An interview with Denver Broncos wide receiver Javon Walker will air on HBO’s “Real Sports” tomorrow. (Denver Post story here.) This is the first time Walker publicly discussed the Williams slaying, and the only time he plans to do so.
I can’t even imagine what it’s like to have a teammate and friend bleed to death in your arms, or what it’s like to have the bloody clothes from that night in your house somewhere because, well, because you have to keep them. I don’t know what it’s like in Javon Walker’s head and how he deals with this. I’m not sure Javon Walker knows how he deals with this.
Although I’m just a fan and I didn’t know him, I remember the day Darrent Williams died like some people remember when Kennedy was assassinated or when the space shuttle exploded. I was sitting on the couch watching some game or other and the ticker at the bottom of the screen said that Darrent Williams had been shot. I didn’t see the whole thing at first, or didn’t process it right away — the fact that he was dead took a minute to sink in.
I used to make fun of people who got upset when some famous person or other dies, because I thought it was lame to get upset about the death of someone you don’t even know. But there I was on January 1, probably in my pajamas, drinking coffee, just in shock and incredibly sad. Not Darrent Williams. I love him.
You know how there’s one guy on a team you just love even though he’s not the star? Darrent Williams was that guy for me, and probably for a million other people, too. He was so much fun to watch on the field, and his frohawk was, hands down, the best hair of any professional athlete, ever (DerMarr Johnson gets honorable mention). He had an awesome attitude — check out this Denver Post article and watch the video. Don’t you just love him? I can’t even look at that now without getting upset and now that some time has passed, pissed the hell off. Why does shit like this happen in Denver?
Darrent Williams wasn’t the only professional athlete shot in Denver. In 2003, Joey Porter (formerly of the Pittsburgh Steelers, now with the Miami Dolphins) was shot outside a bar on Denver’s north side. In 2006, Julius Hodge (formerly of the Denver Nuggets, now with Italian team Cimberio Varese) was shot while driving on I-76 after leaving a bar. No suspects have been arrested in either case.
As a resident of Denver, I feel like I need to take some ownership of incidents like this. I want to do something to make it better, even if the only things I can do seem small and inconsequential. I can apologize. On behalf of Denver, I’m sorry that these things happened. I’m sorry that Darrent Williams is dead. I’m sorry that Javon Walker has to live with this in his head for the rest of his life. I’m sorry that Julius Hodge was shot and for whatever effect that had on his career. I’m sorry that these guys all came to Denver and this shit happened. I’m sorry that these crimes haven’t been solved. I’m sorry that Denver is a surly adolescent of a city that can’t get its shit together and that we have gangs and assholes and so much ridiculous shit that Reggie Evans has to apply for a concealed weapon permit and Carmelo Anthony gets harassed at the convenience store.
What else can I do? I can support the Broncos and send the team all my “good football” vibes. I want them to have an awesome year — maybe we, the people of Denver, need them to have an awesome year, because we love them and want them to kick ass because it would honor Darrent Williams and running back Damien Nash, who died in February of natural causes (apparently heart related).
But really, I’m not sure how that helps. I love football, but I don’t think it’s some profound, meaningful thing. Maybe it can be, though, in situations like this. The Broncos are a football team, but this year, it’s about more than just being a football team. It’s about tragedy and pain and getting through it as best you can and hopefully, someday, healing and becoming something better than you were before.
I joke about it all the time, but it’s true — sports are a metaphor of life and usually it’s kind of bittersweet funny, like when Tadaguchi gets traded to the Phillies and I feel like the new boyfriend I thought was the one dumped me and I eat ice cream and dream about what might have been. Sometimes — thankfully, not as often — it’s horrible and tragic and ugly and leaves you feeling sad and alone.
I know that the Broncos aren’t my family or my friends. I can’t call them up on Saturday night when I want to go drinking or ask them if these pants make my butt look big (I wish!). But in a way, they are my family and they are my friends. When you love a team, their pain is your pain, even if it’s a diluted, tangential pain. Their loss is your loss, but their healing and power and ass kicking is yours, too, and when you’ve shared the pain and loss with them, the ass kicking is even sweeter. If the Broncos can come back from this and be better, so can the rest of us.
In that Denver Post article, Darrent Williams said, “That’s why I work every day to get better.” If you’re a fellow Broncos fan, this is our year to work every day to get better. We’re all family and friends and, as fans, it’s up to us to cheer on this team and honor D-Will and everybody we’ve ever loved by working every day to get better.