bars, he got some new ink, including a gigantic tattoo on his neck that read "LIFETIME LOYALTY," as ironic tattoo for someone on trial for murdering a supposed friend, but whatever. Also, an interesting strategy when trying to convince a jury of regular people that you're not a murderer — got get MORE visible, gang-ish tattoos. Hey, it's your playbook, Aaron. Something I've always wondered, and I say this as someone with no ink anywhere — is there a prison tattoo artist in each clink? Like a barber shop, an ATM that spits out cigarettes, and a tattoo parlor? (By the way, this is how hard it is to find winners in this documentary. I'm bringing up a person that may not exist as a winner. There are a LOT of bad people in this thing.
1. Alexander Bradley
Of all the bad people in this documentary, the one that you feel actual sympathy for is probably Alexander Bradley, Hernandez's former friend who he shot in the face in early 2013, possibly out of fear that Bradley could testify against Hernandez for the double murder of two bar patrons in the summer of 2012. (There is a LOT of gunplay to keep track of, man.) Bradley survived the gunshot, losing a right eye, and Hernandez's lawyers tried to pin the double murder on Bradley. Bradley is an awful human being, a drug kingpin and gun toting gangster himself, but somehow you felt bad for him getting shot in the face by Hernandez and being pinned for murders that seemed to point to Hernandez as the triggerman. Yes, Hernandez was such a bloodthirsty sociopath that you felt badly for a drug dealing gangster.
4. Abatement law
So about that abatement law — apparently, at the time of Hernandez's suicide, Massachusetts had a law called "abatement," which stated that if a person had an open murder case against them when they died, then all charges would be dropped. So, much to the chagrin and sadness of Odin Lloyd's family, when Hernandez decided to off himself in prison in August of 2017, the open murder case for the death of Lloyd, which was under appeal, was wiped off the books. To the credit of Lloyd's mother, Ursula Ward, she fought the establishment on this and the state abolished the abatement law, and Hernandez's murder of Lloyd will go into the books as just that, Hernandez murdering Lloyd (in case any of you had Hernandez in your Fantasy Murder Leagues).
3. Terri Hernandez
Aaron Hernandez should not be given a pass for any of the awful things he did, that goes without saying. Critics of this documentary cite the sympathetic-at-times tone toward Aaron Hernandez as one of the negative checkmarks against it. However, if you were to at least arrive at an understanding as to why Hernandez was so messed up, look no further than his mother, Terri Hernandez, who first cheated on Darren Hernandez with the husband of his niece (a scumbag named Jeffrey Cummings), then later MARRIED Cummings while Hernandez was in college in Florida. Cummings is another one in this saga who has an extensive rap sheet of drugs and guns. Oh, also, Hernandez's mom got swept up in an illegal bookmaking operation back in 2001, too. Nice lady.
2. New England Patriot fans
If you were one of the ones out there lining the streets, with your signs, and your number 81 jerseys, screaming support for Aaron Hernandez AFTER he was arrested for the murder of Lloyd, you know who you are. You are the worst kind of sports fans. Of course, you do cheer for.....
1. The New England Patriots
So after Hernandez got the phone call from Bradley, the day after Hernandez THOUGHT he murdered him, a voice from the grave, Hernandez immediately began too fear for his life, and rightfully so. Bradley was every bit the psychopath Hernandez was, and Hernandez knew that Bradley and his crew would come looking to kill him. So Hernandez went to the Patriots and asked if they could trade him somewhere that he would be safe. Hernandez correctly feared for his family's safety. The Patriots response, and I can't believe I'm about to type this, was to tell him to essentially "shut up and play football," and find a flophouse apartment for him somewhere away from his North Attleboro home. We found out that the Patriots have a member of the staff (Kevin Anderson is his name) who works with a local realtor for situations like this. You can't make this stuff up.
But hey, six Super Bowls, yo!
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.