Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Hardest Hitting Safety in the Land

Washington Redskins safety Sean TaylorMuch like other Washington Redskins fans and non-fans living in the DC Metro area, I was deeply saddened by the loss of our star safety, Sean Taylor, early Tuesday morning. This community seems to be in a state of mourning – Sean was the front page story of The Washington Post both yesterday and today. I never knew him, spoke to him or saw him, and probably never would, but somehow it still feels like I lost a friend.

This is the saddest I can remember being in a while. That in itself sounds a little crazy. I mean, he was just a football player, right? Correction: he was just a former All-American safety with a combination of speed, leaping ability, strength and hitting power that we’ve never seen before, right?

Washington Redskins safety Sean TaylorI can’t speak for why the thousands of other fans have taken his death so hard. I can only speak for myself. And to be honest, this is a new experience for me. In the past I’d feel bad certainly, but I wouldn’t feel the kind of sadness I do now. In fact, I’d probably laugh at the hundreds of fans who gathered at Redskins Park for a candlelight vigil. I’d probably want to punch each and every one of them in the face for being such a pussy. Now, I just want to join them.

And I think that’s where the answer lies. Sean Taylor and I are somewhat similar, even aside from the fact that he was born only nine months before me. From the hours of coverage I’ve watched and listened to since he was shot, what struck me the most about Sean was his maturation. His teammates and coaches all say how much Sean matured over the past 1.5 years, after the birth of his daughter. Unless the employees at the sperm bank have been messing with my frozen samples, I’m fairly certain I don’t have a child of my own. However, I have matured much like Sean over the past year or so. After all, it takes loads of maturity to accept that Jack Bauer is fictional. After six years I finally came to grips.

Washington Redskins safety Sean TaylorSean was perceived by others and most likely himself as invincible. How could somebody fly through the air catching balls and crushing skulls the way he did without possessing that trait? He even lived for an entire day after getting shot in the femoral artery and his heart stopping twice. The way I survived my illness made me think I was invincible, as well. Sean and I also shared similar shy and quiet personalities.

When I had cancer seven years ago I watched just as many sporting events as I do now, if not more. I guess they acted as diversions from the real world. The games allowed me to enjoy a few hours of my time in the midst of short bursts of chaos. Sean’s passing does just the opposite – it brings the safe and innocent world of sports into the cycle of life and death. It makes us realize how one individual’s life, however much a stranger to most and meaningless to some, can have such an enormous impact on others.

Washington Redskins safety Sean TaylorI will have two lasting memories of Sean. The first will be when he punished Terrell Owens with a monster hit. Owens then whined to the refs and tried to persuade them to call a penalty. He was terrified of Sean thereafter. The second memory will be when Sean catapulted Brett Favre to the number one spot on the list of interceptions thrown, picking him off twice and getting his hands on another four. It was like he knew exactly where the ball was going to be before it was even thrown. If he had successfully caught the other four passes it would’ve been the single greatest defensive performance in history, but was pretty awesome as is.

When my brother raved about Sean on daft day back in 2004, I thought he was exaggerating his ability. But, he wasn’t. Sean Taylor was an unbelievable talent with a limitless potential whose life was taken at the shockingly young age of 24.

Washington Redskins safety Sean TaylorFor the first time in a lifetime of Redskins games, I will watch them play this Sunday without much care for the final score. I will simply enjoy watching. I just wish the hardest hitting safety in the land was out there.

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A Gladiator at Heart


Jonathan Rubenstein said...

Well said. He will be severely missed.


Anonymous said...

Nice post, Ben. Sean was the best.