Monday, January 21, 2008

"Wait, Who's #91?"

As I unassumingly watched the close to the 2007 season, I witnessed the team of my rooting interests become mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, despite a stellar and unexpected season. It was a season that can be described by several key events, whether it be Michael Vick's trial, Patriots perfection, Sean Taylor's unfortunate death, Bobby Petrino bolting for the NCAA and even a little Pacman Jones sprinkled on top for good measure.

Thinking of Sean Taylor, I noticed that my Cleveland Browns were still sporting the "21" stickers on their helmets, causing me to turn my attention to other teams to see if they were still depicting their remembrance. Of course, the Washington Redskins were displaying the number of their fallen teammate, but were others?

I noticed one team that was not with the rest of the NFL in canonizing the former defensive back. Perhaps they stuck out to me due to the media inundation that were to be broadcast over my television, but possibly because of their choice to not take part in said tribute: The New England Patriots.

When I first noticed this a few weeks back, my Pavlovian response was to jump on to this wonderful medium and bad mouth the team and all that they stood for. How could they not show their respects for a player who had just been brutally slain a few weeks back? Must they be that cavalier towards the rest of the league? Who do they think they are? I mean with their hoodies and model girlfriends. How condescending are they? Right? Right?

Not so fast.

Watching yesterday's games with my fiancée, her question encapsulated what the casual fan may have been thinking this entire time. After watching Tom Brady walk off of the field following a three-and-out, she saw the back of his helmet and said, "Wait, Who's number 91?" After I explained the entire story about Marquise Hill, it had hit me. Was his death simply glossed over by so many? The Joe Bucks of the world can mention it once per week, but is that ample coverage? I know that it did not occur during mid-season, and it was not a homicide, but shouldn't this be known?

Why didn't the rest of the league don "91" stickers on their helmets? Was it because Hill wasn't an All-Pro? Maybe because he didn't have flashy nickname on or off of the field? After all, he only had three tackles in all of last season, how good could he have been? How would anyone know who he was? Should this even matter?

The Patriots defensive end that suddenly died this past 28th day of May spent many of his last days helping New Orleans residents rebuild their homes after Hurricane Katrina. While residents of Louisiana, his teammates at LSU, and his teammates on the New England Patriots remember Hill, many casual fans are left pondering the story of the former second-rounder. Jarvis Green, his teammate at both the college and professional levels, wore Hill's shoulder pads for the season - a friend's way to memorialize.

This is not an attempt to knock down the celebration of any fallen athletes that have received praise for their hard work and for what they meant to their teammates or fans. It is simply an open-ended question, in attempt to figure out why certain players receive different levels of remembrance. Who are we to judge? Maybe the Patriots have a point after all.

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