“NFL players, and the teams for which they play, are proxies for our own self-image” writes East Coast Bias’ J-Red, reflecting on the slaying of Redskins S Sean Taylor. Said identification, however, rarely encompasses genuine empathy for the man under the helmet.
(photo by the Washington Post’s Tracy Woodward)
We all know that guy. That guy who lives and dies with X college or NFL team. His entire existence, from car flags to basement shrine, is defined by the ups and downs of a defined number of people (most of whom are of a different race or physical build or intellectual composition) who play under that guy’s colors due to chance (the draft, recruiting) or circumstance (free agency, transfer).
Unless you met Sean Taylor, you just lost a good free safety via non-football means. Just like when Sam Mills of Carolina got cancer and Samari Rolle showed epilepsy, and Derrick Thomas died in a car accident, no fan can cope when their favorite number is lost off the field.
Did you ever think to wonder why the method of tribute always involves the player’s number? Sean Taylor, the man, is not the source of grief in Washington. Number 21 is gone, and he will be sorely missed. Number 21 was an integral part of the Washington fanbase. Life/football without Number 21 is unimaginable.
I seriously heard people wonder if the game this week would be cancelled. Why? Because Sean Taylor died? No. Because Number 21 died, and that might have a negative impact on his teammates’ ability to score points and limit the points scored by the opposition.
Sean Taylor is just another young urban black male murdered. Number 21 is a hero who the entire NFL will honor Thursday, Sunday and Monday.
Given that Taylor was unlikely to play this Sunday (he was in Miami recovering from a Nov. 11 knee injury) I’ve not heard much argument his absence, in and of itself, put Washington at a competitive disadvantage . Coping with his death is another matter of course, and with that in mind, we’ve yet to heard Taylor’s peers eulogize him as “Number 21″. Thankfully.