Empty Feeling

The draft is this weekend; the Redskins will pick a player that everyone will analyze night and day and wonder if he's the Next Great Thing or Just a Guy.

It happens every year.

It just won't feel the same this year.

What will be missing for me is a phone call shortly before the Redskins are ready to select. That's when Stephan Miller would ring me up and ask, ‘'Who are they gonna take?'' We'd chat for a few minutes, I'd offer up a name and then we'd move on.

The phone call, as everyone who has read the board now knows, won't come this year. Stephan was tragically killed earlier this week. No need to rehash what happened; those who need to know already do.

And those who need to know already know this: without Stephan, this community of Redskins fans would not exist. Or, at the least, it would not be as strong as it is today. Thank Stephan for that; his passion built this board and helped make this site a good one. Being part of this network was personal because of his love for the Redskins. That was always obvious whenever I'd talk with him; he'd sound exasperated often, looking for a nugget of optimism that could sustain him through a tough season. Just like every other Redskins fan over the past 15 years.

When Rat Boy first told me the news Wednesday morning, I could only repeat one word. It's one I can't write. And, as is typical, my mind raced to the conversations we'd had. I tried to remember the last time I had spoken to him. It was in the fall, another talk about how the team was doing and chatting about his involvement in movies. I rooted for him to be part of a big project so I could say, ‘'I know that guy!'' Now, my heart slumps when I hear the story of his attack and I somberly point out, ‘'I knew that guy.''

There was one time Stephan and I had a strong disagreement about work issues. We eventually made up, smoothed things over and went on. I would have been upset with myself for doing otherwise. I liked his enthusiasm, ideas and passion too much. I liked that he'd attend as many games as he could and that he passed his love to his son. That's also what saddens me greatly because the two of them should have grown together as Redskins fans, celebrating wins and consoling each other over losses, for years. It's not right. I've never taken my kids for granted and love sharing my sports passion with them. This week, I've soaked it in a little more, knowing that any of this could be snatched from them or from me at any moment. I did not need a reminder of what was important; I will make sure I never forget, either.

I remember the poignant things Stephan wrote on the board after Sean Taylor's death, and how it affected his son. I can't imagine what he's going through now. I pray that the memories of his father, in time, will carry him through. That when the time comes that the Redskins celebrate another championship, he'll be able to smile because he'll know his father's passion is part of him.

I'm sure the people who visit this board now have a sense of what Stephan meant to those who have been on it for a while. Many, many more on this site were closer to Stephan than I. For me, Stephan was someone I worked for and enjoyed talking to on occasion; he had very good ideas and energy. It's hard not to like that. But in reality, there was so much more I didn't know about him (though I do know he liked tattoos).

I'm trying to think of a way to end this column, with a pick-me-up line or something joyous. I'm really not sure there is anything I can think of to accomplish that desire. Every time I'm on this site I'll think of Stephan. And I'll keep waiting for a call that won't come this weekend.

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