Tuesday, November 27, 2007

R.I.P. Sean Taylor: A Sad but All Too Familiar End for an African American Athlete

The death of Sean Taylor. It’s like deja vu all over again.

About a year ago we were mourning the violent death of the Denver Broncos’ Darrent Williams, shot in a drive-by.

Ranting about this stuff seems pointless.

But it’s hard not to reflect on the upshot of it all. So many things come to mind.

Reality check:

1. Why does it ring false to me when Taylor’s teammates talk about how he “turned his life around” upon the birth of his daughter? Sorry. I became a father fairly early in life, though not as early as Taylor. Unprepared fatherhood is not a good thing. While we hope that 24-year-old men will accept with all good graces the responsibility of fatherhood, it doesn’t always happen. Just because Taylor fathered a child does not mean he’d turned his life around. Taylor was sleeping with his girlfriend—the mother of his child we presume—and his daughter was sleeping nearby, when the intruder came right into Taylor’s bedroom (so we are told). I hope that Taylor loved his daughter. But we have no evidence besides hearsay to believe that this was an optimal situation for the young athlete.

2. Taylor supporters have already responded that his past behavioral troubles, socially and with the law, should have no bearing on how we perceive his death. How naive is that? Off the field, Taylor had scrapes over drunk driving, assault and weapons possession. (This from the son of a Florida police chief.) On the field, he was fined multiple times for unnecessarily brutal hits and for spitting in the face of an opponent. Alas, Taylor’s track record is that of a thug. Sorry. That’s the fact, plain and simple. Besides which, we would be particularly naive if we ignore the track record of many other highly paid African American athletes (Pacman Jones, Tank Johnson, etc., etc.). If Taylor's past associations have nothing to do with his death, then fine. If he was truly taking life more seriously and less thuggishly, that is to his credit for sure. But it's hard to swallow easily the notion that this was strictly a random act of violence perpetrated against a wealthy man by a burglar.

3. Eight days prior to his shooting, Taylor’s home was vandalized. Supposedly, the criminals left a knife on his bed. WTF...? Okay, WHY would someone do that? It makes me think of that scene in The Godfather, when the mobsters leave a horse’s head in the bed of the Hollywood mogul. It just sounds like some weird kind of “message” thing, its significance known only to members of the brotherhood. Scary. And real weird. And totally foreign to most of us.

4. The entire shooting incident requires comprehensive investigation. Such as, like, why does Taylor keep a machete nearby in his bedroom? What was his relationship with his girlfriend? What were his financial associations? What exactly did the (as yet unnamed) girlfriend see? What did she know about his friends and enemies? Did he have a home security system? Was it in working order? If yes, why was it so easily compromised?

Too bad Taylor hurt his knee a couple of weeks ago. If he hadn’t, he’d’ve been with his teammates in Tampa, playing the Bucs. And maybe then, after the game, Taylor would’ve flown back to D.C. with the Redskins. The fortunes of fate.

Taylor’s life will now be scrutinized more closely, I suppose. Whether that will uncover the culprit(s) who killed him is another matter. The thug system has shown an amazing capacity for getting away with murder. Darrent Williams' killer has never been apprehended. The success rate for convictions in cases like this isn’t very good, mainly because African Americans don’t snitch. Al Capone and his gangland friends from the 1920s woulda been proud.

R.I.P. Sean Taylor. Your promise was deeper than your achievement.


Anonymous said...

u are a cold hearted son of a byatch .... we all have skeletons in our closet but he was a ood guy .. look at ll these ceo of comapny stealing money and they live to ejoy life and he is so young and get blown away just like them .. wen i watched sean taylor on the field i get the adrenaline rush of a good football game and the redskins fans and players loved him for that ,,, so stop the hate ,,,

Martin Brady said...

Well, I didn't see it as hate. Just a logical assessment of the situation. I never said I was glad he died. I am NOT glad he died. It's very tragic. And it turns out that he wasn't hit by "bad" brothers from the 'hood; instead—and maybe this is worse—he was hit by teen punks, one of whose brothers was dating Sean's half-sister. Believe me, it's all screwed up, the whole world. This shouldn't've happened, but it did.