Sometimes it seems there are only two constants: who we are, our reality, and who we want to be, our potential. And life is the time we spend trying to bridge that gap.
Nowhere is this whole dynamic of reality and potential, nature and nurture, played out more explicitly than in sports. We see athletes who are incredible talents, and have been given special gifts, and then we wait to see how those gifts are nurtured. To see if they will ever bridge the gap in the course of their athletic lives.
But this story plays out for everyone. We all have the skills and talent to do things we know we can do, and want to do, but for whatever reason have yet to make a reality. And that potential can be ambitious as becoming an All Pro safety in the NFL, or simply reconciling to live a better life, and be a loving father/brother/friend to the people you care about. In the case of Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor, it appeared he was reaching his potential on both fronts.
I've never cried over the passing of an athlete, and maybe I'm still coming down from my Stevie high, but to read about how this young man, 24, was turning around his life I couldn't help but shed some tears over his tragic passing this morning.
There's no question that Taylor's renaissance as a man and football player is the lead with this story. MJD at the Fanhouse underscores the point. Jeffrey Chadiha at ESPN taps into the same stream. With a fiancee and a year old daughter teammates and coaches were all in praise of Taylor's newfound commitment and maturity on and off the field. And for it to end like this you just have to shake your head, because there is no sadder story than someone just getting in position to give all he can to this world, only to have that opportunity snuffed out just as it was beginning.
As a lifelong Giants fan who is best friends with a lifelong Redskins fan I almost feel I knew Sean Taylor intimately. I remember when my friend scouted Taylor personally (via the internet) to decide whether he approved of his drafting (he did), and I remember all the buzz about him being the next Hall of Fame caliber player at the safety position. And while I've never rooted for a Redskins victory, Taylor was a star in this league, someone you wanted to see make plays. You couldn't help but be intrigued by his story, and wonder whether he would reach his potential and take over as leader of that team.
I liken his role on the team to that of RB Brandon Jacobs on the Giants. Our team is led by the name brand of Eli Manning, just as the face of the Redskins might be Clinton Portis, but I bet most fans would love to see Brandon Jacobs take over and become the identity of the team. Like Taylor, Jacobs is a no holds barred stud whose physical gifts can't help but leave a lasting impression in any game you watch. And like Taylor, Jacobs greatness is only muted by his inability thus far to properly nurture those talents. In the case of Jacobs he can't stay healthy, in the case of Taylor he was held back by a reckless approach to life and football. But you can't help but root for talent like this, and Taylor had seemingly spent the last couple years putting that immaturity and recklessness behind him. With a Pro Bowl berth last season, and continued stellar play thus far in '07, Taylor was on the verge
I hope the NFL affords this passing the proper respect. Even though his legacy as a player has been cut short, for all he represented as a troubled talent that was eventually able to change and grow Taylor offers a valuable lesson to all of us about appreciating our talents and the journey of bridging the gap to our potential.
Sean Taylor Dies in Miami [Washington Post]
Taylor's life was turning around [ESPN]
So much is wasted with Taylor's death [AOL Fanhouse]