Crawford a community commodity |

Crawford a community commodity

Column by Michael Traum

It was an unbridled display of excitement, I’ll admit.

While watching the Miami Dolphins-New England Patriots game on Dec. 22, I got the chills when local boy Mike Crawford made an unassisted tackle on a punt play. I danced around the newsroom and thought of people who I could call. Co-workers laughed at and with me as I couldn’t contain the thrill of the moment.

There was a momentary pause while one of the Monday Night Football talking heads, either Al Michaels or Frank Gifford, searched the player roster for the name behind No. 56. As Crawford gathered himself and ABC launched into one of its 30-second commercials that cost more than you or I will probably ever make, the commentator managed to blurt out, “Dolphin tackle by … Mike Crawford.”

There was a matter-of-factness in his voice, as if to cover the obviousness that he’d never heard of Crawford. But the tone was not at all lacking in the respect due the previously unmentioned rookie.

And at that moment I thought to myself, man, Crawford has really made the big time now.

That was three weeks ago. Crawford, his rookie season cut short in the first round of the NFL playoffs by those same Patriots, is now home in South Lake Tahoe. He’s enjoying snowboarding, nights on the town and generally relaxing after a season twice as long as any college campaign he’d undertaken at Nevada.

All seems well. But there’s a dilemma.

Here’s the fact: There is a current NFL player living in South Lake Tahoe. Further, he’s a hometown product, having graduated from Whittell High before beating the odds and naysayers all the way to the highest level of competitive sports in the world.

My problem is – no one seems to care or be willingly to acknowledge his accomplishments.

I sit here in the office, travel through the community and hear many things. Why is it then that a majority of the conversations I have or overhear revolve around Crawford being just “lucky” or “it’s only his first year and he really doesn’t play that much.”

Is it based on preconceptions you have of the budding star, or maybe something that someone told you about him? Is it based on his uniquely styled white hair and proclivity to leap of two-story buildings, or the confidence with which he carries himself, which is not unlike many pro athletes?

Maybe I’m biased. I was the side by side with Crawford when Jimmy Johnson called on draft day last spring to announce the Dolphins had selected the linebacker in the sixth round. I remained in contact with him throughout his rookie year and spent many moments on the phone with his parents here in town, rejoicing in the sheer excitement of watching No. 56 fly around the field – simply reveling in the fact that Crawford was actually a Miami Dolphin.

In Miami, like any major city, Crawford and the rest of the Dolphins are treated like demigods. They’re granted admission to almost any place they wish. The trade off for the shop keeper is simple – it’s good for business to have a professional athlete mingling with the guests. The incidental costs of cover charges are far outweighed by the age-old notion of who’s in and who’s not. It’s a typical business practice.

By no means am I star struck. I’ve interviewed some of the world’s most recognizable athletes, including Jerry Rice, John Elway and Michael Jordan, just to name a few.

And while Crawford is no Jordan in icon appeal, he is our own.

This town offers big-city amenities, but Tahoe is no major city. While we struggle with the notions of how to improve our business image, with the ways we as a destination procure visitors and with how we as a small community try to cater to our own consumers, it seems we’re missing a solid opportunity to further all of these endeavors by employing arguably the town’s most visible athlete.

Mike Crawford wants to be involved, wants to be seen in the community, wants to be an active member in the advancement of our economy and education of our children.

He’s matured into a reputable young man, combining a fervent flare for life with the sense that he can and is willing to give back to the community which for the most part has yet to embrace him.

I’ll continue to dance around, with an appreciation and respect for his accomplishments tempered with the notion that deep down Mike Crawford is a darn good guy.

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