I'm not going to go into one of those speeches where I opine about how Sean found himself and re-dedicated himself to his wife or team or kid or whatever. I have no fucking clue about any of that, and neither does anyone else who is going to take a stab at it over the next couple of days (I'm talking to you, Peter King). I'm also not going to lament over how little we knew the kid because he was a quiet personality who always seemed to mind his own business, except when he was on the field. I'm not gonna get into the sadness of how Sean is the latest example of an athlete from a troubled background who ended up the victim of a violent crime nor will I discuss some greater significance to his death. I'm not even going to try and debate about whether it is more or less tragic that he was murdered and not the victim of some other less senseless death (not that any death makes more sense than any other I guess). The only lens through which I can view Sean Taylor's untimely demise is that of a fan. And though I'm not a Skins fan nor ever more than an admirer from afar of Taylor, for some reason his death is really bumming me out.
This is gonna come out wrong and is kinda a horrible thing to say, but when Joe Kennedy died last week and Darryl Kyle and Josh Hancock before him (those are just some of the ones I could think of off hand), I was sad for their families and friends, but I really didn't spend more than 5 seconds thinking about it. But when I woke up this morning and learned that Sean Taylor died, I was legitimately tweaked. I had to sit down for a little while and gather myself. I got the details from the various news sources and couldn't even really believe it. A lot of it probably had to do with the fact that we were re-assured that he had a good chance of being ok late last night, so the shock was a little greater upon hearing the news but that doesn't really distinguish him from the other guys because those deaths were complete shock. No, I think the thing about Sean Taylor hurt was deeper for a couple reasons.
One, the kid was indestructable. You could never imagine something hitting Sean Taylor and injuring him. It had to be the other way around. Only Sean Taylor's own blunt force against an object and an action of his own volition could create enough force to injure him. It had to be him projecting himself at that bullet, not the other way around. The other thing that made this more tragic and shocking in my eyes is that Sean was the Redskins. People I know had HIS jerseys. When the Skins were in town HE was the guy you were psyched to see. On the replays of Sunday it was Sean Taylor you expected to see taking someone's head off or being in the right place at the right time. AND HE WAS JUST GETTING STARTED! He was 24 years-old. I mean Jesus Christ! In the history of sports, has anyone so young and so outstanding been so unfortunate has to have his life stolen from him like Taylor (maybe Ernie Davis)? It's tough to get your head around.
But for a fan, I don't know how you deal with it. What is a socially acceptable level of reaction? The strange thing for me is the other day I woke up from some strange dream (yeah, that's been happening a lot recently. I need to stop falling asleep in front of the TV) thinking that Manny Ramirez had died. I realized very quickly that this wasn't the case but it got me thinking. What would I have done? I would have been devastated. Would it be ok for me to cry? I don't know the guy, don't know his family. How sad could I really be? People sobbed when Lennon was killed but that was a different time when there were fewer celebrities and far fewer as famous as John Lennon (yes, I'm equating Manny Ramirez with John Lennon and indirectly Sean Taylor. Deal with it). I know that had it been true that Manny was no longer with us, I would have reacted and been treated as though someone close to me had died. I would've gotten phone calls immediately from my friends and family. I would have been consoled by acquaintances and couldn't even imagine focusing on work or school for the immediate future. I would have been absolutely crushed and it would take me much longer than I'm comfortable talking about to get over it. Maybe that makes me crazy but I think anyone who has been a serious fan of any team would be lying if they told you they wouldn't have reacted similarly if the player they hold most dear from their favorite team met an untimely death.
So I guess I really don't know what I'm getting at here or if I have any point at all actually. I think this served as some sort of catharsis because I am having trouble coming to grips with why Taylor's death is dragging me down so much. I think some of it has to do with the small part of me that still views athletes as different than you and I. Not so much in a personal or professional level but in a level I can't properly describe. Athletes can do things that I cannot do. Their ability and achievement inspire awe in a way that no one one else is capable of. Sure there are talented people out there but Yo Yo Ma doesn't make me jump out of my seat and scream at the top of my lungs when he effortless makes his cello sing. Athletes are different in that they can create an immediate and more visceral emotional reaction out of people than almost any other performer. And even amongst those awe-inspiring athletes there is an even more discrete group of athletes who dominate and run circles around the awe-inspiring guys. These are guys who, twenty years from now, sound 20 feet tall and can run faster than cheetahs in the stories you tell about them. These guys are the reason you cheer for your team and they are who you identify with your team. In less than 5 years Sean Taylor had become one of those guys and he had ten more years of that kind of blow your doors off talent up his sleeve. I can't imagine having a guy like that stolen from my team in the most tragic of fashions. I can't imagine being a Skins fan today.