But what of those facts? Not of the shooting; those surrounding Taylor's life. Isn't there something to be said of the fact that Taylor's last few years have been a bit troubling on the "getting his name in the blotter" tip, even by the standards of the NFL? This guy's name has been linked with gun violence on multiple occasions, both as victim and perpetrator. This isn't to say he's a murderer or a gangster; it's just to say that the search "Sean Taylor+guns" would come up with a few more hits than "Bob Sanders+guns."
Mike Wilbon thought Taylor's backstory was relevant. Here's what he said during a chat, yesterday:
McLean, Va.: Will your opinion of Taylor change if this does not turn out to be a random incident (e.g. home invasion)?Unsurprisingly, Wilbon's catching some blowback. From Chris Mottram's Mr. Irrelevant:
Michael Wilbon: No ... people's opinions are shaped by the way they've grown up, the way they see the world, what they know about the world the person in question grew up in, etc. Sean Taylor isn't the only guy I know who fits his general profile. I've known guys like Taylor all my life, grew up with some. They still have shades of gray and shouldn't be painted in black and white...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.
This is ridiculous on so many levels, but the worst part is that it sounds an awful lot like Wilbon is suggesting Taylor had this coming. Sure, Taylor’s had some troubles in the past, but that’s like suggesting the slutty girl from high school deserved to be raped. See, the way it works is that crimes are not the fault of the victims.Listen, I don't have an axe to grind with either of these guys, and I can see where Mottram's coming from. Wilbon's comments do seem a little chilly, especially now that we know the guy ended up dying.
We're supposed to be nice to the dead and dying, and "concern" ourselves more with that person getting better or ascending swiftly to the pre-assigned level of heaven in times like these. We tend to wait at least two weeks before suggesting anything negative about the deceased, and even then you must chase any statement with, "... may god rest his/her soul." It's proper form. It's also bullshit.
It's not Wilbon's or Mottram's job to comfort the family of the dead, folks. Reporters and columnists are there to let us know what the news is, and sometimes what their opinion of the news is. And Taylor's death is a sufficiently big story that people are allowed to call it like they see it. That's what Wilbon did. Taylor's been in trouble, and a good percentage of those situations involved guns. No, he wasn't Tupac, but it's so totally not surprising that he got shot. To say otherwise is disingenuous.
I also don't think that Wilbon — or anyone who cares to mention Taylor's history and the possibility that there's a connection — is saying Taylor "had it coming," an expression that implies the person deserved it. No one has a fucking bullet to the groin "coming to them." But to borrow Mottram's rape analogy, you needn't suggest the slut deserved to get raped to point out that sluts are more likely to get raped than girls who are in bed by 10 p.m.
I'm really wondering if Wilbon's going to be the only one to point out the obvious: That, despite alleged attempts to improve his life — and I love how everyone has taken statements to this effect as gospel — Taylor's past almost certainly came back to haunt him. We may not really understand (yet) what Taylor's past involves in whole, but a few well-publicized incidents give us an idea. A couple of years ago, he stuck a gun in the face of someone he had just beaten up over a stolen SUV, and subsequently was the reason someone went NYPD on a friend's truck during a drive-by. And from the scraps of information coming through about recent events, Taylor had reason to believe he was still a target, especially considering that a little more than a week ago someone broke into his house and left a fucking knife on his pillow. This shooting was not the product of some casual disdain, or a desire to separate Taylor from his wealth. Someone wanted him dead, or seriously fucked up, and dedicated no small amount of thought and effort to achieving that end. Murder like this doesn't happen by accident; at some point, Taylor or a close associate initiated a chain of events that led to yesterday's murder. You don't need to be McNulty to figure this stuff out.
However, I have a sneaking suspicion that outside of a few glancing blows like this one, we're not going to see anything substantive on this until REAL Sports or another investigative (and non-print) outlet decides to tackle the "Athletes and Gun Violence" story again, maybe even with a new perspective. But, like the Brian Pata/Darrent Williams situations proved, even the hardest-hitting outlets are loathe to dig into what it is that these young men did that made their murder such a priority for someone. Maybe one of them was a "senseless" killing — the more we hear about the Williams slaying, the more it sounds like he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time — but it's not possible that they all were. Pata was executed, and Taylor was stalked before being executed. Pata and Taylor did something to inspire these killings. If you're going to report the story, you need to be willing to address that issue. That is the story.
The fact that he responded to his SUV being stolen by hunting down some guy, beating the living shit out of him, and then putting a gun in his face tells us something about Sean Taylor's character. You don't brandish weapons in the process of disputes unless deadly weapons — and the violence associated with them — are a central motif in your life. The only way we can insult Taylor's memory is to accuse him of being stupid enough — after growing up in a Florida inner city — to think that he could simply walk away from that kind of past without it catching up to him at some point.
It is unfortunate that Sean Taylor is dead. It's tragic that his infant daughter will grow up without a father. I feel for everyone involved in his life, many of whom are not only dealing with grief but the kind of anxiety that springs from someone your age dying. And I certainly don't believe that Sean Taylor deserved to be murdered. No one deserves to be killed; murder always represents the grandest of injustices. I hope his killer(s) are found, prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and never allowed to take the life of someone's son, brother and father. Who wouldn't share those sentiments?
But I, like Wilbon, am not surprised by Taylor's death in the least. I don't believe it's an inexplicable tragedy; it's merely a tragedy, and further proof to anyone dense enough to still need it that if you're willing to point a gun at someone else, there's a strong likelihood that you will find yourself at the other end of one at some point. Whoever killed Taylor that night did so not only armed with a gun, but what he felt was reason enough to use it. And to pretend that's not the case is to willfully ignore that which is right in front of your face.