I’m a long-time Washington (thankfully known as the Commanders now) fan–a lot of that comes with caveats. From a wins and losses perspective, you can point to the team’s current streak of being a mediocre franchise and the endless amount of scandal and cultural deficiencies from the top. But, I also know tragedy when star safety Sean Taylor was tragically killed in 2007. I wondered about the greatness that was still ahead of him on the field, but I also thought about the family he left behind–his girlfriend, daughter, and those who got to see another side of him off of the field.
When we think of football players or athletes in general, it’s in the realm of the herculean efforts (or lack thereof) they do on Thursdays and Sundays. Our fantasy football teams hinge on touchdowns and catches. Bets are decided on whether the over or under on points are hit. Through all of this, it’s just a game. Every athlete is a whole person outside of their pads and jerseys. This struck me when I found out the unfortunate news that Dwayne Haskins passed away on Saturday.
The comments from former Cowboys executive Gil Brandt stating Haskins was “living to be dead,” and Adam Schefter’s tweet saying Haskins was “struggling” to catch on with Washington and Pittsburgh were eerily similar to the ones made after Sean Taylor’s passing eluding to his previous legal troubles.
It shows we have a long way to go when treating athletes like humans. Dwayne Haskins was a husband, son, and beloved by friends and teammates. When I heard about his passing, I didn’t think of his time in Washington that wasn’t entirely all his fault, but the fact that he was just 24 years old. That’s more than enough time to get things right, and it looked like that’s what he was doing in Pittsburgh.
Unfortunately, he’s robbed of that chance–a sad reminder that life is fleeting. The fact that some people rushed to define him by the struggles he was going through, especially in a league where Black quarterbacks are under a higher level of scrutiny and still having trouble diversifying the head coaching pool, is terrible. If the untimely passing of Haskins teaches us anything, it’s that you are not your occupation, and football is a small part of life. Rarely anybody has things figured out at 24, so let’s not pretend that we all do.
Athletes aren’t here to be robots and entertain us at our leisure–they work hard at their craft, and we are lucky enough to reap the benefits. They should enjoy lives being whole–outside of the cheers and jeers. Dwayne Haskins had a legendary run at Ohio State, a rough start as Washington, but got another shot on an NFL roster. I don’t know what life had planned for Dwayne, but I was sure excited to see what he would do next. Everybody loves a comeback story–it wasn’t in football, then ok. It’s just a game.