You’ve seen the new Netflix documentary series on Aaron Hernandez, right? The one about the once-adored now-despised New England Patriots star-turned-convicted murderer.
If not, take a few hours and check it out.
Among the many striking and shocking elements, at least through the early days of this real-life soap opera, is the seemingly undeterred support from Patriots fans for one of Tom Brady’s top targets.
It seemed puzzling how even the most ardent supporter of the famous tight end could so easily overlook what stacked up to be an insurmountable pile of evidence pointing to his involvement in the murder of Odin Lloyd.
But the past week has offered a fresh perspective, one that lumps this writer in with the sort of lot that pushes aside reason despite proof to the contrary.
Nearly three years ago, on April 3, 2017, the Houston Astros opened up their regular season against the Seattle Mariners. A season that, at the time, yielded the club’s second-best record in 56 seasons and its first World Series title.
In recent months, which came to a head in the past week, the legitimacy of that Astros championship has been called into question due to a sign stealing scandal in which the team has been accused of illegally using technology to give batters an advantage by tipping pitches.
The ramifications of those transgressions have already been felt, as its lead to the dismissal of three MLB managers and a general manager already, plus the loss of draft picks and the levying of a hefty fine.
The long-lasting effect, however, hasn’t yet been determined. No one truly knows how it will affect trust in the sport, players, managers and the organizations themselves — all of which have fans who more than root on their team but attach an identity to it.
My father was one of those people.
A resident of the Houston area for the decade leading up to the Astros 2017 championship season — and for a long period of time before my birth — John Edward Hart was a passionate supporter of his hometown baseball team.
First, it was the Colt .45s then the Astros. It was Colt Stadium then the Astro Dome then Enron Field Minute Maid Park — weird centerfield hill and all.
He rooted on the likes of J.R. Richard, Jose Cruz, Mike Scott, Nolan Ryan, Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Lance Berkman, Jimmy Wynn and Larry Dierker.
After suffering through three 100-plus loss seasons and a switch to the American League, my father would have proud of the Astros for delivering on a world championship after more than five decades.
“Would have been proud” because, on April 3, 2017, Dad passed away.
Not usually a die-hard Houston supporter myself, that season I cheered on the Astros with the hopes that they could finally give my father a World Series, knowing full well that storybook endings like that don’t really happen too often.
Sure enough, though, in what felt like fate or serendipity or kismet, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and company hoisted the Commissioner’s Trophy, capping a season that began with one of the worst days of my life.
It’s a story I wanted to share on many occasions since then — maybe as a column ushering in Opening Day or a tribute on Father’s Day.
Now, it’s a story that needs to be told as an example of the lasting scar that will remain from a tainted title run.
Much like the Patriots fans mentioned above, in the weeks after this story first surfaced, I found myself defying my own logic and reasoning, playing this scandal off as not a big deal. Nothing to see here.
Even this week, when Astros owner Jim Crane fired A.J. Hinch and Jeff Luhnow following a yearlong ban handed down by the MLB, I brushed it off as excessive.
But now, in the face of seemingly insurmountable evidence, lies my admission that this isn’t some frivolous misdeed but rather a violation to those who hold a special place in their hearts for baseball.
Major League Baseball can strip the Astros (and Boston Red Sox, for that matter) or its World Series title. It can ban those involved for long periods of time. It can crack down on future infractions.
What the MLB can’t do, however, is fully heal my emotional wound, and those of people with similar stories.
And that’s the true travesty.
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