The new documentary series of former NFL tight end Aaron Hernandez is eye-opening on many levels. It tracks the rise, fall and eventual suicide in 2017 after his 2014 conviction for murdering Odin Lloyd. The film features interviews with teammates, journalists covering Hernandez, his defense lawyer as well as friends and family.
The major revelation after the suicide was the autopsy that found that Hernandez suffered from a severe case of CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), which is caused by repeated injuries to the head often found in football players but also those involved in boxing, hockey, professional wrestling, rugby, and soccer. This neurodegenerative disease is now known to inhibit brain function and impulse control.
A synopsis of the series
The series was broken down into episode one focusing on his early years growing up, episode two on his years in Florida where many red flags emerged and his move to the NFL, and episode three where the murder trial shocked the sports world and the effects of CTE are detailed.
There are insights into:
- His sexuality including a long-term relationship from seventh to eleventh grade with a teammate
- A paranoia that emerged in college while playing for the Florida Gators
- A look at his upbringing by a father who was a local football legend and an abusive alcoholic
- A tie-in using Hernandez’s SUV to an unsolved double murder from 2012
- His state of mind once convicted, using phone calls he had while in prison
- His associations with known criminals
Still a mystery
A major criticism for many was that the search for the “truth” led to certain assumptions and leaps in explaining Hernandez’s behavior and tragic end. According to CNN, “While there’s a tendency to indict football, at every level, for exploiting young talent, there are so many variables baked into Hernandez’s particular tale as to muddy that message.”
This analysis may be correct, but CTE does not follow logic. It is a disease linked to head trauma suffered by athletes and others. Its logic is an outcome of illogical behavior. Hernandez had other mitigating factors like an abusive childhood and repressed sexuality, which happens to people outside of sports as well. But sports celebrities at all levels enabled increasingly erratic behavior that led to an end that no documentary will ever truly be able to explain.