In all of my years of watching football and being a fan of the Washington Redskins, I cried once over a game.
Dec. 2, 2007.
The Redskins lost to Buffalo 17-16 on a cold, gloomy day in Landover. Joe Gibbs inexcusably called back-to-back timeouts that put the Bills in position to win the game.
But the loss was bigger than that. It meant more to everyone who was there that day and who watched on TV. I The Redskins and the fans were still feeling the pain of losing safety Sean Taylor just a few days earlier in a tragic shooting. The loss was like pouring salt on the wound.
It’s been five years since Taylor was taken from us in a senseless act of violence. Five years since he last held his daughter. Five years since he last saw his girlfriend. Five years since he patrolled the secondary of a football field.
I remember vividly hearing the news that Sean Taylor had been shot in Miami. I had just seen my team lose their third in a row and with Taylor already out due to a knee injury.
Like most people back then, when I heard he’d been shot in the leg or groin, I assumed he’d be alright. At worse, I envisioned a long-term rehab and he’d be 100 percent by the following season.
But Tuesday morning, I received a text from my cousin while I was still asleep. It simply said “Another young black man gone too soon. RIP ST21.″ With sleep still in my eyes, I knew what he was talking about. Sean Taylor was gone — 24 years old.
A whirlwind of emotions went through my body. The hell with football, although being a fan made it hurt more. But here was an athletic, fit, young man gone. And for what?
At the time, nobody knew. Sure, Taylor had his previous run-ins with the law, but did this have anything to do with the robbery and murder? I didn’t know, but many rushed to that conclusion. A man, no matter how much he grows and changes, will always have to deal with his past. It’s a sad, but true fact. People will always dig up dirt and try to link the then and now when something goes wrong. Sadly, '07 saw a rise in pro athlete home invasions, and players such as former Celtic Antoine Walker and former Knick Eddy Curry were met with serious, though less tragic circumstances.
I have no doubt in my mind that if things had played out differently that November day, Sean T. would have had five more Pro Bowl appearances. The optimist in me would like to think that the Redskins would’ve had better luck since his passing: a few more playoff appearances, if not a trip to the Super Bowl, at least a run to the NFC Championship. One can hope, right?
That’s what we saw in Sean Taylor. Not only those who pulled for the burgundy and gold – the respect went across the league. He brought that toughness and ability that carried a defense and put fear in opponents. Right, Brian Moorman? He was supposed to be next Ronnie Lott. His path to the Hall of Fame was in place. After struggling at times with personal issues, it seemed that, with the help of Joe Gibbs and Daniel Snyder, he had matured and was coming into his own as a player.
But in one fatal incident, the Redskins, and the NFL as a whole, were left with an emptiness that will/should impact them for the rest of their lives. Fortunately for myself and thousands of others, I was able to see him play.