27 November 2007

On the Death of Sean Taylor

The intersection of sports and mortality has a strange impact on people who write about sports. They start to talk about the "true meaning of things" and "what's really important in this world," as if the sports world they wrote about was a twisted and distorted version of reality, and now the scales have fallen from the eyes and the true beauty of the world in its most honest state can be seen. I think that's a disservice to the profession and professional work that athletes provide.

The news of Sean Taylor's passing is overwhelmingly saddening. We may not have known the man, or, as Dan Steinberg wrote, "I understood him less than any other player on the roster, even the ones I've never talked to." But we understood his competitiveness, his intense actions on the field. We feel our hearts break when you hear the story of a man putting his life together for the sake of a baby girl. Sean Taylor was someone I rooted for, even bringing a fictional version into this blog for an imaginary dialog with Christian Gomez to discuss the fine art of spitting on opponents. And now he's gone.

The complaint about fandom sometimes is that we take these games more seriously than anyone should, or that even athletes do. To them, it is a job. To us, we inflate these games into matters of life and death. This is true, but the mistake is in thinking that this is a bad thing. Death is a universal constant which shadows every moment of being as soon as you are aware of "being." And sports, athletic activity, is a celebration of being alive. That's why we care so much, the simple act of sport is a rejection of death at its most fundamental level. To move, to be capable of movement and thought, at the root that's what motivates us to care. And that's part of what we celebrated in Sean Taylor, a player who brought the capacity for movement in delightful, if violent, ways, onto the field every Sunday. To say that the story of his death will make sports seem trivial in comparison is to dishonor the man. The story of his life made death seem trivial in comparison. It's a lie, but it's one that we celebrate and choose to believe in all sports.

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6 Comments:

At 27 November, 2007 10:55, Anonymous Mickey said...

"And sports, athletic activity, is a celebration of being alive. That's why we care so much, the simple act of sport is a rejection of death at its most fundamental level."

Bravo...

Sports is indeed a collective or communal celebration - more than a rejection of death - it is also an honest celebration that may be engaged without fear of offense, insult or harm to others. And to celebrate in the personal triumphs of players like Sean Taylor may sound shallow but it is indeed a celebration of what we all may share in common.

 
At 27 November, 2007 11:30, Blogger Kinney said...

Very well put D.

 
At 27 November, 2007 11:56, Blogger The Bird said...

"To say that the story of his death will make sports seem trivial in comparison is to dishonor the man. The story of his life made death seem trivial in comparison. It's a lie, but it's one that we celebrate and choose to believe in all sports."

Well put. The end of a life well lived is no tragedy. The tragedy here is that Taylor was just beginning to live his life well.

 
At 27 November, 2007 17:53, Blogger James Diggs said...

My thoughts and prayers are with Sean Taylor's family and friends and the Redskins organization.

Peace,

James

 
At 27 November, 2007 18:12, Anonymous Torrey said...

Well said, Donovan. Wilbon compared the shock of it to the death of Len Bias all those years ago and I don't disagree. It's shocking and sudden and sad.

 
At 28 November, 2007 23:30, Anonymous Nick said...

It's well put D. I went to school with Sean and his death has had me deeply sad these past two days, but every time I think about him, my adrenaline starts to rise as I remember all those incredible moments of happiness he gave us as fans throughout his career, particularly at UM. I will celebrate his life every time I think about him, and that is a pretty amazing legacy indeed...

 

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