November 27, 2007

Sean Taylor Perspective and Racial Subtext

This morning I've had the opportunity to read various news accounts of Sean Taylor's passing. In addition, I subjected myself to Baltimore's ESPN radio on the way into work.

Obviously, Redskins Radio is putting this in the appropriate perspective. The fans and team loved Sean Taylor, and for different reasons. The teammates actually knew him, and loved him. The fans knew almost nothing about him outside of his play on the field, and they loved him. That combination makes his thus far inexplicable death even more painful. The fans know they were right to like him, because the people close to him did too.

Mike Wilbon spoke eloquently on Redskins Radio about how he wasn't shocked when he learned that Sean Taylor had been shot. He referred to Len Bias as the moment when sports fans, at least in the D.C. and Boston areas, realized that their sports idols were mortal. He also agreed that in the post-O.J. world, we cannot assume we know anything about our idols. For me, that was hammered home by Ray Lewis' murder indictment.

Mark Viviano of Baltimore's ESPN 1300 is upset that Sean Taylor, as a single violent crime victim, is getting so much attention. In Baltimore, this point plays well considering how many murders the city has seen this year. In addition, Viviano's own father was murdered in his taxi cab in the mid-1970's. I disagree. I think any crime that draws attention to how fucked up things are in certain parts of the country is worthy of examination.

I worry that many people outside of D.C. and Miami will see this far too superficially. What's that? A young black athlete was involved in a shooting? Ok. Next story. The truth is that Sean's race, at least from what we know presently, had nothing to do with this. He was doing exactly what he was supposed to be doing. He was not only home on a Sunday night at 1:45 a.m., he was ASLEEP in his own bed, next to his girlfriend and their infant child. Darrent Williams and Joey Porter, though both apparently innocent shooting victims, were at least out late at night at clubs. This headline could have just as easily been "Tom Brady Shot in Apparent Home Invasion". I imagine the national reaction would be slightly different.

My personal take on this is that I hope there is something more to it. I do not want to accept that Sean Taylor was the random victim of a burglary/robbery attempt that went wrong. I don't want to think that suburban Miami neighborhoods have prowling thieves who carry drawn weapons and shoot at the first sight of a homeowner prepared to defend himself. If you set aside insanity, people murder for love and money. Since no money or valuables were taken 8 days ago when Taylor's house was ransacked, I have to think that only leaves indirect money (inheritance, life insurance, interference with a criminal enterprise, revenge) and love. If the two break-ins turn out to be unrelated, I might consider moving to Alberta.

2 Responses:

"ben" said...

There isn't nationwide mourning over this because as good a player as Sean Taylor was, he wasn't already Canton-bound or anything like that, and he didn't play a glamour position. I don't think the blas矇 reaction is a result of his race.

However, to suggest, as Viviano did, that this story deserves no more attention than any other homicide, is an idiot. Taylor's death has more of a far-reaching impact than an unknown person does. People want to know about it and should know about it.

Also, break-ins and murders in wealthy neighborhoods often result in greater media coverage, because they happen less often than murders in the inner-city.

I know I'm just stating the obvious, but Viviano appears to not realize any of it.

James Diggs said...

Thanks for your thoughtful post. My thoughts and prayers are with Sean Taylor's family and friends and the Redskins organization.



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