(photo by Brian Murphy)
This photo is one that I’ve never shared with anyone before. It’s a shot I took of Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor in the moments after his team emerged victorious 35-20 over the New York Giants, Dec. 24, 2005.
That was my first year covering the Redskins and also happened to be the first time Washington made the playoffs in seven years. The win over New York on Christmas eve was the team’s fourth win in a row and the Redskins followed it up the following week by beating Philadelphia — thanks largely to Taylor’s 39-yard fumble return for a touchdown.
Two weeks after this photo was taken, the Redskins traveled to Tampa Bay to face the Buccaneers in a wild card match-up. I didn’t cover that game. Instead, my wife and I bought tickets and enjoyed the game from the stands.
That day, I opted to sport my Taylor jersey. Needless to say, I was thrilled when he gave Washington a 14-0 lead after recovering a fumble and returning it 51 yards.
At that point, I turned around to the few obnoxious Buccaneers fans who were giving me a hard time and said the following:
“Hey, do you mind if we fire off your cannons since you’re not using them?”
Looking back now, I fully admit that’s a completely ballsy thing to say to the hometown faithful. But let’s be honest – 1.) it’s funny and 2.) any stadium with a built-in pirate ship deserves to be mocked from time to time.
Now, everything was going according to plan that day until Taylor was ejected from the game for spitting in the face of Buccaneers running back Michael Pittman. Once that happened, it paved the way for seemingly every Tampa fan within two sections of me to start chanting and heckling me. Thankfully, most of it was lighthearted and good natured. There were a few jerks, but that’s to be expected.
Buccaneers fans couldn’t stop giving me grief for wearing the jersey of the guy who was just booted from a playoff game, and that play was also a sort of a turning point for Tampa Bay as they began to claw their way back into the game.
Ultimately though, the Redskins somehow managed to hold on and win the game, 17-10. And I got to walk away with a fun little story to tell about how simply wearing a Sean Taylor jersey to a playoff game nearly caused riot in the stands.
This weekend marks the fourth anniversary of his death and rather than sitting around being bummed out that he’s gone, I figured I’d rather remember one of my favorite moments involving one of the most exciting players to ever play for the burgundy and gold.