Crime doesn’t punish collectibles

  Contrary to popular opinion, crime does sometimes pay.
  Now, I’m not advising anyone to immediately go on a spree of rampant lawlessness. Societal reprobates certainly don’t need any encouragement from me to misbehave badly, and hopefully those of you currently found among the law-abiding ranks remain strong enough in your convictions to avoid being convicted in the future.
  Still, you have to wonder if a kernel of truth indeed exists in that earlier declaration, at least from a monetary standpoint. Why, for instance, do those who commit illegal deeds so often seem to prosper from them?
  In a perfect world, librarians would draw bigger incomes than looters, engineers would out-earn embezzlers and druggists would have a better revenue stream than drug dealers. But, of course, that’s not the way the real world operates.
  We who reside on the right side of the law are rightfully disgusted when we learn of the latest examples of wrongdoing, whether that involves guys wearing masks, disguises or three-piece suits. In truth, the latter sometimes are the worst offenders of all when it comes to inflicting financial pain to the unsuspecting — assuming he didn’t physically harm any of his victims while robbing them, your typical street thug ruins fewer lives than people like Bernie Madoff or Ken Lay did.
  Naturally, murder is the most reprehensible of crimes, but that hasn’t stopped certain segments of the public from becoming fascinated by the perpetrators of those horrific acts. Many young people know all about Charles Manson without having to look up anything on Wikipedia, even though his most infamous crimes took place 44 years ago.
  Worse, Manson continues to have “fans,” individuals who attempt to correspond with him and readily accord him celebrity status. Other mass murderers still living on taxpayers’ dollars have had similar kinds of warped followers.
  What does all of this talk about crime have to do with sports? If you don’t know, then you must not follow sports too closely these days.
  Few of the days seem to pass by without incident, as a steady stream of athletes pops up on news stories as suspects or guilty parties in one illegal activity after another. A recent tale involved New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, who was arrested on murder charges.
  Not surprisingly, the Patriots quickly distanced themselves from Hernandez by cutting him from their roster. The organization then went one step further to appease fans by offering anyone who had purchased Hernandez’s No. 81 jersey from the Patriots ProShop at Gillette Stadium an opportunity to exchange it for the jersey of a staying-out-of-trouble New England player.
  But not everyone chose to take advantage of the Patriots’ generosity. Instead, some who planned to discard their Hernandez jerseys sought to pick up some extra cash in the process.
  And according to an online story by Susanna Kim of ABC News, at least a couple of them realized a greater monetary windfall than expected. While nearly 1,600 items relating to Hernandez were listed on eBay shortly after his arrest, jerseys were a particularly hot item.
  Kim interviewed a Virginia Beach man named Ben Kent, who listed his Hernandez jersey for $50 and watched the bids for it go beyond the $225 mark with a few hours remaining before the auction closed. The item had been viewed over 2,300 times.
  Kent told Kim the original price of his jersey was about $250, but he admitted he was “just going to take anything for it.” He said that if he had kept the Hernandez jersey, he could “never wear it in public without people making comments. He’s charged as a murderer. I don’t need to be a part of that.”
  A Florida man named John Lamothe initially listed his Hernandez jersey for $15 on eBay, but sold it for $289 according to a story that first ran in the Boston Globe. That was nearly double Lamothe’s original purchase price.
  Like Kent, Lamothe could not envision himself ever again donning the Hernandez jersey. Lamothe refrained from donating it to Goodwill because he “didn’t think anyone would want to buy it,” but then he noticed other eBay listings and decided to “see what happens.”
  What happened was the latest evidence that plenty of people out there don’t really care what an athlete does wrong, just as long as he doesn’t do it against them.
  Think I’m exaggerating? According to statistics provided by, Hernandez’s jersey had never ranked among its 100 most popular ones, so why the sudden interest on online auctions?
  Lamothe surmised that some people simply get drawn to bad-boy personas, no matter how bad that boy might actually be. And Kent stated collectors are merely interested in something rare.
  Both men are probably correct, which doesn’t make me feel any better. While rarities in any collecting circle automatically create value, where exactly do we draw the line on what is pursued?
  I don’t blame Kent or Lamothe for wanting to rid himself of his Hernandez jersey, if for no other reason than to avoid the embarrassment attached to owning one now. But regrettably, there are two other people who felt no compunction about that same thing and were willing to fork over more than $200 for the privilege of owning a Hernandez jersey.
  And I have the strange feeling that if Hernandez ultimately gets convicted, the price tag on his jerseys will increase again. After all, the bottom never completely dropped out on all things O.J. — after a downturn in the wake of the two murders for which he stood trial in the mid-1990s, Simpson collectibles gradually regained a sizable amount of their previous worth, a trend no doubt helped along by his current incarceration.
  Convicted felons are prohibited from deriving any monetary benefits from their crimes. I suspect no sensible person would argue against that, but why does sensibility suddenly disappear when outsiders seek to prosper from those same misdeeds?
  If we wouldn’t break the law ourselves, we shouldn’t try to break the bank when someone else goes astray.