John Steigerwald's Sports Column
Hernandez case another black eye for NFL
Remember what Alan Pinkett said?
He’s a former Notre Dame running back who had this to say after his alma mater suspended four football players: “I’ve always felt like to have a successful team, you’ve got to have a few bad citizens on the team. That’s how Ohio State used to win all the time. They would have two or three guys that were criminals, and that just adds to the chemistry of the team. I think Notre Dame is growing because they have some guys that are doing something worthy of a suspension, which creates edge on the football team. You can’t have a football team full of choirboys.”
Those comments, which very few honest people disputed, got Pinkett suspended from his job as color analyst on the Notre Dame radio network.
We’ve found out in the last several days that New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez is no choirboy.
He also has $9 million of the Patriots’ money. It’s part of the $14 million they guaranteed him in a contract extension last year.
What other enterprise would guarantee an employee that kind of money without/after doing a thorough background check?
Here’s what a scout said about Hernandez before he was drafted in the fourth round by the Patriots: “Self-esteem is quite low; not well adjusted emotionally, not happy, moods unpredictable, not stable, doesn’t take much to set him off, but not an especially jumpy guy.”
There’s a dead 27-year-old man in Boston who might disagree with the “jumpy” part.
The scouting report was based on Hernandez’s behavior as he was matriculating at the University of Florida, where he reportedly had multiple drug test failures and was questioned about an on-campus shooting.
The Patriots knew exactly what they were getting when they took Hernandez with the 113th pick in the 2010 draft. They thought getting him in the fourth round was a steal. OK, they didn’t know they were getting an alleged murderer, but the point of all this is that Pinkett was right.
Good teams such as Florida tolerate at least a small criminal element. And the criminals are rewarded with big, fat guaranteed contracts from the NFL.
Matt Clause, a blogger for the Miami Herald, wrote: “You need thugs to win football games. That’s a reason why Harvard won’t be winning a national championship in football any time soon. Does Harvard have a football team? I wouldn’t know. Its players’ names don’t show up on arrest reports.”
Good thing Clause doesn’t have to depend on Florida football players to do the important medical research for the next 50 years.
Let’s all admit the NFL has an image problem because of the thugs they are willing to employ, and let’s admit where those thugs are coming from – college campuses. This won’t be the last time the Patriots throw millions of dollars at a guy who predicts much better as a future prison inmate than he did as college student. They all deserve what they get.
• I’d love to get a scouting report on Hernandez’ academic performance at Florida.
• It’s impossible to imagine what someone, who had as much as Hernandez, is thinking as he spends his first weekend in a jail cell, knowing there is a really good possibility he’ll be spending the next 2,000 weekends in one just like it. That’s if he only lives to be 63.
• Pitt coach Paul Chryst avoided a headache when he told Rushel Shell he wasn’t coming back to the Pitt program. Shell was one of the top recruits in the country last year, and he decided to transfer to UCLA after a good freshman year. That’s good not great.
Shell is becoming a walking advertisement for either freshman ineligibility or minor league football. Maybe both. He also appears to be on the path to football oblivion.
• Would it be apologizing for the Penguins’ pathetic performance against the Boston Bruins to say that the Chicago Blackhawks might have benefited from the energy and effort required to hold the Penguins to two goals in four games?
It’s a lot to ask a team to maintain that level of commitment for 10 games.
• Critics of the Pirates and apologists for the ridiculous economics of Major League Baseball like to point to the Milwaukee Brewers as an example of a small-market team that has succeeded. They’ve won six playoff games in the last 31 years.
• Steven Adams, a mediocre basketball player at Pitt, being the 12th overall pick in the NBA draft, says something. I just don’t know what.
John Steigerwald writes a Sunday column for the Observer-Reporter.