BOSTON (CBS) — Just about everyone who is not directly involved with the murder of Odin Lloyd and the subsequent arrest of Aaron Hernandez has moved on. If you’re not an investigator, a lawyer or a judge, there’s not much you can do or say from the outside that can have any sort of impact on the tragedy or the court case.
Nevertheless, ESPN’s Howard Bryant has not moved on, and he is a very angry man.
His anger, conveyed in a column for ESPN The Magazine, was directed mostly at Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Their offense: Not saying enough in the wake of the arrest of Hernandez and the murder charges he’s currently facing.
Bryant spends a brief 711 words pontificating about how awful Brady and Belichick are as humans. Here’s a taste:
“[When Hernandez was arrested], Belichick was on vacation. Here was the player he scouted, drafted and rewarded with a $40 million contract being connected to two shootings and three murders, and apparently the coach didn’t think it was important enough to return home.”
“When Brady, general of the red zone, father of three, finally did speak about Hernandez nearly a month later, Bela Lugosi couldn’t have made his first public comments sound more inhuman.”
“In other words, tough break, Odin Whatever-your-name-was, but Tom has game film to watch. He’s moved on. Brady made a teammate’s being charged with a murder while also being linked to a drive-by double murder a year earlier sound no different from overcoming Richard Seymour’s being traded to the Raiders.”
“When the media were done applauding Belichick for doing the least amount possible, it was suggested that the Patriots did not owe the public a response, because it would give the impression that the organization was somehow responsible for Hernandez’s alleged crimes. Here’s the truth: The Patriots do owe the public, because they and every other sports team in America take from the public, profit from the public, sell their name to the public.”
“Had Hernandez saved a toddler from drowning instead of allegedly putting a bullet into a friend, the Patriots would have claimed him. The hero machine would have churned, applauding itself for giving the poor kid from the tough background a chance, first to take credit for the sunshine.”
In truth, there may have been a salient point or two to be made from Bryant’s opinion, except for, well, they were buried underneath heaps of verbal garbage and logically bankrupt statements.
The fact is that Bryant spends plenty of time complaining about what Brady and Belichick didn’t do, but he spends very little time offering a suggestion of what they should have done. No matter what, this scathing column was going to be written — it just needed some blanks to be filled in based on the events of the past month and a half.
Had Belichick rushed home from his European vacation immediately upon hearing of Hernandez’s involvement with a murder, what exactly was he going to do? Hold the very same press conference that Bryant eventually found detestable and disgusting? If Belichick had held that press conference three weeks earlier, would Bryant have written this same exact column with the same exact criticisms? Seems like it.
He also focused only on the quick quote Brady gave to Peter King regarding Hernandez, selectively ignoring everything else the quarterback said. When Brady finally met the assembled media in Foxboro for a lengthy discussion, he said, “Certainly it’s a very tragic thing that happened; someone loses their life. But all those things were out of the players’ control here. We’re not really a part of that situation so I don’t think it does a lot for us to get too much involved in that.”
“It’s a terrible thing that happened,” Brady also said. “Look at the city of Boston this year, what happened in the marathon. Look, these are very terrible things that you wish never happened to anybody. There’s a very human, compassionate element that we all have and when it’s someone you know has been on our team, it’s a very sad thing. I think that we as a team have tried to move forward with better awareness and understanding of these types of things. Hopefully nothing like this ever happens again.”
Bryant brushed off those comments as “scripted,” meaning they didn’t count or didn’t happen. Why? Because Bryant said so.
With regard to Belichick, Bryant sarcastically referred to the coach as a “molder of men.” I’d challenge Bryant to find one person in the history of sports, writing and the English language who ever referred to Belichick as a molder of men. Belichick does not coach in Pop Warner, high school or college; he coaches professionals in the NFL, men who make millions of dollars to compete in a game. Belichick’s job is to employ those men in the best way possible to win on Sundays. It is not his job to “mold men,” nor does anyone think it is. Yet Bryant slams Belichick for not doing it, because again, Bryant wanted to say it.
When Belichick and Brady did talk about the involvement of Hernandez in a murder, both said they can’t comment much further, considering the investigation is ongoing. A football coach and a quarterback have jobs to do, and publicly interfering with a murder case isn’t one of them.
Where Bryant did have a point was in the media fawning over Belichick for simply “acting like a human being.” That praise went overboard. Fine. But is it Belichick’s fault what media members say about him? Let’s crush the coach because a football writer had horrible perspective! That’s what magazine writing is all about!
He’s also correct in pointing out that sports organizations create myths of character in players that don’t always have any. Given the very public arrest record of many athletes, that much is universally known and accepted. It probably didn’t warrant its own column. We’re not idiots and can figure that out on our own. But thank you so very much, Mr. Bryant, for the drowning toddler hyopthetical. I’m surprised you didn’t criticize Belichick for not saving a baby this week while you were at it.
Alas, Bryant wrote his column knowing it would invite the spotlight upon him, and in that sense it worked. But my, what an embarrassing price to pay to get some attention.
Yet there is reason to believe Bryant himself is in on the joke. He opened his column by lamenting the “sports industrial complex,” the very industry that allows him to make what can be assumed to be a very nice salary. He complains that sports discussions are “routinely transforming both the English language and any sense of perspective into self-indulgent mush.”
On that point, there is no counterargument. With his column bashing two men for not living up to impossible, ridiculous standards, Bryant proved he’s an expert in the area of self-indulgent mush.