November 2007


Its strange feeling emotional over the death of someone you’ve never met and don’t know. It doesn’t really make sense, but that doesn’t matter. The hurt is there and theres nothing that can be done about it. The pain is mainly selfish; I won’t be able to watch him play football ever again and that legitimately crushes me.

http://www.redskins.com/news/newsDetail.jsp?id=32227

”Sean’s Gone”
By Mark Steven
November 28, 2007

It’s not a long drive to my son’s high school, maybe 15 minutes.

Most mornings, we share sleepy wise cracks–which of us looks worse; whose day projects out the bigger pain; the lameness of a radio commercial.

Sometimes we talk daily life–remembering to turn in an order form; calling if he needs to be picked up; the logistics of an upcoming outing with friends.

Sometimes we talk a little sports. Redskins, mostly.

Once in a while, as events dictate, we’ll talk real life–there will be other girls; they just discovered an Earth-like planet 20 light-years away; it’s your junior year, partner, these grades count.

Tuesday morning, we rode in silence.

He had a strange look on his face as he came from the living room, where the TV was playing, as we readied to leave the house. His voice had a flatness to it when he spoke.

“Sean’s gone.”

I wasn’t fully awake–I didn’t understand. Then I saw the look in his eyes, the awful news story I had fallen asleep thinking about came flooding back, and I understood only too well. I don’t remember now if it was raining as we headed out into the dark, but it always will be in my memory.

As we were pulling out into the road a minute later, a voice on the car radio confirmed the reality.

“Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor died this morning from a gunshot wound suffered in his home—”

We drove in silence, staring straight ahead.

I don’t really know if the time it took to get to the school took forever, or if it flashed by. Time has a strange quality to it in times of stress. What I do recall is the unsettling jumble of disjointed thoughts, feelings and impressions.

I remember thinking I should “say something.” My boy’s favorite athlete–in his eyes one of the larger-than-life figures we all hold up to the light growing up that help form our young selves–had just been senselessly shot down in the prime of his life. I should be a rock. Paternal. Wise.

I thought I shouldn’t let him see me cry. A father teaches his son that men are steady in a storm. And then I thought I should absolutely let him see me cry. A father should teach his son there is not shame, but honor, in sharing his humanity.

I felt the onset of fury, the urge to say something–DO something–about this insanity; about yet another needless violent death, about yet another fatherless child.

I felt the wearying, familiar heaviness in my chest, as the latest in the endless parade of man’s-inhumanity-to-man episodes unfolded around me. They say one grows colder, harder inside as one gets older. That has not been my experience.

I thought about the burgundy “21” jersey hanging in my son’s closet…and how when we watch the games together, we always exchange–exchanged–knowing grins when a Redskin flashed into the screen and blew up an opposing runner, or an opposing receiver inexplicably short-armed a promising ball thrown his way.

“Taylor.”

I pushed away thoughts about the impact of this on my favorite football team, and wished I was the kind of man who didn’t have to remind himself there will be a time for that, and this was not it.

I sensed the displacement one gets when events transpire that shatter the perceived normalcy of modern daily life. How emotions tend to ebb and flow of their own volition. How linear thinking gives way to something less structured, more organic. How one can feel utterly in the moment, yet oddly removed at the same time.

Perhaps that is what life is like for those who lived, or live, in circumstances not yet “civilized,” as we like to think ours are, spending days scratching out sustenance, standing watch over loved ones through uncertain nights, wondering if the coming day might be the last.

Yes, people die tragically every day. And it is true ours would be a better world if we did not largely grow numb to that reality in our daily lives. But the truth is it’s often only when someone who has touched our own lives is lost, that the numbness disappears.

Tuesday was such a day for me. The reality of it was brought home through my own eyes and, more powerfully, reflected in the eyes of someone I love, someone to whom personal loss has not yet become a familiar aspect of life, whose shock and pain I could not shield.

His experience that morning was both like and unlike mine. At his tender age, the tears were of shock, outrage, incomprehension, the unfamiliar and frightening ripping at his gut over the loss of a man he looked up to and admired.

At my not-quite-so-tender age, the tears were for all of those things, but also for the flood of unwelcome thoughts this latest loss reached into my soul and dragged to the surface about the dark underbelly of the human condition.

