It's been difficult to focus on MMA today. When I woke up this morning, I was greeted by a text message from a good friend that simply read "Holy ****, he died." Unfortunately, I immediately knew who "he" was.
Like me, countless others found out throughout the day that the "he" who had died overnight was Sean Taylor, the Redskins' young and talented safety. And, like most of those mourning his death, I didn't know Taylor personally. In fact, I don't cover football and I haven't been a Redskins fan for years.
But, Taylor's death goes far beyond being a 'Skins fan or even caring about football. Surfing over to CNN.com throughout the day illustrates that the news of his death is bigger even than the world of sports. There is something about mortality striking the seemingly immortal that moves us.
Many of you have undoubtedly read other columnists throughout the day, who have posited their own thoughts on Taylor's death. They've probably said it better and with more expertise than I can here, but I've been so moved by the events of the past 36 hours I had to weigh in as well.
The details of Taylor's death are still sketchy. As of now, motive is unknown. Did Taylor's past catch up to him or was this a random act of violence? Was it a burglary, a robbery, or a "hit"?
Ultimately, we may find out the answer to all these questions. But, those answers won't help comfort his family or his fans or those of us who are numbed with sadness at the loss of such a gifted young man. A young man who apparently made his fair share of mistakes early in life, but had also apparently turned the corner in the last couple of years. Taylor, by all accounts, was now a proud father and had also become a locker room leader at the tender age of 24.
I'm older than Taylor. Not old enough to be wise, but old enough to know that at 24, his best years were still ahead of him. His best years as a football player. And his best years as a man.
I'm old enough to know that we all make mistakes. Hopefully we learn from them and even if we do, we still keep making them. Whether or not a past mistake led to Taylor's death doesn't make his passing any more explicable or any easier to understand.
I'm also old enough to remember the day, more than twenty years ago, when the Washington area heard similarly horrible news about a similarly gifted athlete who had also met a far too premature death. As a young Terps fan, Len Bias was a god to me -- he leaped over defenders with grace and power, potentially only matched by the ACC's premiere living legend, Michael Jordan. Bias had been drafted by the Celtics only days earlier -- and hoped to continue Boston's championship legacy alongside Larry Bird -- when he died of a cocaine overdose.
Though the circumstances of Taylor's death don't appear to be the same as those surrounding Bias', the similarities are enough to bring back some of the same feelings, even if two decades later.
Here were two young athletes, seemingly at the top of their games, who had still hardly scratched the surface of their potential. And, when they died they only left us with more questions than answers.
Would Bias have been a better pro than even Jordan?
Would Taylor redefine the position like Ronnie Lott had before him? Would he spend the next decade going toe-to-toe with the likes of Ed Reed and Troy Polumalu for the title of best safety of his generation?
We'll never know the answer to those and so many other questions.
We may never even find out if the alleged robbers got what they came for when they launched their ill-fated plan. But, we do already know that they took something from us all that we can never take back -- the wonder of a young man about to realize his full potential as a human being.
That loss is perhaps the greatest tragedy of the last two days.