Heller: New York’s Greatest Hero and Villain is One and the Same

Heller: New York’s Greatest Hero and Villain is One and the Same

by December 21, 2019 0 comments

Author’s note: This is my 100th article ever and the fourth in a series about athletes past and present who were or are loved by some, hated by many, and quite controversial.

Arguably the best player the game of football has ever seen is the one who required offenses to change their whole gameplan. This man is the figure who many quarterbacks he played against still have nightmares, especially former Eagles quarterback, Ron Jaworski, who was a victim of 28 of his sacks.

The first football game I ever remember watching with my dad, a Giants fan, was the game where Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann had his leg gruesomely broken after being sacked by Lawrence Taylor. As a five-year-old boy, I was hooked on the NFL.

Taylor, a Hall of Famer, is more affectionately known as L.T. and was a part of two Super Bowl Championship teams. He was also a 10-time Pro Bowler. He recorded 132.5 regular-season sacks and was as close to unlockable as there ever was.

The recent NFL 100 greatest players show, where the linebackers were announced, featured Taylor. Fellow legendary linebacker Ray Lewis even attributed Taylor as his inspiration.

On that show, Taylor told stories of how there were team rules under head coach Bill Parcells, and then there were his rules.

But the legend is hated by just as many people that love him. He has admitted to using drugs such as cocaine as early as his second year in the NFL and was suspended several times by the league for failing drug tests. His drug abuse escalated after his retirement, and he was jailed three times for attempted drug possession.

Further, in 2011, Taylor pleaded guilty to sexual misconduct and patronizing a prostitute, misdemeanor charges that carried no jail time but required him to register as a sex offender. He admitted to having sex with a prostitute who turned out to be a 16-year-old Bronx runaway.

This, plus all the talk of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs along with domestic violence and intoxicated driving arrests in sports as a whole, doesn’t sit very well with many.

Still, he was selected for the Hall of Fame. If this was any other player, he would more likely than not be voted in.

It adds to the debate of whether you can cheer for the man or if you have to cheer against him. This goes along with the debates of being hypocritical when it comes to Michael Vick, or recognizing O.J. Simpson’s career, or even voting for Barry Bonds in the Hall of Fame running.

My opinion still remains that Lawrence Taylor is still the greatest defensive football player ever. Yes, cocaine use is a detriment to his character and impacted his play on the field, but he served his suspensions and continued to dominate on the football field. His off-the-field actions are still downright despicable.

Some of it is more of a team-by-team issue, where a Giants fan sees it differently than fans of other teams. But, if he played for another team as opposed to the Giants, the Giants fans may view him differently.

Ponder this: can you still cheer for a guy even if you would never want him to be around your daughter, wife, or even dog?

Husband, father of 3 and an avid sports fan. Living out my childhood dream of writing about sports, now that I'm in my forties.

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