Rethinking How We Look Back at Sean Taylor

Sean Taylor, the late safety of the Washington Redskins, is going to get his name and number enshrined in the Redskins’ Ring of Honor at FedEx Field. Other players on the ring include Joe Theisman, John Riggins, Darrell Green, Sammy Baugh and Joe Gibbs. There are forty-three individuals on the ring including coaches, players and others contributing to the team.

It is undeniable that Taylor’s death and the circumstances surrounding it were a legitimate tragedy. And I understand that the Redskins want to honor their fallen player around the anniversary of his slaying. But I just don’t think putting him in the Ring of Honor is appropriate. Here’s why:

Sean Taylor was a good player, for sure, but he wasn’t great. Unfortunately he never was given the chance to be great, but the fact remains, he was not a marquee player. He did make the Pro Bowl and was emerging as a real defensive force, but mostly his time with the Redskins was served by drawing fines, penalties and producing questionable behavior on and off the field. It’s true that with the birth of his daughter, Taylor rededicated his life to living within the laws governing his sport and this country, but he was slain before he could truly show his improvement to the larger world.

I’m afraid Taylor is getting the treatment given others who died far too young. Some examples include Kurt Cobain, Buddy Holly, Jimi Hendrix, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., Bobby Kennedy, etc. The list could go on and on. This is not meant to criticize those listed, especially those whose lives were taken. But the point is that all of these men were very important in their time, some of them monumentally so. But we never got to see them get old. We never saw them put out a bad record. Lose an election. Say something stupid. Because their lives ended too soon, we canonize them and ignore any possible negative associations.

Again, I understand the reasons for this phenomenon but that doesn’t make it completely right. I think it’s very important to talk about Sean Taylor’s legacy, the good things he did and use him as an example going forward for professional athletes. I think there should be (if there aren’t already) foundations in his name that can help contribute to the Washington, DC community as he himself did before his untimely passing. But I don’t think the Redskins should honor him as one of the great members of the organization’s history. It is a long and storied franchise with many great heroes and star players. Sean Taylor never was one of them. Maybe he would’ve been one day but we can’t speculate on that. Maybe he would’ve taken a free agent offer at the end of his contract and signed with the Cowboys. I would imagine, had that happened, there would never have been a discussion about his name and any ring of honor.

Let’s remember Sean Taylor for being a good player. A guy who was turning his life around and who was contributing to his communities. But can we please keep some perspective. Pat Tillman is one thing, Sean Taylor is quite another.

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2 Responses to Rethinking How We Look Back at Sean Taylor

  1. K-man says:

    At first glance, I agreed with you. And then a second later, I disagreed with you (and myself).

    Now, I’m back to agreeing with you. I think it’s fine to be included in the Ring if the other members were inducted for various reasons. However, since all of the members were brought into the Ring solely on football-related achievements, I don’t think it’s fitting that Sean Taylor to be included.

    They should do something else, something more appropriate for him and in his name but then again, it’s their Ring of Honor.

  2. mao says:

    Yeah, it’s their Ring of Honor, so obviously they’re free to do whatever they like. But I’d rather them have a permanent decal or sleeve thing instead, like the Bears (George Halas) and Browns (Al Lerner) do.

    Here are links:
    Bears: http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2420/2149811654_63dde0f383_o.jpg
    Browns: http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2358/2149898650_edfd686c65.jpg?v=0

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