Saturday, December 1, 2007

Jesus Plays Sports: Death of Sean Taylor Coverage

I label posts "Jesus Plays Sports" when some of my analysis is from a Christian perspective. That way if you don't like that, you know and can skip the post.

By now every blogger has written their “It was wrong for Shapiro, Wilbon, etc. to judge Sean Taylor” column, and all I have to add is AGREED. (I apologize that I'm not linking to all of the excellent columns: Modi, fast becoming a personal blog fav, has a list at , and D-Wil is keeping the updates coming as well. Check Redskins fan blogger sites as well.) I have new details on it below, but let me quickly touch on something regarding the bad coverage. It was not bad coverage just because some people passed judgment on Sean. I do NOT think judging people is wrong. “Do not judge, lest you be judged” is a Bible passage quoted out of its context. If we never carefully considered a person’s actions and made decisions on them, nothing would ever get done in this world. We’d be in a paralysis of analysis, too fearful of offending to ever do anything.

No, I much prefer to quote Jesus’s other, lesser-quoted statement on judging: “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.” Judgment should be done, but only after a sincere, time-consuming attempt to get at the truth and go deeper than the surface. Sean Taylor, although extremely violent on the football field (as are, say, John Lynch, Warren Sapp, etc.), was never tied to instigating violence without cause off the football field. For that and other reasons below, Shapiro, Wilbon, etc., were wrong to judge him. But the very act of judging, itself, is not incorrect.

A few things that haven’t been noted yet in the coverage I read:
The kitchen knife left on the bed a week before the shooting has been seen as some sort of revenge warning. Wrong. If that were true, the assailants would have gunned down Sean’s family as well, so there would be no witnesses, and put an insurance bullet in his brain. What I am about to say is pure speculation, but I think it fits the facts fairly well and does not slander the dead or living. I suspect that the knife was there because the robbers found a safe in the bedroom, and tried to pry it open with the knife. Failing, they decided to return the next week with safe-opening tools to that very bedroom. However, what they didn’t bargain on was that the bed would not be empty, but instead have Sean Taylor in it.

Sean Taylor had a poor relationship with the media in DC, and that might be why his own hometown columnists were so hard on him. How poor? Let’s turn to Dan Steinberg’s past blogs (I use Dan because he hasn't been accused of being too hard or soft on Sean) on Sean Taylor:

Sean Taylor cancelled 4 scheduled press conferences in 6 days at training camp, and said he’d “never” speak to the media.

Sean Taylor made a habit of being unresponsive to the media or being rude. As Dan says when trying to get a quote from him, "Anyhow, I asked another scribe why no one was approaching Taylor, and he explained that people have pretty much given up. Sometimes you'll get a grunt in reply to a question, sometimes he'll merely walk past you and not speak."

Thus, the media tended to define him by the gun incident (scroll down, and yes Dan Steinberg is being light-hearted, just making a point about how little there was to say about Sean outside his hard hits and gun incident).

I hope the DC media didn't let this affect their coverage of his death, but I wonder.

Shot in your own home, in the middle of the night, surrounded by family, has to be a top 5 nightmare for many of us men. That's why so many of us took note of the death of a human being we had never met before. I understand Lozo's point that many people die daily and tragically (scroll down to Tuesday, November 27th). He made good points about celebrity worship. EDIT: I removed a part here if you came here earlier. END EDIT. In addition, it's of little consolation to the dead person exactly how they died; dead is dead. But for me personally, any sympathy is not about Taylor the football player. This is about Taylor, the man in his 20's, supposedly in the prime of life as many of us are, treated like a shooting target in his own home in front of his family. I don't live in Baghdad, trim trees, deliver pizza, or do any of the other things Lozo's death examples were doing, so I can't empathize as much. But I do go to my bed every night, pull the covers over my head, and hope that I wake up in the morning...and that's what Sean Taylor did last Sunday.


  1. Wow, so many development since I last read about him! I have to check the newspapers!

  2. I hope you had a nice sabbatical. Welcome back, holmes...

  3. Not to get too theological, but I think there's a different context to put "Judge not, lest ye be judged." It means something akin to another Jesus maxim: before removing the speck from your neighbor's eye, remove the log from your own. Don't judge, because you've got your own sins to worry about.

    Parallel it to one of my favorite of Jesus' parables: the king who forgives a servant a large debt, but then that servant goes and demands a tiny debt from another servant. The king gets mad, basically saying, "Hey, I forgave you a massive debt. Why wouldn't you forgive a small debt?"

    So I don't think the focus is "Make the right judgment," but rather "Look to your own sins before judging, and know that as you are forgiven for your sins, you should forgive others for theirs.

  4. I love the caveat to this post! ha

  5. MC, thanks for the words. I think that the sad thing here is how the media punishes players for not engaging with them. obviously the Taylor coverage is the new low of lows with no room to go lower.

    but for years Patrick Ewing got a media beatdown for the simple fact that he is a private quiet guy...