It’s not exactly fun to get back into football a day after a kid as young as you (I’m still young, dammit!) passes away. I don’t wanna get all sappy on everyone; but if you’re gonna write a weekly football column, you have to at least address the biggest story of the year in the sport (Unless you’re Easterbrook. He’ll probably say something short on Tuesday before remarking on how hot the Bengals cheerleaders are. We get it Gregggg, you like chicks. Unless they’re Jewish.).
The Chris Henry death reminds me a lot of Eddie Griffin a few years back. (The basketball player, not the comedian. Although neither of them were very good drivers.) Like Chris, Eddie was a troubled youth who hadn’t quite arrived professionally. Eddie had spent nearly six years in the league, but was still only 25. Both young men were just beginning to figure out what they could do with all the inherent talent they possessed. There’s no doubt Henry would have been an elite receiver in another year or two. To see any young talent get taken before fully realizing their dreams is tragic.
Sean Taylor was killed in a bungled burglary two weeks before I left for Los Angeles. I kicked off my cross-country road trip in Philadelphia and stopped on my journey south to I-40 in Virginia to visit my James Madison University friends (all Redskins fans). A bunch of them had made a road trip to RFK to pay their respects a week earlier. Sean Taylor was a lot further along in his career than Henry was. He was already one of the premier defensive stars in the league at the ripe age of 24. The next week, when the Redskins trotted ten men out onto the field against Buffalo was one of the coolest/most inspiring things I'd seen in the sport in a while. Then the Redskins proceeded to go on a tear and make the playoffs, even though they were most definitely an inferior team without Taylor. Expect the Bengals to do much of the same as this season winds down. I'd been ignoring them up to this point, but there's something about a teammates' death that pulls everyone closer. Look at the Redskins two years ago or the Angels this season. We could have a Saints-Bengals Super Bowl on our hands this season.
Taylor dies at 24 when I’m 24. Henry dies at 26 when I’m 26. It seems a lot realer when you’re the same age as the person passing away. You may have been from different towns, but you were in the same high school class. You were bombing the SATs around the same time, doing various illegal activities around the same time, not making out with girls around the same time (Okay, that last one was probably just me). It’s not fair to be taken out of this world when there’s so much more left to do.
But despite all the recent tragedy, there’s still football this weekend. This week, the Patriots take their fabulous traveling show into northern New York to take on the soon-to-be Canada Bills, and their quiet, polite, not-at-all-volatile receiver Terrell Eldorado Owens (Holy crap, his middle name is seriously Eldorado?). Only the Redskins, Lions, Buccaneers, Seahawks, Rams and Browns are worse on the road. And we still haven’t won a road game in North America this season, leaving us all alone at the bottom with Tampa Bay & Detroit. Let me say that again: The Lions. The Buccaneers. And the Patriots. GUHHHHHHHHHHHH.
Forecast: The weather for Sunday afternoon in Northern New York/Southern Canada? High teens and flurries. And if you’re a teenager in Buffalo, you better be high (Ba dum chh!). Baby Daddy Brady might have a rough day ahead of him.
Prediction: New England 20 Buffalo 16
MVP: WR – Wes Welker. Another double-digit catch performance, perhaps? I love the people who totally disregard Wes Welker. “His stats are inflated because Randy’s being double-teamed!” "New Englanders just like him because he's white!" "Boston is the racist hub of America and they regularly lynch unsuspecting minorities!" First of all – as I made thoroughly clear last week (and was completely vindicated on!) – you don’t have to double-team Randy Moss anymore. The last four weeks should be proof enough, the man’s thrown in the towel. And second of all, I know plenty of receivers in this league who, if wide open, would still drop half those passes. The great thing about Wes is the action he creates after the catch. As Leonard Driscoll might quip, “He’s as elusive as Robert Denby!”