EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

June 27, 2013

Passionate Pats fans feel let down by Hernandez

By Mark E. Vogler

---- — Area New England Patriots football fans were having trouble yesterday, trying to understand how their team could lose a star player on murder charges.

“It’s unbelievable,” long-time and devout Pats fan Mark Feigenbaum said, reflecting on the arrest of talented tight end Aaron Hernandez in connection with the execution-style shooting death of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd.

“I just don’t get it, how a guy with all that money and all that skill is going to be in jail. How can a guy be so talented, but so stupid. I don’t know what he’s thinking,” said Feigenbaum, 54, of Andover, a Pats season ticket holder since 1972.

This is the time of year that fans of every NFL team look with great anticipation toward the fall and the beginning of pro football.

However, the arrest of 23-year-old Hernandez — a once promising star with a $40-million contract — has cast an unpleasant cloud over the Pats’ upcoming season. Many fans, though, do remain optimistic.

“I still think they’re going to be a good team and competitive,” Feigenbaum said.

“But to me, the human tragedy is a bigger story than the fact that, ‘Oh, we may not have a good team this year because we lost a key player,’” he said. “A human tragedy about how he screwed up his life is a bigger story than ‘We may not be that good.’ But more important, I feel for the parents (of Lloyd). I know what it’s like to lose a child. I lost a 5-year-old 20 years ago. To me, that part is the worst part of this. It’s beyond me that you can have that much money and the whole world in front of you and do something like this. I don’t know what he’s thinking.”

Michael Rickard Jr., 39, of Methuen, said he’s disappointed too over the Hernandez arrest and the recent disclosures that are coming out about the player’s dark side.

“Does it affect me as a fan? Absolutely not. Unfortunately, in the NFL, you don’t have a lot of choir boys to say the least,” said Rickard, a Pats season ticket holder for 16 years. “A lot of them have a sketchy past. They say one bad apple can ruin a bunch. But I look at the whole product. You keep your head up. The bigger picture is better than one person. The NFL is going to go on without him. I think the Patriots did the right move by letting him go. I know he’s innocent until proven guilty, but it doesn’t look good for him.”

Ron Shamon, 50, of Windham, admitted Hernandez’s arrest is definitely a down time in the life of a long-time suffering Pats fan like himself, somebody who’s been rooting for the team for over 40 years.

“I think it tarnishes the image of the Patriots a little,” Shamon said.

Shamon said he felt personally let down by Hernandez.

“I was a fan of his. I thought he was a pretty good player. I knew he had a checkered past from Florida and that there were some character issues,” Shamon said. “But I really don’t feel bad for Aaron Hernandez. I feel bad for the victim and the victim’s family. I have no sympathy for Aaron Hernandez at all. He put himself in this situation.”