My son never met Sean Taylor. The closest he ever got was standing outside the ropes, watching him practice with the team. Neither did I. The closest I ever got was watching Sean from across a crowded locker room after a game, and having him walk past me after practice on his way to the showers.

But he was most certainly part of our lives.

We marveled at his once-in-a-generation athletic gift. We thrilled at the highlight-reel plays he made look routine. We took pride in the fearsome on-field reputation he earned as a member of our Redskins.

We watched hopefully, almost gleefully, as the birth of his first child brought a stability and maturity to his life that had sometimes seemed wanting before, which in turn brought with it the prospect of watching this unique and somewhat mysterious young man evolve into an all-time great wearing our colors.

Instead, in an instant, Sean Taylor was gone.

And so we found ourselves under the lights in the high school parking lot, my son and I, having not said a word. I think it was still raining. It was all I could do to say what I finally managed, and I don’t believe I did well trying to steady my voice.

“There are no magic words.”

He looked at me, nodded. “I know.”

We usually fist-bump before he gets out of the car. This time, we found ourselves clasping hands, soul-brother style, for a long moment. Then he was opening the door and starting to climb out.

I heard myself say, “Sometimes life just doesn’t make sense.”

“Yeah,” he said quietly. “It’s going to be a depressing day.”

All the things I’ve ever wanted to tell him–and my wife, two daughters, parents, brother and sister, extended family, friends, colleagues and fellow human beings who have lived and died since our species began–all those things that are always there but tend to surface only when events dictate, were on the tip of my tongue. Love, loss, beauty, fear, joy, pain, perspective, regret, longing, empathy–hope–and so much more.

It becomes steadily more difficult, as one gets older and children grow from kids into young adults, to say the truly important things in ways that convey meaning without preaching. But you do the best you can, while you can, in a way you hope doesn’t embarrass them, and hope they might carry with them when you are gone.

So as my own flesh and blood walked away into what cold reality had once again proved is an uncertain, often dark world, I said the only thing I could. I told him I loved him, and didn’t try to hide the tears.

You will be remembered, Sean Taylor.

Godspeed.

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VTech -4 @ UVA

Tennessee @ Kentucky -3

Oregon @ UCLA +2

UCONN @ WVA +17 / WVA -9.5 1st Half

South Florida -9 @ Pitt

Missouri @ Kansas OVER 68

Bama +4.5 @ Auburn

Notre Dame @ Stanford -5

FSU @ Florida -8 1st Half & OVER 58

Last Week : 2-8

Overall: 61-61

Sucks what happened to Dixon last night. Heisman trophy and a national championship down the drain cuz of an awkward pivot with the knee. Football is a cruel cruel game.

Hawaii @ Nevada +6. The money line is worth a shot as well. Nevada plays well at home….Hawaii plays like shit on the road…..and Brennan is out apparently. Nevada should win this.

Saturday’s Picks:

Kentucky +7.5 @ Georgia & OVER 61 – This one should be a shootout with Woodson doing enough to keep his team in it.

West Virginia -6 @ Cincinatti – Haven’t seen Cinci at all this season. I’m sure they’re solid but WVA is too good. Anytime WVA is giving less than a TD to another Big East team, I’m going to pound the shit out of them.

Ohio State @ Michigan +4.5 – Gotta take the points at home.

Oklahoma @ Texas Tech OVER 66 – Neither team will stop the other team.

Miss St. @ Arkansas -11 – Don’t have a clue what happened last week vs. Tennessee but this line has reversed in Arkansas’ favor and there’s this guy named McFadden that plays for them who’s really good.

Louisville +8.5 @ South Florida – Remember when USF was ranked #2 and looked like a BCS contender? yah me neither. Brohm has his receivers back. Upgrade.

Southern Miss @ UTEP +3 – So. Miss has been ass all year and I like Coach Rollin. He always has his teams ready. UTEP takes this outright.

Florida Atlantic @ Florida -19 1st Half – Tebow puts up 10 touchdowns this game (8 rushing) to lock up the Heisman.

