Why I'll Miss . . .

Sunday, December 2, 2007

I've been a Redskins fan all my life. Ever since a friend bet me in third grade that the Cowboys would whomp up on the local team. Back then, I didn't watch football, didn't know anything about the game, but I knew that you supported your local team. I took the bet but didn't watch the game. Who cares about football? When my dejected friend came in on Monday morning and paid me, I became a fan. In the 30 years since, I've missed watching three games. It was the first and only bet I've made on a Redskins game.

Last Sunday, like many Washingtonians, I felt frustrated and a little depressed by the latest Redskins loss. I never dreamed about what would happen in Miami just a few hours later.

Sean Taylor was a Pro Bowler, an NFL standout, a sports hero. He was 24 years old, with everything in front of him, including an 18-month-old daughter and a loving girlfriend. Right now, many of us are stricken. Redskin fans. Sports fans. Washingtonians. And some of us are asking, "Why?"

Why was he taken? Why do people seemingly care about this athlete more than our soldiers at war or people who are murdered every day on our streets? Why don't we do more to prevent criminals from having guns? Why didn't Sean Taylor have a gun to protect himself? Why did he return to a home that had been invaded previously?

It doesn't make sense. Every day, we read or hear or see more stories of violence. Perhaps the death of Sean Taylor hits so hard because it is a warning that no one is safe and that even our heroes can succumb.

Taylor was more than a football hero; he was one of us. Many of us invited him into our homes and hearts. We rooted for him and cheered his exploits. We knew him. Celebrities and heroes enter our consciousness in a strange way. They are not more important, but there is an intimacy, a feeling of familiarity that each of us share. We are bound together by experiences and exploits. When the unexpected strikes them, it strikes us, too.

Feeling sadness at his passing does not take away from what is felt for others. It does not lessen other tragedies or wrongs. Our compassion is not finite. He was a hero, and heroes are supposed to be invincible, immortal. But it is precisely because he was a man and imperfect that we should feel badly, not for the football player, but for the father. Not for the hero, but for the son.

Taylor in some ways will live forever and be loved forever, but it is the loss of the man that is the real tragedy. God bless Sean, his family and all who love him.

-- Andrew Hiller

Silver Spring

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