LT: OVER THE EDGE
by Lawrence Taylor, with Steve Serby
Paul Tagliabue probably prefers that you not read New York Giants great Lawrence Taylor's second autobiography, LT: Over the Edge (written with New York Post columnist Serby). After a crusade led by the NFL commissioner to try and rid the airwaves last month of ESPN's stereotype-reinforcing pro football drama Playmakers, along comes a book by one of the game's icons detailing a life far more drug-addled and pornographic than any presented on the TV series.
Taylor's new tome offers up a variety of scandalous tales from his playing days: his rampant alcohol and drug abuse, which sometimes stretched into the wee hours on game days; his occasional strip-club pole dances; his habit of sending prostitutes to the hotel rooms of opposing players the night before games; and his swapping his urine for others' to avoid positive drug tests. He also details his suicidal thoughts during a descent into crack addiction following his retirement.
Yet Tags & Co. needn't worry. Yes, Taylor, a Hall of Fame outside linebacker, is arguably the greatest defensive player of all time. But no one looks at him as representative of the league; his self-destructive behavior is in a class by itself, just as his talent once was. Moreover, Taylor's decadeslong struggle with addiction has been so painfully public that many of the stories in the book, having previously served as tabloid grist, aren't even that shocking. (LT smoked lots of crack? Wow.)
There are a few points of real interest, particularly Taylor's description of playing for former Giants coach Bill Parcells. Taylor recounts several instances in which Parcells—contrary to his taskmaster image—let his star get away with loafing through practices, missing bed checks and the like. Interestingly, Taylor writes that when it came to discipline, "the only coach I had to worry about was our defensive guru, Bill Belichick. He'd always been a ballbuster." Taylor also writes that he refused to sign a contract extension before the 1983 season unless the Giants retained an apparently shaky Parcells, "[a]nd, surprise, surprise, all of a sudden they love Bill."
Taylor's tone is self-aggrandizing, and his credibility often stretches thin. After his description of having taken "over-the-counter speed" to get up to play and of being found passed out hours before a game after an all-night tequila binge, his claim that he "never played when I was high" seems laughable.
Not that the commissioner is laughing.