The passing of Sean Taylor was a pretty surreal moment for me. I went to bed on Monday evening, probably like many of us, thinking that he would be okay. The coverage on Washington, DC’s Comcast Sports after the Wizards-Mavericks game seemed to indicate that the positive signs shown from Taylor meant that recovery was imminent. Part of my morning alarm routine involves my bathroom television coming on at a certain time, to coincide with my blackberry alarm. On most days, except for after Redskins losses because I want a little separation from the sports world, the station is tuned to ESPN 2 for the Mike & Mike In The Morning broadcast. Today, Tuesday November 27th, I woke up to the sentence that Sean Taylor had died about an hour earlier that morning. Yes, a surreal moment. Yet, I can’t begin to imagine how shocking the news of his death was for family, friends, teammates, coaches, the entire Washington Redskins organization, and anyone who ever had personal contact with Sean Taylor. When I first heard of the incident on Monday morning, the shooting itself, I was taken back a little, but casually figured that Sean Taylor would survive.
The thing is, I wasn’t even shocked that Taylor was shot in the first place. And I can’t pin-point the exact reason for this feeling. Even Michael Wilbon, in one of the several versions of Pardon the Interruption leading up to Monday Night Football, said that he was not surprised when he heard about the shooting. I’d be willing to bet that this was the case for many of us, but why?
The very first Washington Post online story released around 11:26 am on Monday, November 26th could not yet provide any details outside of the fact that Taylor had been shot in his home, and that he’d been air-lifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital. The article went on to give a brief account of Taylor’s time with the Redskins, along with the fact that he grew up in south Florida, the son of a police chief. Then followed the run down of Taylor’s troubles since he entered the NFL, including the ATV assault incident, the suspicion of drunken driving, the skipping of off-season workouts, the absence from the NFL mandatory rookie symposium, and the spitting in the face of Michael Pittman.
In an email chain among friends, my boy Chris expressed his displeasure at the simple fact that the article mentioned Taylor’s previous run-ins with authority:
“…instead of coming at us with actual details, they write an article about Sean Taylor’s several previous run-ins with law enforcement, as well as his incidents with the team. I guess getting shot and taken to the hospital by a policeman counts as a ‘run-in’ with the law in the same way that being suspected of having a DUI does. I’m not saying Taylor is a saint…but this article is absolutely ridiculous. It’s as if they are saying, Taylor was shot but he is a thug and he probably did something to bring it on…in other words: despite knowing only that he was shot in his own home, he is not an innocent victim. Shame on the Post.”
Now, we still do not have many details from this incident, this murder. What we’ve been told so far: Taylor, sleeping with his girlfriend and 18-month old daughter, awoke to noises in his living room. He proceeded to grab a machete under his bed, where his girlfriend remained, protecting their daughter. It’s unclear how the confrontation developed with the one, or more, intruders from there…whether it was Taylor who opened his bedroom door, or if the intruders came inside the room themselves. The girlfriend’s account says that someone broke through the bedroom door. In any case, two shots were fired, one of which hit Taylor in the femoral artery in the upper thigh near his groin. Taylor’s, girlfriend, or fiancée, attempted to dial 911 using the house line, but discovered that it had been cut, so she used her cell phone. Currently, the police do not have any suspects in custody.
I understand that the news of Sean Taylor’s death is still fresh and that all of us are still trying to digest. But the details, or lack there-of, are very curious and hard for me not to ponder. On the Comcast’s pre-Wizards game report yesterday evening, Kelli Johnson, who was described as having a close media relationship with Taylor, who in turn, at times had an aloof relationship with the media in general, made a point to say that there were no guns, nor an alarm system in the Taylor house in Palmetto Bay. Also, consider the fact that there was a break-in at the same household 8 days before where someone had gotten into the house through a front window, left signs of rummaging through draws in Taylor’s room, signs of attempting to break into a safe, and left a kitchen knife on the bed of Taylor’s sister. Taylor was excused from some team functions/meetings in order to tend to matters related to this attempted burglary.
Are these two incidents related? Was Sean Taylor a target? Could he perhaps have known the shooter? Why weren’t more precautions taken? Without further knowledge, we can all easily make assumptions on a number of contingencies. One conclusion that we can come to, however, is that professional athletes must be aware of the unfortunate consequences of their profession. No longer can just taking precautions in public be the minimum. If the two separate incidents of NBA players Antoine Walker and Eddy Curry both being duct taped and robbed in their Chicago homes this past summer didn’t raise enough eyebrows, th
is should. And hopefully, being aware will involve professional athletes lowering their profile and using their riches to upgrade their homes with state of the art security systems and not the purchase of guns for defense. Although, could we blame them if they do? Here is a link to an interesting article entitled, “Athletes and Guns” written by John Lott, Jr. for Fox News in January 2004. This article also mentions other NFL player home robbery incidents such as:
- 2004: Corey Fuller, then of the Baltimore Ravens, was confronted outside his Tallahassee, Florida home by two armed robbers. He was actually able to take the gun from one attacker and fire at them as they fled.
- 2001: Will Allen, then with the New York Giants, was doused with gasoline and robbed at his home.
- 1996-2004: Yancey Thigpen, who played with the Chargers, Steelers, and Oilers/Titans, was involved in three armed robberies, one of which was a car-jacking, and one which left him and his fiancée tied up while their 2-month old daughter was locked in a closet.
We are all aware of Sean Taylor’s troubled past. But by all accounts, he had turned a corner. The presence of a daughter in his life had started to make him more mature, had made him closer to a man of responsibility. His teammates loved him, as he was part of their leadership group this season. At face value, the death of Sean Taylor is a classic Greek Tragedy, even more so if it turns out that this was not a case of his past catching up to him, rather, him being a target as result of the money he made from his natural talent. Whichever way the details of the murder of Sean Taylor unfold, if they ever do, Taylor was a victim of circumstance. Sean Taylor will be missed on many accounts outside of football. May his soul rest in peace.