Friday, November 30, 2007

R.I.P 21: Volume 3, Issue 15

Skins Servers,

Most everything that can be discussed about this awful tragedy has been discussed, and most everything that can be reported has been reported, so I will not use this forum to discuss Sean's life, the horrific magnitude of the tragedy, and the nightmarish consequences for the people that he leaves behind - that would only add to our, and frankly, I don't think I can read, write, listen or watch much more about this senseless story. It is far too depressing.


Instead, I would like to address something else that has been weighing on my mind over these last tumultuous days, and honestly, has been eating at me more than anything else. That is figuring out why this is so hard on all of us. I understand that emotions cannot be justified or explained - every man deals with pain and anguish differently and there is no such thing as a correct emotion -  yet, somehow this fan base, this city and even this nation grieves harder and more passionately over Sean than for other tragic events that befall us on a daily basis.


For the hours that I have spent in a cloud  thinking about Sean's great potential, his growth as a person, his being a great father and teammate, I spent as many hours trying to figure out why I was so upset.


Most of us have never met Sean Taylor, never knew him on a personal level, never really understood his persona and many, it seems, even questioned his demeanor. Yet we mourn, we cry, we sit still in shock, we turn to our loved ones for support and answers. This isn't 9/11, this isn't Pearl Harbor. Sean wasn't someone we could touch or lean on, he wasn't our own flesh and blood who had been stricken with cancer, leukemia or a heart attack - our mother, father, sister or brother - never to be seen again. Yet we all lost our breath, we all waited in anguish on Monday, we all lost a part of us when we heard the news on Tuesday, and we all still mourn for the passing of someone we barely knew. Why?


A few answers have come to my mind and I will share them all with you. You may think some of these answers are weird and over-the-top,  you may relate to some, and some of these answers might hit on a feeling you haven't been able to put your finger on this whole week. These are in no particular order:


1) Sean Taylor was a 24 year old human being. There is nothing wrong with weeping over the loss of human life, yet alone someone so young with so much potential for greatness professionally and personally. Sean Taylor was just a baby. Still learning the world, learning about himself and changing every day. As many of us who grind through those same struggles, those same growing pains, hoping to one day get "it" right, it is unfair to see someone who will never realize his full maturation. That is terribly sad.


2) In my life football is a constant. It is something I can depend on and know is always there. I spend months looking forward to it in the off season and 6 days looking forward to it during the season. Every autumn Sunday for over 75 years football has been there for America, if and when we needed it. For that three hour break, for that escape from everyday life, for a tailgate party with our family or a pile-on with our friends after a big touchdown - Football is always there. And for the last four years, Sean Taylor was part of football's dependability. We all got used to seeing Sean, we all expected him to play ferociously and always knew he was putting himself on the line for us, the fans of the burgundy and gold. Every home game we had the pleasure of seeing Sean's Samsonian body up close and personal, cheered for him, screamed for him and made him our own. And now he will no longer be there. Football is no longer dependable.


2) As I touched on above, Football is America's great escape. Football is the greatest way for me to shut the real world out. No wars, no tragedy, no trauma, no sorrow, no terrorist threats, no fear of death. . A Sunday without stress, a tough week at work made easier because of the ability to look forward to Sunday. Football lets many of us shut out the world and put our unused, built-up emotion, aggression and passion into a football team we come to care so much about. And then, with one piece of news, the wicked world that we use football to ignore rears its ugly head - sabotaging the game that is supposed to protect us from it. When Sean died, football became real for me. It was no longer a hideaway, a safe haven, no longer a fantasy land. Football became another depressing tale on the 6oclock news: a soldiers never coming home from battle, a child being murdered on the street and wild men with guns running amok on our nations streets. When Sean Taylor died where were we supposed to turn? What means could we use to seek refuge and tuck the emotions deep down to deal with it later? We were left to turn to nothing, and instead forced to engross ourselves in the tragedy that befell Sean, his family and the Redskins. We had to deal with this harsh world it because our fantasy world had been hijacked, it had become real.


3) Many of us are die-hard Redskins fans. That's the bottom line. I, like many of you, make the team my own, make the team like my family. You build a bond with the players that wear your colors and you familiarize yourselves with them as much as possible. You learn what they're like, you get glimpses of their personality, you expect certain things from them when you watch them on TV. Sean become a part of our sports family. We grew close to him in our own ways: we cheered for him, wore his jersey, bragged on him to our friends. All these things made the pain of losing him that much worse.


4) Similarly, we feel pain for those who must now pick up the pieces. For Sean's family, his fiancee, his orphan child. And we probably feel those emotions even more for the Redskins players, Sean's teammates - because they're the ones we know. We never want to see our heroes weep, we never want to worry over their mental state. They are the ones who ease our worried minds, and now we worry over theirs.


5) Sean as a superhero. It's possible something like this is so hard on us because Sean epitomized the indestructibility of an athlete. He was the strongest and he was the scariest. Every player feared him. He was an immortal.


6) Personally, I found this so hard because over the years Sean brought us Redskins fans great joy. We high-fived after his hits, hugged after his interceptions, and screamed his name after a 3 and out. Even more poignant was thinking about the fact that Sean brought us Skins fans two of our happiest sports moments over the last 15 years. In Philadelphia, on new years eve 2005, Sean swoops in like an angel from above and picks up a fumble, gracefully carrying the ball to the end zone and clinching a playoff spot for the Redskins (I was there with my family and friends, and I believe that was the happiest moment of my sports life. I don't know if we'll ever recapture those feelings). And then, just one week later, Sean did it again, as if he was almost destined to, and his TD lead the Skins to a playoff win. Now these memories are tarnished, now they are bittersweet. 

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