My friend Brad (a New York Giants fan from New Jersey) mentioned in a status update that today was the 25th anniversary of Lawrence Taylor breaking Washington Redskins quarterback’s Joe Theismann‘s leg. While I did not watch the game (it was a school night) my father left me a note on the kitchen table that I saw the next morning. The text of it was something along the lines of “Redskins 23 Giants 21 — Joe Theismann’s leg broken by Lawrence Taylor.” He went on to say how upset Taylor looked on the field after the sack.
This was huge. One of the newscasts (probably WRC Channel 4) had live coverage from Joe Theismann’s hospital bed for what seemed like 3 nights in a row. The only thing even remotely as important as the Redskins to Washington back in those days was panda pregnancies or snowstorms. Someday, I hope somebody gets those newscasts on youtube, they’d be fascinating to watch. This of course, segues into the infamous video of Taylor breaking Theismann’s leg. Here is the original Monday Night Football telecast with Frank Gifford at the top of his game doing play-by-play and O.J. Simpson groaning. This is a very graphic video, so you many not want to watch it.
The second with Thiesmann and Carl Banks commentary as well as Taylor walking around looking ill after what he had done. Once again, this is a very graphic video, so you many not want to watch it.
Five years ago, Theismann said the standing ovation while being wheeled off the RFK Stadium field was an epiphany that led him to be a better person and not so self-involved. I cannot say whether that happened or not, but I do remember that back in the day Theismann was not universally loved around here. Fans generally respected what Theismann did on the field, but did not think much of his personality off of it. I kind of get the impression his teammates were the same way, because how often do you ever see him around with any of them or hear him mentioned by other Redskins?
Theismann and I lived in the same Northern Virginia town, Vienna, in the 1980s. At least one of his kids went to the same preschool (Parkwood represent!) as my brother and I. We saw him at the May Day* festivities they did there annually and elsewhere around town in places like the post office. There was a suburban legend going around Vienna in the mid-80s about Theismann’s old house. The story goes that a family who bought his house discovered a pile of autographs left behind for them and burnt them the first time they had a fire in the fireplace.
I grew to like Theismann as an analyst for Sunday Night Football over the years and think he got a bum rap by ESPN when they fired him from Monday Night Football after a season working with Tony Kornheiser. As for Taylor, he is sadly still having trouble with life off the field.
*It is interesting to think about that in what was then a strong Reagan Republican area Vienna was back in the ’80s. Also, my father said May Day was just awful, I don’t remember much about them, but I trust him.