Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Football Loses A Star

BOY OH BOY, this one, like all who pass away so young, came out of the blue. Sean Taylor died early this morning from gunshot wounds just one day after taking a bullet in the thigh from an intruder at his Miami home.

Taylor, an all-pro safety with the Washington Redskins, was just 24 years old and leaves behind a young daughter and fiance. As an NFL player, Taylor combined the hitting prowess of a Roy Williams with the coverage ability of an Ed Reed, a rare combination in the defensive secondary.

During last year's Pro Bowl, Taylor laid one of the all-time big licks on Brian Moorman, the unfortunate AFC punter who was running for a first down after faking a punt -- a collision so vicious and violent that, although technically legal and not a penalty, seemed beyond the pale for what was after all an exhibition game. But that was how Taylor played the game going back to his Miami University days as an All-American, and it was that game-changing ability that led to his being selected #5 overall in the 2004 NFL draft by the Skins.

Taylor laid people out for a living, just biding his time on defense until he could deliver a bone-jarring hit on an unsuspecting wide receiver or running back who strayed across his part of the field. Nobody wanted to be on the receiving end of a trademark Taylor tackle, and every offensive player knew where he lined up and took great pains to avoid him at all costs, such was his reputation as one of the sport's fiercest hitters.


It seems tragedy is hanging over the NFL this year, especially in Washington, where Taylor's ex-teammate Shawn Springs has had to deal with his dad, former Cowboys running back Ron Springs, slipping into a coma recently, apparently related to last year's successful organ transplant surgery. Everson Walls, the former Cowboy, showed that words like teamwork and sacrifice have meaning far beyond the football field with his selfless act of donating a kidney to the elder Springs. Now the Taylor murder once again demonstrates that pro football, for all the joy and sorrow it brings to the millions of fans who "live and die" with the outcome of a game, is just that: a game played on Sunday afternoon for our entertainment and amusement. Let's all keep that in mind as the rest of the season plays itself out.

We were all forced to read that corny poem back in high school, To an Athlete Dying Young. Writing way back in the 19th century, A.E. Housman could not have foreseen the scourge of urban gun violence and the young victims it claims on a daily basis, but somehow re-reading those lines about senselessly dying before your time still resonates on a morning when another well-known young athlete is suddenly gone, never to play again.
"Smart lad, to slip betimes away

From fields where glory does not stay
And early though the laurel grows
It withers quicker than the rose.

Eyes the shady night has shut
Cannot see the record cut,
And silence sounds no worse than cheers
After earth has stopped the ears:

Now you will not swell the rout
Of lads that wore their honours out,
Runners whom renown outran
And the name died before the man."

5 comments:

Serge A. Storms said...

I was reading about this today. Incredibly sad and bizarre story.

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