Yesterday, the Boston Globe posted a story about Aaron Hernandez that led me to do a little bit of searching to find out when the newspaper started its own Onion-like section. But to the best of my knowledge, this story is real, and it casts a serious spotlight on one of the less-talked-about victims of Aaron Hernandez’s alleged heinous crimes – Jon Niedzwiecki, star of the reality series “Southie Rules.”
The show, about a Boston family “battling the relentless gentrification of their neighborhood that’s been overrun with yuppies, sushi restaurants and $5 cups of coffee,” features Jon as the manager of the family’s tattoo parlor, but the Globe sees him as so much more. In fact, they see him as an Aaron Hernandez lookalike, and that led them to ask Jon what it’s like to walk around in Boston looking like an accused violent murderer.
“Don’t take this the wrong way,” they’ll usually begin, “but do you know who you look like?”
Yes he does. And he knows they are probably not going to say “that guy from ‘Southie Rules,’ ” though Niedzwiecki is in fact that guy from “Southie Rules,” the A&E reality sitcom that starred his South Boston family.
Nope. They are going to tell him he looks just like Aaron Hernandez.
For Niedzwiecki, this is old news. It has been happening since the moment the New England Patriots drafted Hernandez in 2010. And for a while earlier this year, it was probably better than being recognized as the guy from “Southie Rules,” which was so demolished by the public that “Southie Rules” jokes were old in about two Twitter hours. The show went away soon afterward. The Hernandez sightings did not.
It’s a terrible burden, obviously. One that Jon has tried from the moment Hernandez was arrested to avoid in any manner possible. He immediately went to great lengths to make sure that no one would ever think, “Hey, you know who that guy from that show that A&E moved to Saturdays after four episodes because nobody was watching looks like?”
Shortly after the story broke, he took to social media to write: “Due to recent events involving my stunt double Aaron Hernandez, I’ve returned to Twitter to announce that I no longer look like him.”
But he does. At his fiancee’s bridal shower over the weekend, his future in-laws had him pose for photos with their daughter with his hands behind his back as if he was handcuffed.
Knowing the jokes were coming, Niedzwiecki wore a white V-neck T-shirt and tucked his arms inside, mimicking the now-famous photo of Hernandez being arrested. That night, when the shower continued to a strip club, he got a discount lap dance.
Yes, it must be so hard for Jon to avoid comparisons to Hernandez when he’s constantly doing everything within his power to remind people that he looks kind of like him. But it was even tougher for his brother, Matt, who they think looks like Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
As the manhunt began, Jon told Matt, in all seriousness, that he should not leave the house until the two men were caught. When Matt did make a trip to the supermarket the following day, he said a couple people broke their necks trying to get a good look at him.
“I gave them a wave before they pulled out their phone and called the cops,” Matt Niedzwiecki said.
After years of teasing his brother for looking like Aaron Hernandez, when it was still OK to look like Aaron Hernandez, the tables had turned. But this was nothing to joke about. “It’s like looking like bin Laden,” Matt Niedzwiecki said. “No one wants to be told they look like a terrorist.”
Hopefully, one day soon, these brothers who were once on TV will be able to go on with their lives and not be bothered by people who think they kind of look like potentially terrible people. You know, once they stop reminding people about it.