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  #1  
Old 03.05.2011, 11:42 AM
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Northern Soul Northern Soul is offline
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http://www.azcentral.com/members/Blo...aBoivin/126702

NFL could learn from Arizona Cardinals fan
It was shaping up to be one memorable date night.


It started with courtside seats at a Suns game, courtesy of a cousin, and ended with music and laughs at a Glendale bar. When the early-morning hours of March 26 arrived, Jason Taylor left the establishment and headed toward his car.

"I'll be right there," said his wife, Mandy, who was finishing a conversation.

And then she heard a "pop," the kind fueled by gun powder.

And then she saw her husband, lying in the parking lot, blood near his head.

And then she watched herself, the central figure in an out-of-body experience, dial 911.

"I don't remember much after that," Mandy said. "I think two people brought me inside and held me back so I wouldn't go out."

An ambulance arrived and took Jason, 33, to John C. Lincoln North Mountain Hospital. Mandy learned that a man in the parking lot had pointed a gun at her husband and shot him. The bullet exploded in his brain.

"It pretty much turned his cerebellum into mush," she said.

Doctors removed part of his skull to clear out the bullet fragments. Mandy, 30, waited in a nearby room, trying to understand the event that had just rocked their young marriage.

The elementary-school teacher met Jason several years ago in a bar. They fell in love quickly, married within a year and had their daughter, Alivia, now 19 months, soon after.

Jason introduced Mandy to his love for the Cardinals. She loved his energy and ability to chat with anyone.

"He'll talk to a wall," Mandy said, laughing.

It's that trait that sparked the improbable turn of events.

When he left the bar to wait for Mandy, he overheard two men talking about the military. Jason approached them and said that he always wanted to serve. If he ever did, he told them, it would be with the Marines because he thought that branch of the service was best.

The simple statement triggered something inside Jeremiah Pulaski, a 24-year-old Glendale resident who had recently returned from combat duty with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan and Iraq. According to the Glendale police report, Pulaski immediately pulled out a gun and shot Taylor.

Pulaski fled on his motorcycle, and later died when a Glendale police officer returned fire after he shot at her. The officer was not injured. Pulaski's parents told police they believed their son was suffering from severe post-traumatic-stress disorder.

Jason, meanwhile slowly began his recovery in the intensive care unit. As he came to, one of the first things he asked for was a white board, because the tracheotomy tube prevented his speech.

And then he wrote "APRIL 15 DEADLINE FOR CARDINALS TICKETS."

Mandy had to laugh. Her husband's brush with death had not shaken his passion for the Cardinals.

The longtime season-ticket holder had remembered the date because part of his ticket deposit was due. It's not surprising. The Cardinals brought him great joy. He and Mandy were thrilled to bring Alivia to her first game and Jason really respected the talents of the players, particularly the hard-hitting skills of safety Adrian Wilson.

Passion such as Jason's is one of the things lost in the ongoing labor dispute in the NFL, which takes center stage Thursday with the start of the draft.

Fans might not have a dog in this fight, but it doesn't matter. They are a part of the story line, too. Taylor has long been loyal to a sport that hasn't always delivered. It's time to see some loyalty on the other side. Settle this, owners and players.

Not everyone who attends an NFL game is a corporate bigwig. Some are like Jason and Mandy, who sacrifice a lot to buy tickets. Both are in the education field. Mandy teaches in the Peoria Unified School District, and Jason works as a recruiter for Brown Mackie College.

His white-board message is something the NFL needs to remember.

Jason is making great progress. He is in a HealthSouth Valley of the Sun Rehabilitation facility and tackles speech, occupational and physical therapy three hours a day.

He remembers everything before the accident but struggles with his short-term memory. He tires easily, a frustrating trait for someone who once was a personal trainer. He is often in high spirits and feels sad only when he talks about his daughter and wanting to be with her.

"I miss him being home," Mandy said. "I want to have him here."

He has no anger toward the shooter and in fact feels badly for him and his family. He told Mandy he believes Pulaski "just had a really bad day and I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Those who know the affable and well-liked Taylor aren't surprised by that reaction.

We can learn a lot from him. Forgiveness. Resilience.

The NFL can learn a lot, too. It needs to remember that most fans see this league as more than a corporate entity. It's a friend. Now is no time to abandon them.

Jason and Mandy don't like to ask for help, but I will. They are facing mountains of bills that their insurance won't cover. Donations can be made through Wells Fargo Bank under "Jason's Donation Account" (No. 2606307102).

Jason wants to be strong by the NFL season.

Let's hope the league delivers.
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  #2  
Old 03.05.2011, 02:56 PM
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jrt55555 jrt55555 is offline
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A real touching story. Thanks for sharing. This should be emailed to the representatives of the owners and players immediately!
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  #3  
Old 03.05.2011, 10:15 PM
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Very sad. Good luck to the the family, I hope he makes a good recovery and is back at the UofP stadium in no time.
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