This has been a tough week that's only been getting tougher. I'm a huge Redskins fan and Sean Taylor's death hurts. No I didn't know him, never met him. As a Virginia Tech fan, and because of UM's incredible teams when he was there, I'd seen him play quite a bit in college. He was part of all the excitement of Gibbs' return to coaching. He was an incredible athlete who could run and hit with the best of them. He was fun to watch and he gave it his all on the field. As With Leather put it, "I don't think Taylor understood not trying, and that's why NFL fans -- not to mention the Taylor family -- have lost something special. " That's why this all sucks. Sean Taylor was special. He was having a break out season that showed what an athletic freak he was and disciplined football player he'd become. He didn't understand not trying which is all fans want from athletes. Everyone on the team loved him. Just go read quote after quote from players and coaches. Gregg Williams could barely hold it together, Pierson Prioleau couldn't speak to reporters, Reed Doughty broke down mid-question, Snyder was so subdued in the press conference and looked absolutely devastated, it keeps going. This guy was a great football player, a great teammate, and a great person. I've gotten choked up quite a few times the past couple days, especially when someone at Extreme Skins directed people to the Cowboys' message board. Fans, coaches, and players around the league have all been supportive and it's one of the things that I think makes sports so special because we can put our "hatred" for the other team aside when something real happens.
But, as with everything, some people are fucks and there's no other way to say it.
The worst, and he's been lambasted all around DC, has been the Washington Post's own Michael Wilbon. He's been in DC longer than Sean Taylor so he has no excuse for being so wrong and out of touch here. He and Kornheiser are the two highest profile sports writers in the DC area but you'd think he was some morning sports radio talk show host with his ignorant comments (that he stands behind). Monday, before Taylor had passed away, Wilbon said in a WP chat:
I know how I feel about Taylor, and this latest news isn’t surprising in the least, not to me. Whether this incident is or isn’t random, Taylor grew up in a violent world, embraced it, claimed it, loved to run in it and refused to divorce himself from it. He ain’t the first and won’t be the last. We have no idea what happened, or if what we know now will be revised later. It’s sad, yes, but hardly surprising.As Chris Mottram at Mr. Irrelevant said, Wilbon sounds like he's saying Taylor had this coming. What it also shows is absolutely no shred of truth. The only violence Taylor embraced in any way was on the football field. Everything, EVERYTHING, about him has been that, between his daughter's birth and his no contest plea to misdemeanor assault 18 months ago, Taylor was a changed man. He moved his fiancee and daughter to a nice, safe neighborhood where, as his next door neighbor said in the Miami paper, they never had any problems there. As another blog noted, he had a machete for protection instead of a gun in following his probation (unlike say Tank Johnson). "Refused to divorce himself from it"? Bullshit. Then, Tuesday night on Sportscenter, that exact quote was brought up to Wilbon and he again said he believed and backed what he said 100%. Again, bullshit. That is out and out bullshit and you are a DC sports writer who should know better. Later, Wilbon had this exchange:
Columbia, Md.: What makes you think that Taylor was still embracing his old ways? Everything we have heard from the Redskins and Portis is that this is a new Sean. Apparently the birth of his child really helped to straighten him out. Is this contrary to what you know?
Michael Wilbon: Sorry, but I'm not in the habit of having companies with their own public relations agenda tell me about black men and what they feel or don't feel. Pardon me if I'm not that easy.
So Wilbon's not in the habit of having others tell you how Taylor felt? So then he must have talked to Taylor right? Wilbon knows exactly who Taylor was through interviews with him and family members, obviously no one from the Redskins like Clinton Portis (a black man) who said this:
"Ever since Sean had his little girl, it was like a new Sean. He was always smiling, always happy, always talking about his child. It was good to see Sean walk by smiling."Portis obviously got that line and others from the Skins' PR Dept. How does Wilbon know better than Taylor's best friend, his teammates, his coaches? He doesn't and he's full of shit. Still later he adds:
Again, I'm not the least bit surprised about the Taylor episode ... why would I be considering his history, even since he joined the Redskins?But you didn't consider his history since joining the Redskins. You looked at accusations which were dismissed from 2 or more years ago. You saw a DUI which a judge tossed out because he had passed the field sobriety test and assault charges that had no evidence, were dropped and led to a no contest plea to a misdemeanor and probation. What about his recent history? What about what EVERYONE WHO KNOWS HIM (unlike you) is saying? Mr. Irrelevant is right, there's a special place in Hell waiting for you if that's how you treat this and other situations.
You know what else has nothing to do with anything that happened in Miami? The 7 late hits Taylor has been fined for in 3 and a half seasons. But ESPN keeps including that stat with everything else (which is the only reason I know it) as if that had a role in Taylor's slaying. Maybe this is kind of nitpicky but if something happened to Roy Williams, John Lynch, Brian Dawkins, or Brian Urlacher or even say Kimo von Oelhoffen for his hit on Carson Palmer would late hits be an issue? Why can't the media show Taylor's turn around and how he was getting everything right in his life? This growth and maturing is part of why Redskins fans are taking it so hard.
David Steele's excellent read from Tuesday morning highlighted more concerns. Shrutebag and some other (different show) talk radio host were busy saying he was gunned down because he wasn't a good guy like Tiki or Tom Brady and that he's no different from Pacman Jones or Tank Johnson (to be fair to Tank my opinion of him has softened following the ESPN the Mag article). Apparently Tiki and Tom don't have to worry about home invasion and Sean Taylor was signed up for the next Wrestlemania while he rehabbed his knee. Why can't they focus on the good, at least when he's only been gone for a couple hours? And why all the focus on the negatives which you then wish to misrepresent? Everyone's pulling a Peter King here and saying, "We don't know what happened...buuuuut can we be surprised/he had this coming/he's a thug."
How about we start with the good, and if later it turns out he bears some responsibility for what happened we talk about it then, you know, more than 12 hours after he died? Is that too much to ask? There's plenty of positives to talk about between his play on the field, his work for charities, his work with fans and kids, the money he's donated to charities and places like his high school (where again, he went and talked with the kids there). Did he make some mistakes when he first got into the league? Yes. Did he learn from them? YES! He needs to be trumpeted as the model for what Pacman and Vick needed to do. Move away from rough neighborhoods and get rid of friends who will get you mixed up in trouble. Here's the poster boy of what you need to do and all the media wants to say is, "No you can't change, you're that way forever, you're a thug, a lowlife, a trouble-maker, and if you get shot? You're own damn fault." That's fucked up.
There's a reason DC and Miami are so torn up about all of this. And a lot of the fans around the league see it and know why. Sean Taylor was a man who was good at his job, that his co-workers respected and loved, and that anyone would be proud to call a friend. Why can't the media talk about that?