Around lunchtime on Wednesday, folks in Columbus started talking about $40 million.
That’s because they’d just heard that a jury had found Aaron Hernandez guilty of first-degree murder.
Without the money, the story would have been a big deal because around here we love football.
Hernandez was an All-American tight end for the Florida Gators and won a national championship catching passes from Tim Tebow, then went to a Super Bowl catching passes from Tom Brady.
But it was a much bigger deal because of the $40 million.
That’s how much money Hernandez stood to gain from the five-year contract he signed with the New England Patriots when he was 22 years old.
That was nearly a year before Odin Lloyd was found dead about a mile from Hernandez’ mansion, and Hernandez was arrested and charged with murder.
But it was also just six weeks after the shooting deaths of two men at a red light in Boston, for which Hernandez would later be indicted and charged with two more counts of first-degree murder.
So why was everybody in town talking about Aaron Hernandez on Wednesday?
Because he had it made.
He wasn’t some guy who bought a Powerball ticket, hit the jackpot, and then went bankrupt.
No, Hernandez was born to do something that a national and international television audience holds in high esteem — and something, in our current economic system, for which he deserved to earn $40 million and for which he had even greater earning potential in the future.
Then he threw it all away.
And, if truth be told, that kind of makes us feel good about ourselves. We’re better money managers than Aaron Hernandez. We’re better stewards of our own gifts and talents than Aaron Hernandez. Oh yeah, and we’re not living double lives as gangsters, and we haven’t killed anybody.
But it kind of makes us feel bad about our circumstances too. I think I’m one of the few people who could handle $40 million responsibly without letting it go to my head.
And everybody I know feels the same way — about their own ability to be filthy rich, not mine.
At least, we deserve the chance to try.
Man, life is unfair!
But we all know that money doesn’t buy happiness.
It makes me think of “Love in the Time of Cholera,” a novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, when a character named Uncle Leo XII is accused of being rich.
“No, not rich,” he says. “I am a poor man with money, which is not the same thing.”
Aaron Hernandez was not rich. He was a poor man with money.
Everybody talking about him on Wednesday, myself included, is richer than he ever was. It’s important to remember that, and to be thankful.
Dimon Kendrick-Holmes, executive editor, firstname.lastname@example.org