- LT: The Life & Times dir. by Peter Radovich
In an era when controversy continuously casts a negative shadow over the National Football League, memories of past American football greats historicize a league that has grappled with athletes’ personal troubles and larger social issues. In LT: The Life & Times, Showtime Sports presents a narrative of one of the sport’s legends, who, like many players today, faced troubles off the gridiron. As former New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor—colloquially known as “L.T.”—states at the beginning of the nearly two-hour documentary, “As easy as football is to me … is as hard as life is to me.”
Indeed, L.T. was a dynamic gridiron star. After his playing college football at the University of North Carolina, the New York Giants drafted L.T. with the second overall pick in the 1981 NFL draft. He immediately impacted the team, winning both the Defensive Rookie of the Year and overall Defensive Player of the Year awards in his first season. Over a thirteen-year career with the Giants, L.T. recorded 132.5 sacks and 1,088 tackles, earned ten Pro Bowl honors, won two Super Bowls and a league Most Valuable Player award, appeared on the 1980s “All-Decade Team,” and was named to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time Team. In 2010, the NFL Network ranked him as the third greatest player in the league’s history.
As “easy” as football was for the vibrant linebacker, the documentary focuses on his troubled personal life. While the film highlights his notable squabbles with coaches, its central theme is L.T.’s consistent battle with drugs and the effects these transgressions had on his family. Being a top player in “the city that never sleeps,” L.T. often found trouble. “Back in the ‘80s, New York was the hottest place to be on this planet,” he explains. There, he found the nightlife and the culture of recreational drugs hard to avoid. Throughout the documentary, we hear from L.T.’s ex-wife, his children, and his current partner, all of whom were negatively affected by the linebacker’s troubles. The film focuses less on teammates and others associated with the NFL. Instead, the narrative follows how L.T. consistently disappointed his family, particularly his children, who suggest that their father missed much of their lives because of his drug addiction.
Early in his career, L.T. entered rehab, but as his ex-wife states in the film, “it was a joke.” Therefore, L.T. continued to use drugs, particularly cocaine. After years of abuse, he failed a second drug test in 1988, and the NFL suspended him for thirty days. With the fear of a career-ending third offense looming, L.T. found sobriety during his final five playing years. His life, however, did not become “easy.” It deteriorated further upon his retirement, when the former gridiron great rediscovered drugs. His wife left him the day after the Giants retired his jersey; he had a failed stint on TNT’s Sunday Night Football; he was criticized for appearing in a World Wrestling Federation match; his chain of restaurants, “LT’s,” went out of business; he was arrested numerous times; and he gave a controversial interview with CBS in which some alleged that he was intoxicated. [End Page 230]
In 1998, just days after the CBS interview, L.T. again entered rehab. He spent sixty-four days in treatment, and his life rebounded. He starred in Oliver Stone’s Any Given Sunday (1999), was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999, and appeared on the popular reality TV show Dancing with the Stars in 2009. He remarried and adopted a son, which the documentary presents as a moment of personal growth.
Yet, L.T. again found troubles. His turmoil remerged when he was accused of raping a sixteen-year-old girl. As depicted in the documentary, he admitted to having sex with a prostitute—something he says he had “done all my life”—but he argued that he...