Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Update: Michael Vick

Our friend and favorite Washington Post columnist, Michael Wilbon, isn't surprised again (he wasn't surprised, either, when he first learned that Sean Taylor had been shot), this time about the length of Michael Vick's sentence (see item below).
Wilbon writes that Vick repeatedly lied throughout the criminal investigation and that it was highly unlikely that he was going to get a shorter sentence than his partners in the crime.
Like Wilbon and fellow Post sports writer Len Shapiro (who will speak to our Sports Writing and Reporting class this spring about his Taylor column), I have to admit that I wasn't surprised at first about Taylor's untimely and unfortunate death based on my own limited knowledge of the man. In retrospect, my sense of Taylor has changed, although I found the Post coverage excessive.
Shapiro, who is white, has been castigated in the media over expressing his lack of surprise when he learned Taylor had been shot. Wilbon, who is black, has escaped similar criticism.
So I ask: What was YOUR reaction when you FIRST heard about Taylor? Were you surprised it was Taylor? Shapiro will be addressing it in class. But we can address the subject here and now.


The Raven said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Raven said...

How can someone not be shocked when someone gets shot? He may have had a checkered past, he may not have hung out with the right crowd, but when a 24 year old gets shot and killed as a result of the lifestyle, we should all be MORE shocked than ever.
I was more surprised by the incessant hero worship that came after his killing. I understand that he attempted to turn his life around, but again, he still had a checkered past. We should not hold him up on a pedestal and proclaim his heroic status. We should treat this for what it is: a young, talented professional football player who had a bright future and looked to get away from his past, only to have it creep back into his life and ruin it. It should be a cautionary tale for all athletes. Unfortunately, it won't be.

Dave Maiocco said...

Sadly, no, I wasn't at all surprised to hear the news that Sean Taylor was shot.

With SportsCenter seemingly needing a police blotter section each night, as a society I think we're all a bit desensitized to this sort of thing.

There have been several high-profile home invasions. For this to have happened just isn't that shocking. Unfortunately, early in his career Sean Taylor's name popped up in a negative way far too often. When it happened one more time, no it wasn't a surprise at all. The question that resounded in my mind was, if he was trying to distance himself from the old crowd etc, what was he doing still in Miami?

Personal living choices aside, look at how much trouble the biggest sports stars get into: Football - Michael Vick, Basketball - Kobe Bryant, Baseball - Barry Bonds, Hockey - Wayne Gretzky, et al.

Outside of the DC area, Sean Taylor was really a secondary star at best. The fact someone who had made the police blotter section of the sports news report multiple times in the past made it there once again wasn't shocking at all. Yes, it was a senseless act of violence, and he was in his own home. However, no, this was not surprising at all. It has very little to due with color though. With athletes being such targets, I'm not so sure I'd be any more or less shocked had Peyton Manning's name been attached to the story.

The combination of the negative things we've come to expect of our sports stars, and how high-profile they are as targets, makes this seem far more common than we'd all care to admit. Until on-field issues make the biggest sports headlines, it's likely to stay that way.

Phil Murphy said...

I have to confess that when Redskin safety Sean Taylor was shot, I was saddened but not surprised by his passing. I attested it to a checkered past and, although murder can never be classified as just desserts, I simply shook my head and brushed off the news as the garbage taking itself out. It was not a position I was proud of, but that was my initial reaction.

I withheld my sympathy.

However, as information associated with the shooting was disseminated, it became clear that Taylor was not caught in the crossfire of a gun or drug war. He was innocent victim, gunned down in the sanctity of his own home with his soon-to-be wife and daughter just feet away. What I originally categorized as the reaping of shameful sewn behavior evolved, in my mind, into the true tragedy that it was.

I cannot admonish the reactions of Len Shapiro and Michael Wilbon to the news of Taylor's murder as I felt precisely the same sentiment. The double standard with which the rest of the national media reacted to the comments of Shapiro and Wilbon has become commonplace in issues that become racial, whether they are intended to or not (see OJ Simpson murder trial and, to a degree, Michael Vick). Shapiro's comments had nothing to do with the color of Taylor's skin, but the content of his character—and his past.

Neither Shapiro nor Wilbon deserves to be chastised for their comments. And misdirected blame ought not supersede the tragedy, no matter how late appropriate recognition of the nature of Sean Taylor's death may be.

Mike Coppinger said...

I disagree wholeheartedly, as an avid Redskins fan and washington post reader, Michael Wilbon was greatly criticized for his comments regarding the murder of Sean Taylor.

In fact, on the official message board of the Washington Redskins, I think he was criticized more so than Leonard Shapiro. I think Wilbon, after learning the circumstances of this tragedy, should have retracted his statements and went tongue-in-cheek.