It was a bittersweet week for Big Blue. No, it had nothing to do with injuries or PSLs or draft picks, it had to do with the lasting memory of greatness, and the fickleness of where and how heroes are created and where they end up, by choice or circumstance.
It started out so well on a bright Monday morning. One hero of two Super Bowl victories, Leonard Marshall, was being introduced as the head football coach at Hudson Catholic High School in Jersey City. It was the latest symbol of reclamation and civic pride for a school whose doors were all but shut two years ago. The school president, Father Warren Hall, had undertaken some different initiatives, including making the school co-ed, to help resurrect the image and the pride of what was once one of New Jersey's elite schools and was now on its way back. Marshall was taking a continuing step in his lifelong passion of assisting young people, just as he has done in Florida and his native Louisiana. He called Jersey City his second home and beamed as he talked about the mission of being a positive influence on his young team and all the others now filling the gym for the announcement. It was a day of pride for all the Giants faithful, another positive to point to. Marshall had even gotten a ringing endorsement from the co-owner himself, John Mara, who had reached out to the school to give the idea a thumbs up. Yes, Marshall had been a stalwart defensive player and potential Hall of Famer, but it was his All-Pro off the field attitude that made him such a great get for the Hawks, all for the tidy sum of $10,000. It was a day football could be proud of.
Then came the end of the week, and the news that less than 40 miles away from Jersey City, Marshall's teammate and comrade in arms, Lawrence Taylor, had ended up on the other side of the law. While all the facts have yet to be played out, the court of public opinion was quick to strike down the Hall of Famer for what seemed to be another misstep in a life that has included great glory and disappointing setbacks and run-ins with the negative face of fame and fortune.
It really is startling to see how these two events, involving two players forever linked to on- field glory, could bookend a week. Both men were known for their work ethic and commitment to success. Both are even linked with a signature moment against a noteworthy quarterback...Taylor's career-ending hit on Joe Theisman and Marshall's game changing hit on Joe Montana...yet their present day fortunes are now eras apart. As the New York area moves toward mid-spring, Marshall sets off building the hopes of young people, Taylor sets off to find out if his future will be behind bars.
In the media last week, Marshall's announcement garnered some press but was not sexy enough to wrench a back page or a front page in the New York papers. Taylor's transgressions pushed terrorists off the front page. Yes it is true that LT was beloved by New York...his off-field issues were always downplayed by the glory of his on-field accomplishments, and in recent years he had appeared to exorcise all those demons of years past, maturing into a solid spokesperson, taking a run at a new kind of fame on Dancing With The Stars, and enjoying life in Florida as a father and husband on the golf course. There are still many that hope that last week's incident was a setup, and Taylor was a victim of just poor judgment and bad planning, that the recent actions of Taylor, those before the events of last Thursday, is who he has truly become.
We know football is more than just a game, it is as big a business as there is. In the New York area, the Jets and Giants will open their lavish new palace this fall, and most people will go back to concentrating on the actions of the new faces of the Giants as they try to get back on track for another Super Bowl run, one that maybe can help match the accomplishments of teams past. The team will have its elaborate opening night events, bringing back familiar faces to bridge the gap from old stadium to new. They will remember Giants still with us and those who have passed on, and it will be a bittersweet day for some, the passage of time always brings with it pangs of nostalgia.
It will also be a great day for Leonard Marshall, now a coach who is molding young men in a career launched last week. For Lawrence Taylor, the events of last week have the jury out, figuratively and perhaps literally, on his attendance right now. A great day may be if LT can somehow get things back on track to where they were earlier last week as opposed to the way it ended. Time will tell. It is amazing how the hands of fate can spin their fortunes, even for the brightest of stars.
Bittersweet week indeed, Giants fans.