Sean Taylor: A Football Life will air tomorrow night on the NFL Network, and will chronicle the life and death of Taylor, who was fatally shot by burglars during a home invasion on Nov. 26, 2007. There is no better time—though there is no bad time—to remind you of the sneering and altogether shitheaded way that Michael Wilbon and Colin Cowherd reacted to Taylor's death.
Wilbon, in an online chat on Nov. 26, 2007, while Taylor lay in critical condition:
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.
The ones who do have a hard time leaving the "streets" struggle because it's leaving home.
Some, increasingly, romanticize it, or are addicted to it, or find it irresistible. ... Some take awhile to divorce themselves from it ... think Allen Iverson, who after years of living dangerously, seems pretty far removed from that life now. Everybody's circumstance is different. But it always seemed to me that Sean Taylor loves his life and the way he's living and has no instinct to change...
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?
Wilbon, in the Washington Post on Nov. 28, 2007, after Taylor had died:
I wasn't surprised in the least when I heard the news Monday morning that Sean Taylor had been shot in his home by an intruder. Angry? Yes. Surprised? Not even a little. It was only in June 2006 that Taylor, originally charged with a felony, pleaded no contest to assault and battery charges after brandishing a gun during a battle over who took his all-terrain vehicles in Florida. After that, an angry crew pulled up on Taylor and his boys and pumped at least 15 bullets into his sport-utility vehicle. So why would anybody be surprised? Had it been Shawn Springs, I would have been stunned. But not Sean Taylor.
Coincidence? We have no idea, not yet anyway. Could have been a random act, a break-in, something that happens every day in America, something that could happen to any one of us no matter how safe we think our neighborhood is. Could have been just that. But would it surprise me if it was more than that, if there was a distinct reason Taylor was sleeping with a machete under his bed? A machete. Even though his attorney and friend Richard Sharpstein says his instincts tell him "this was not a murder or a hit," would it stun me if Taylor was specifically targeted? Not one bit.
Cowherd, on ESPN Radio on Nov. 28, 2007:
Sean Taylor, great player has a history of really really bad judgment, really really bad judgment. Cops, assault, spitting, DUI. I'm supposed to believe his judgment got significantly better in two years, from horrible to fantastic? "But Colin, he cleaned up his act." Well yeah, just because you clean the rug doesn't mean you got everything out. Sometimes you've got stains, stuff so deep it never ever leaves.
My gut feeling with this story, and we said yesterday, yesterday was not really a day to go out, yesterday was sort of a day, you know, grieving, but we're past the memorial part. It's grown-up time, ask yourself realistic questions....Just because somebody cleans the rugs doesn't mean there aren't stains. No matter what those commercials, OxiClean, tell you on cable TV, some stains you can't get out. And if you have bad judgment for 23 years of your life, even if you clean it up, your judgment doesn't get great over night.
Cowherd, on ESPN Radio on Nov. 29, 2007:
No, all the information's not in [on whether Taylor's murder was random]. But I feel pretty confident that my gut feeling, like any of yours, by the way, is right and was right.
That is how you blame a man for his own murder, and it's even more disturbing because it's no aberration. A young black man (maybe he has a criminal record, or maybe he just grew up in a rough neighborhood) dies by violence? There's a large segment of the population whose immediate instinct is to believe he had it coming, to reject the null hypothesis out of hand. Cowherd has made a career of this sort of race-baiting; Wilbon is simply a terrible person.
It would come out that Taylor's death was completely random—a burglary botched when the robbers unexpectedly found Taylor asleep in his bed. Five men were arrested; three have been convicted, while two have yet to stand trial.
Taylor's girlfriend testified in the trial of the gunman, who was 17 when he committed the crime and eventually sentenced to 57 ½ years in prison. Her description of Taylor's murder is very tough to read; I wonder if Wilbon or Cowherd have read it.
Erik Powers, the NFL Network producer behind Sean Taylor: A Football Life, published a blog post yesterday in which he described the effort that went into the making of the documentary. Powers says he requested interviews with 28 people. Forty-one ended up speaking, because they were intensely eager to share their memories of Taylor.
Wilbon and Cowherd were the only two people who declined to be interviewed.