One of my guilty pleasures was watching Randall Cunningham rear back and unfurl that elongated delivery of his, tossing a perfect 60-yard dart down field and hitting Fred Barnett in stride. Back then, I suffered from grandeur illusions that one day No. 12 would deliver the Eagles a Super Bowl championship. Actually, multiple Super Bowl titles. After three-consecutive playoff setbacks, that was sheared down to getting to the Super Bowl. As his years passed as an Eagle, the expectations were pared down even more to the one dwindling hope of just seeing Cunningham win a playoff game in silver and kelly green.
Today, my hopes and prayers–as well as all our hopes and prayers–are with Cunningham and his family. Reports from Las Vegas say that Cunningham’s 2-year-old son Christian accidentally drowned in a hot tub behind Cunningham’s Las Vegas home. I can’t think of more traumatic news to the ears of a parent than hearing one of their children died. Children, after all, are supposed to outlive their parents.
According to several published reports, Christian was found floating around 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon in the same hot tub in which Cunningham, who’s a pastor of Remnant Ministries in Las Vegas, performs baptisms. There were several attempts by a woman at Cunningham’s house to revive the child through CPR, but he died at St. Rose Dominican Hospital, a police officer told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Las Vegas abuse and neglect detectives were called to the scene, but Lt. Dennis Flynn told the newspaper that the drowning appears to be an accident.
Cunningham was believed to be in transit, according to Las Vegas TV station Fox5, coming from San Diego or on his way back at the time of the drowning, but other family members were present at the home. Cunningham and his wife, Felicity, have three other children: Randall II, Vashti and Grace.
Christian would have turned 3 in December.
Cunningham, 47, played for UNLV before being selected in the second round with the 37th overall pick by the Eagles in the 1985 draft. He was 63-43-1 as a starter for the Eagles, but 0-3 in playoff games for the Birds from 1988-90.
What’s happened, however, erases all the playoff disappointments. We’re talking real life here, not the fantasy world of pro sports where winning and losing really means nothing when it comes to the broader scope. All we can hope for now is that Cunningham and his family can find some solace in coping with this unspeakable tragedy.
“It appears that it’s just a complete tragedy,” Metro Lt. Dennis Flynn told Las Vegas’ Fox5. “It only takes a brief minute for someone to take their eye off the child.”
Cunningham seemed to have found tranquility with his life after football.
Noted for his amazing scrambles, Cunningham was dubbed “the Ultimate Weapon” by Sports Illustrated. His many incredible plays are indelible to Eagles’ fans. Can anyone forget the 1988 Monday Night Football game against the Giants, when New York linebacker Carl Banks bounced off Cunningham, who then hit Jimmie Giles in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown; or the 91-yard punt he booted against the Giants in 1989; or when he ducked away at the exact moment to elude All-Pro DE Bruce Smith and unleashed a bomb to Barnett for a 95-yard TD against Buffalo in 1990?
Yes, he was magical in so many ways. It’s funny how some might remember 0-3 when it comes to Cunningham’s playoff record. What we should remember instead are the years like ’90, when he rushed for 942 yards, the third-highest ever in a season for a quarterback, and 10th best overall in the NFL that season. What we should remember was the edge-of-the seat tightrope walk he kept us all on each time he dropped back to pass.
He was an icon. From the way he threw, to his uncanny scrambles, Cunningham was an icon–someone genuinely fun to watch, as opposed to the mundane guy that most currently held that position for the Eagles.
It was good to see Cunningham finally get off the O-fer playoff snide with the Minnesota Vikings. He’s arguable a Hall of Famer, if you look at his complete body of work.
But this supersedes everything. When I heard the sad news about Cunningham’s son, I wasn’t thinking of his stats or his unbelievable escapes. I empathized with what this man must be going through. How I hope Cunningham’s deeply rooted religious faith buoys him. No parent should have to endure what Cunningham is regrettably going through–the loss of a child, especially one so young and vibrant, as it sounds like Christian was.
What we should fondly recall is the immensely talented QB, probably the most exciting player in Eagles’ history, who gave us all joy. What we hope is for No. 12 to be able to again find some joy in his own life after this sad episode.