East Coast Bias On Sean Taylor : Measuring The Man Versus The Number

Posted in Blogged Down, Gridiron at 1:38 am by

“NFL players, and the teams for which they play, are proxies for our own self-image” writes East Coast Bias’ J-Red, reflecting on the slaying of Redskins S Sean Taylor. Said identification, however, rarely encompasses genuine empathy for the man under the helmet.

(photo by the Washington Post’s Tracy Woodward)

We all know that guy. That guy who lives and dies with X college or NFL team. His entire existence, from car flags to basement shrine, is defined by the ups and downs of a defined number of people (most of whom are of a different race or physical build or intellectual composition) who play under that guy’s colors due to chance (the draft, recruiting) or circumstance (free agency, transfer).

Unless you met Sean Taylor, you just lost a good free safety via non-football means. Just like when Sam Mills of Carolina got cancer and Samari Rolle showed epilepsy, and Derrick Thomas died in a car accident, no fan can cope when their favorite number is lost off the field.

Did you ever think to wonder why the method of tribute always involves the player’s number? Sean Taylor, the man, is not the source of grief in Washington. Number 21 is gone, and he will be sorely missed. Number 21 was an integral part of the Washington fanbase. Life/football without Number 21 is unimaginable.

I seriously heard people wonder if the game this week would be cancelled. Why? Because Sean Taylor died? No. Because Number 21 died, and that might have a negative impact on his teammates’ ability to score points and limit the points scored by the opposition.

Sean Taylor is just another young urban black male murdered. Number 21 is a hero who the entire NFL will honor Thursday, Sunday and Monday.

Given that Taylor was unlikely to play this Sunday (he was in Miami recovering from a Nov. 11 knee injury) I’ve not heard much argument his absence, in and of itself, put Washington at a competitive disadvantage . Coping with his death is another matter of course, and with that in mind, we’ve yet to heard Taylor’s peers eulogize him as “Number 21”. Thankfully.

5 responses to “East Coast Bias On Sean Taylor : Measuring The Man Versus The Number”

  1. J-Red says:

    His peers have a legitimate reason to grieve right now, and I suppose you could make the argument that players are often excused from practice or even games when a close family member dies. I meant, however, that the players’ grief might have a negative impact on the team’s ability to play, not Sean’s absence, which was inevitable anyway.

    You do bring up an interesting point though. Many players refuse to identify opposing players by name. “We’ve gotta stop 81.” “Someone get a hat on 52.”

  2. GC says:

    “You do bring up an interesting point though. Many players refuse to identify opposing players by name. “We’ve gotta stop 81.” “Someone get a hat on 52.”

    True ’nuff. I’ve not heard any of Washington’s players refer to Taylor as “21”, but they probably wouldn’t in this instance.

    I don’t disagree that Taylor’s death (to be as trite as possible here) could be considered “a distraction” in crap interview parlance (or in real life). Of course, this is the same league that played the Sunday following JFK’s death. The bottom line has historically taken precedence. Perhaps if the NFLPA had any sort of juice or motivated leadership, we’d be hearing louder cries for the Atlanta/Washington game to be postponed.

  3. Don says:

    I expected a much bigger reaction on the street here over this. No one I work with, admittedly a scientific bunch, seemed to have heard of the guy before. I certainly hadn’t. This is a far cry from years where people could name 4 or 5 Redskins players- however it’s tough to separate superbowl winning teams from the crowd I ran with during those years (such as the early 1980s) and therefore… aw heck, look no one was paying attention to the team this year and if he wasn’t starring in an Eastern Motors ad then we just wouldn’t know.

  4. GC says:


    I guess neither you nor your co-workers (football fans?) remember the most memorable (ok, only memorable) moment from the last Pro Bowl.


  5. R.T. says:

    I.d like to send a HUGE HUG to S.T.s girlfriend and daughter. I have a daughter that is 18 months and thinking about it, i couldn’t get used to the fact that i would never be able to hold her, kiss her little cheek and just be around her. He will be with her in a different lite, but will always be next to her as she grows.
    -Also, I guess I’ll have to get used to not seeing any more bone-jarring hits in the middle of the Redskin backfield.-
    *FOREVER #21*

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