The surprise demolition derby which replaced Sunday’s Superbowl was brutally painful for Denver Broncos fans, yours truly included. With every interception, sack, and missed tackle, I cringed and swallowed the bitter pill of defeat. Luckily I had the viewing party at Smugglers Cove to cushion the blow. The resort and spa held its fourth annual Big Game Weekend hosted by former NFL player Billy Taylor, who spent seven years with the New York Giants, Oakland Raiders and Washington Redskins. Taylor is a Texas Tech grad with a degree in broadcast communications which he put into use as a sportscaster for several years in New York before venturing into corporate training. These days he trains on the positive approach of how to manage people and getting the best out of employees so that they perform at their highest level. The Big Game is an event that Taylor has hosted for several years; starting in Barbados for fourteen years before switching to St Lucia. Not only is he trying to help people understand the game, but it’s also a welcome reprieve from the frigid NYC temperatures. And what a party it was. Guests were treated to a bountiful buffet featuring game day staples of burgers, hot dogs, potato salad, and tons of bar-be-que, an open bar, plenty of NFL themed prizes, and one lucky lady walked away with a five day, four night stay at the resort.
“Even if you don’t know the sport, it’s a fun thing to have a party and just get together with friends and enjoy yourselves. And I couldn’t do it better than being in St Lucia right here on the beach enjoying myself,” he shared.
But it’s not just fun and games for Taylor. The retired pro also spends part of his trip teaching the local youth more about his sport.
“Everyday we’re here, like today, we taught the kids how to throw a football. We did that on the beach. We had about maybe 20 kids. This is under new management. The other management wanted us to get involved in the schools, which were willing to do. Go into the schools and talk to the kids because every kid needs an example of something positive and the key for all of our kids is education. We have to be smarter. We have to be intelligent. Because you can’t depend on cricket, soccer, football or anything. If you break your arm then what are you going to do? So I like the aspect of bringing it to another level.”
While the game enjoys rabid popularity in the US and continues to be a top revenue generator among major sports, the National Football League has come under fire in recent years with the emergence of several former players who are suffering from the lingering effects of concussions. The controversy even prompted president Barack Obama to go on record as stating he would not let his son play the game. Taylor believes the sport is being unfairly vilified.
“They have done an outstanding job of addressing it and I did not know how bad concussions were when I was a kid. But what it comes down to is if you have a good teacher to teach you the proper technique then you will less likely have a concussion. I played seven years in the NFL and four years of college and never got a concussion. I had a great teacher. You’re not supposed to hit with your head. You hit with your shoulder pads. That’s the coaches. The bad thing in the United States is that there are a lot of bad coaches teaching the little kids. They’re not as great as they should be. The thing about it is that it’s gotten so much publicity. In New York I spoke to the Long Island Women’s Association because there were 600 women who said they did not want their kid learning to play football because of what they read. But I did the research for them. The number one sport for concussions is cheerleading. The second is soccer. But people look at the publicity of football and say they have to be the number one, but it’s not. If you teach the game properly, it’s a beautiful game. It’s a great game for learning because it teaches leadership and how to work with other people.”
Taylor also weighed in on the ongoing issue of bullying, most recently highlighted by the situation between Miami Dolphins teammates Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin, which saw Martin leave the team last October after allegedly being harassed by Incognito. It has divided critics, with some saying it’s just the usual playful banter that goes on in locker rooms. Taylor disagrees.
“They crossed the line. They got racial stuff involved. They got sexual stuff involved. People think that because you’re a professional athlete you’re a grown man and there’s no bullying. But anytime that someone is over someone else, or is negative, and disrespectful, that’s bullying. They gotta nip that stuff in the bud. They always have hazing in the NFL but it’s just that if you are a rookie, like my first year they made me sing my school song and stuff like that, nothing bad. That’s how you’re supposed to do it.”
Does he think that there will ever be an openly gay player in the rough and tumble NFL?
“I do. Men are the last ones to accept it. Women have accepted it a long time ago. There’s been Billie Jean King and women in WNBA basketball. The men are the last ones. I like that Jason Collins came out. I feel bad he doesn’t have a team right now but he’s an intelligent guy, went to a great school, Stanford University and the whole bit. I think nowadays with the money that people are making in pro sports, they will accept him. And the thing about sports it’s about production. If you don’t produce they’re not going to like you anyway. So I think it will be accepted. It’s just a matter of time.”
The gracious Taylor even took some time to alleviate my distress over the possibility that my favourite quarterback Peyton Manning’s historic season will be marred by the lopsided loss.
“He’s a class guy. I think his legacy has already been established because anytime you make it to the Superbowl you’re good. I think no matter what he’s still the greatest that i’ve ever seen.”