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A big hit

It's a dark day in D.C. as fans mourn Taylor's death

Posted: Tuesday November 27, 2007 1:59PM; Updated: Tuesday November 27, 2007 2:35PM
Sean Taylor seemed to be reaching his peak this year as a player, with an NFC-leading five interceptions.
Sean Taylor seemed to be reaching his peak this year as a player, with an NFC-leading five interceptions.

Young and old, in burgundy and gold, they have gathered in Redskin Park today, huddled around a parking spot adorned with the number 21. Players are trickling in. No one is saying a word because no one has to. All throughout Washington, D.C. there are signs of remembrance. At one high school, there are scores of people decked out in burgundy and gold. The sky couldn't be a more threatening shade of grey, but no one is moving.

"I don't want to hear it. I just don't want to hear it," one man says. We all know what he doesn't want to hear. Sean Taylor is dead. That's the immutable, unshakable fact. A gunshot wound to the femoral artery claimed Taylor's short life at age 24.

Often we see football players as superheroes that magically appear on Sundays to entertain us. But these are people with families, friends, and communities that depend upon them. Sean Taylor had an 18-month-old daughter. Thirty members of his extended family were grouped outside of his hospital room when he was pronounced dead. Their loss should be foremost in our minds and prayers. Basic humanity should dictate that this is their tragedy first.

But the bizarre, irrational part of all of this is that it's unquestionably our tragedy too. This isn't a Peyton Manning or Reggie Bush; someone who has presented a highly buffed familiar face for us to cozy up to. Taylor treated the media like Superman treats kryptonite. Off the field, he was a cipher, a phantom. We knew him with his helmet on, no more, no less.

And yet, in front of Redskin Park, on sports radio, on my cell phone, people are expressing a terrible, ineffable sadness. Talk radio in particular has been harrowing. Grown men are calling with a catch in their voice. Tough sports radio announcers, ex-jocks who usually treat emotion with abject contempt, are breaking down. We didn't know Taylor, but we still knew him.

Over the last year, I have referenced Taylor repeatedly in columns. His unique skill set made him especially evocative.

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