I am shaken to the core. Sean Taylor is dead.
Right now, it seems life couldn't be more unfair. This was a guy with ridiculous talent, who never quite seemed to get it. Always in trouble, always getting fines, and for every good play he makes, he gets burned on the next. Until this year.
First, his daughter was born. Teammates say this changed him - he was a new man when he became a father. Second, his team drafted LaRon Landry. He was able to focus on being a free safety, which helped keep his coverage mistakes low. He was tied for the NFC lead in interceptions. He was finally becoming the superstar everyone knew he could be. And with Landry growing up beside him, he was accepting a leader/mentor role.
A.E. Housman wrote a poem called "To an Athlete Dying Young," which has always stuck with me, ever since reading it in high school. There's a line that sums up what fascinates me about the poem: "Smart lad, to slip betimes away / From fields were glory does not stay." Many athletes who've died during their ascent to glory, or had their careers ended by injury, have their futures projected for them, as fans are left to only imagine what could have been. Reggie Lewis comes to mind-there's no way to know if he would ever have been an All-Pro or taken the Celtics to the Finals, but he is given the benefit of the doubt and his jersey hangs in the rafters. Poor Dre Bly is not only going to be judged against what Darrent Williams did last year, but where he could have been this year.
Whenever an athlete dies, that poem comes to mind and makes me think. In most cases, I feel that in terms of story, the player is lucky, as insinuated in the poem. Yes, I know any of them would gladly give up the fame their death acquired them (none of us would know who Marquise Hill was if it weren't for that boating accident) to play even one more game. They aren't actually lucky. But when you're a writer, you tend to think of lives in terms of stories, and most of these guys now have great, deeply tragic stories.
But I don't feel that feeling with Sean Taylor. Maybe it's my selfishness as a Redskins fan. I hope I'm not that petty. But I often think of God as a playwright, up there making stories out of all of our lives. And right now I feel like I just read one of God's stories and he got it all wrong. This isn't a good story, and the ending is terrible. It feels forced and abrupt.
And I can't stop thinking about his poor daughter. She changed his life-the single remaining year of it-yet she isn't even old enough to say "da-da." And she'll never get to know him. Then there's his girlfriend, who was there in bed with him (and I'm glad Jerry Falwell's not around to tell us Taylor was being punished for having extramarital relations) when it happened.
So I'm definitely grieving. According to the Kübler-Ross model, I'm currently at anger. Went through denial, and writing this blog has helped me get through that. Perhaps my wish to rewrite the ending is a part of bargaining. In fact, I think I'm experiencing all of the first four stages at once. I'm definitely depressed too. But still angry. And there's still a bit of denial. And if this is how I'm feeling, I can't imagine what his teammates are going through, let alone his girlfriend. We're all sitting here thinking about its impact on his career, the Redskins' season, their long-term plans, and so on... what about the person who may have been thinking about marrying him and being a part of his life when football is long past? And the person would have wanted his guidance when she's old enough to start bringing boys home?
I guess that's about all I have to say. I don't really have a good ending for this, but that seems kind of appropriate.