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I am a huge New York Giants fan and lifelong season ticketholder. I live and breathe Giants football. When I was growing up, there was not a player I idolized more than Hall-of-Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor, who lead the Giants to two championships. Taylor was one of the first defenders that offensives had to gameplan against, and he changed the position of linebacker forever with a combination of size, speed and skill. I vaguely remember him making a left tackle piss his pants on a 3rd and 7.
Taylor also changed the game for Criminal-Athletics, a true legend in the field, who local police forces needed to gameplan for night in and night out. I vaguely remember him making a bailiff piss his pants on a 3-7 year stint. There have been many Criminal-Athletes, but L.T. was a gamechanger on and off the field, and I would be remiss if I did not elect #56 into the Sportsmasher.com Criminal-Athlete Hall-of-Fame.
I consider Lawrence Taylor the greatest defensive player in the history of the National Football League. Sure there have been other greats, but none have ever single handedly changed the way the game was played like L.T. and I can argue his merits against anyone in league history. He lead the Giants to two Super Bowl Championships, was a ten time All-Pro, three time NFL Defensive Player of the Year and was the last defensive player to be named NFL MVP (1986). On top of that he was incredible in Tecmo Bowl, and was not only the best pass rusher in the game, but also blocked almost every extra point. The guy is a living legend, I’m not even going to get into his numbers, he is the greatest defensive player of the modern era. The Criminal-Athlete Hall-of-Fame is not about numbers, Elijah Dukes was the first inductee, but what adds to L.T.’s legend is that he was as fearsome off the field as he was on it.
“For me, crazy as it seems, there is a real relationship between wild, reckless abandon off the field and being that way on the field” L.T. (1987)
That quotation sums it up. Taylor was as wild off the field as he was on it during his playing career, and much of this was fuled by cocaine, which he admitted using regularly as early as his second year in the league. He only stopped using cocaine after his second failed drug test in 1988, because a third drug test would have caused him to be banned from the NFL. Taylor did not do cocaine again for five years, until his 1993 retirement, but as he saw his career winding down he admitted, “I saw coke as the only bright spot in my future.” The man looked forward to retirement so he could FINALLY use cocaine again. Taylor later admitted to passing many NFL drug tests by submitting the clean urine of his teammates for testing.
Although cocaine was admittedly Taylor’s favorite substance to abuse, it was not the only one he enjoyed. Taylor was onced asked what he could do better than any other outside linebacker in the NFL can do, and his classic response was “Drink.” He admitted that during his playing career, he would often send prostitutes and drugs to the visiting team’s hotel rooms, in the hopes of tiring his opponents out for the next day’s game. Taylor once showed up to a Giants team meeting in handcuffs, not from an arrest, but because two hookers had him handcuffed and could not find the key.
Following Taylor’s retirement, his problems quickly worsened, and he entered rehab twice in 1995. He was then arrested twice over the next three years for buying cocaine from an undercover police officer. Around this time he became extremely paranoid, Taylor mostly stayed shut in his house with sheets over the windows, using drugs with fellow addicts. He had basically turned his home into a crack house. Twice (in 1996 and 2009) he crashed his vehicle (first a Lexus into a tree, then a Cadillac Escalade into another vehicle) destroying the car and fleeing the scene of the accident each time. He credits golf, a sport where he is equally as competitive as he was on the gridiron more than two decades ago, with turning his life around.
His most notorious recent incident came in 2010, when Taylor was arrested for having sex with a 16 year old prostitute in a Holliday Inn in Suffern, NY, who he paid $300 for the encounter. The sex was consentual, and the girl lied and said she was 19, so Taylor was just hit with two misdemeanors for this crime, and the pimp got the brunt of the prison time.
I think about Lawrence Taylor a lot, of course as a Giants fan, I think about how lucky we are as fans to have had the greatest defensive player alive (much respect to Deacon Jones) play for Big Blue. However, when you love and respect a Criminal-Athlete Hall of Famer with the credentials that L.T. has, and you live in the same metropolitan area as him, you think about him for other reasons:
One day you could be playing a round of golf, L.T. could emerge from the woods covered in blood and whisper “Hey man, um…I lost a ball back there, can you drive me to Mexico?” You could be at Rick’s Cabaret on West 33rd Street on a Tuesday afternoon and L.T. could come in and buy Crystal and lap dances for the entire place. You could be at the Tick-Tock Diner on Route 3 at 1:45am on a Sunday and end up blowing lines with L.T. in the bathroom as he hands you a pistol and asks you to ditch it in a construction site. (I think I stole parts of that last sentance from an Artie Lange stand up routine, thanks Artie, you are the man) Nothing would surprise you when it comes to L.T.
And for that Lawrence Taylor, you become the second athlete inducted into the Sportsmasher.com Criminal-Athlete Hall of Fame. You’re parade down the Canyon of Heroes is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday. Afterwards, Rick’s Cabaret, lappies on me.