Last Week: 7-4

Season 59-53

NBA Picks:

Seattle +7.5 @ Atlanta

Orlando -4 @ New Jersey – VC has a swollen pussy and the Magic are on a roll.

Utar -1 @ Cleveland – Cavs blow. Come to LA, King.

New Orleans @ Memphis +3.5 & OVER 203

Pistons @ Lakers -3 (going against the Pistons when they play the Lakers is always a bad call but Chauncey is out which makes it a good call)

Clippers @ Golden State -4.5 – Warriors get their first win of the season.

NBA Record: 4-3

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I’m tryin to figure out what Heidi Klum is doing there. Isn’t she like 65 years old? Give it up lady.

Another shitty friday night of football. Fuck you ESPN. Last night turned out too easy. Brohm got his receivers back and The Lou’s offense took off. Altho, there was some fear that WVA might put up triple digits, which is why the over looked too easy, and almost didn’t hit.

Saturday’s Picks:

Wake Forest +9 @ Clemson

Colorado State +9 @ New Mexico

Arizona St. @ UCLA +7

McFaddens pk @ Tennessee & OVER 64

Illinois + 15.5 @ tOSU

Texas Tech @ Texas OVER 65

Kansas @ Oklahoma St OVER 66

Florida 1st Half -4 @ South Carolina & OVER 59.5

usc @ CAL +4

NCAA Last Week” 8-6

NCAA Overall: 52-49

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the games lined up for Friday Night could not be less interesting. Temple vs. Ohio? Akron vs. Bowling Green? kee-righste. Not even a degenerate like me will bother with these games. Damn you ESPN. Thankfully the NBA season started.

Saturday’s Picks:

Florida State +7 @ Boston College – BC getting dominated for 55 minutes didn’t exactly impress. Its obvious they’re a fraud at #2. Whether its this week or when they play Clemson, or when they play Miami, BC is going to lose. The sooner the better.

Wake Forest pk @ Virginia – Last time i went against Virgini was the Georgia Tech game. I lost. Fuck a Hoo. Go Deacons.

Washington -3 @ Stanford – Its been too long since I’ve had money riding on Jake Locker. This feels good. Furd won’t have an answer for him.

Michigan -4 @ Michigan State – MSU lost to Iowa last week. And they’ve been talking shit about this matchup since D’Antoni was hired. I’ll go with the best team in the Big 10. Yes, better than The O(verrated)SU.

Arizona State +7.5 @ Oregon OVER 61 – I’m not sold on either of these defenses so 61 points feels like a great bet with these two Offenses going at it. Carpenters thumb injury has been overblown. Its a non-issue. I think Oregon wins but ASU is playing really well and this will hopefully be one of those classic games that comes down to the last possession.

UCLA -1 @ Arizona – Christian Taylor is back and Pat Cowan is regaining his mobility. Either UCLA wins and I make some ceshe or Karl Dorrell cements his coffin. Its a win-win situation.

Navy +3 @ Notre Dame – ND hasn’t lost to Navy in nearly half a decade. This game is going to be priceless.

South Carolina @ Arkansas -5.5 – McFadden

Ball State @ Indiana -7 – Indiana got spanked last week. They should bounce back at home vs a weak opponent.

Cincinnati @ South Florida -5 – Two game losing streak for USF stops here.

Maryland @ North Carolina -3 – I plan on betting against Maryland every week till the end of the season.

Vanderbilt @ Florida -15 & OVER 50 – Tebow and the Gators are due.

LSU @ BAMA +7.5 & UNDER 48 – feels right.

NCAA Season Record: 42-43

Friday Night NBA Picks:

Pistons +3.5 @ Orlando

Lakers +10 @ Phoenix

Toronto +3 @ New Jersey

Washington +7 @ Boston & OVER 204

Golden State +3 @ Clippers

NBA Record: 1-0

Despite the fact that V-tech tore me a new asshole last week

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I’m gonna be on them again tonight.

Virginia Tech +3 @ Georgia Tech

Also going to be on Detroit tonight. Rip Hamilton isn’t playing due to a swollen vagina, but that shouldn’t matter. Wade is out and Miami blows.

Detroit -4.5 @ Miami

NCAA Last Week: 4-12

NCAA Overall41-43