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Colin Cowherd on Sean Taylor

"Herd" = independent thinking, yeah?

One of the dominant questions sports opinion types have grappled with this week is this: Was Sean Taylor's death a surprise. Famously, Michael Wilbon and Len Shapiro both said no. This struck me as a needlessly provocative and confrontational way to approach the story in its opening days, and frankly, I don't believe that they weren't at all surprised. I mean, really, someone told them that the day after a big Redskins loss in Tampa their best player had been critically shot in his bedroom in an upper-class neighborhood Miami, and they weren't at all taken aback? They weren't at all like, "Whoa!," not even for a few seconds? I knew Sean Taylor's history, and when I got off that plane from Tampa and this Skins fan named Robert came up to me and told me what happened, I was damn sure like, "Whoa!" I know there's violence in Iraq, but if I learned that a high-ranking administration official had secretly traveled to Baghdad and been killed, I'd be like, "Whoa!" at least for a few seconds.

The counter argument goes, if you were told a Redskins player would be shot last weekend, wouldn't your first guess be Sean Taylor? Yeah, I guess. How about this, though: if you were told a Washington Wizards player was going to quit basketball next week, renounce all his material possessions, dress in rags, become a raw-food vegan, join the Peace Corps and move to Tanzania, 100 percent of you would guess it would be Etan Thomas, right? That wouldn't mean the action itself wouldn't be shocking and surprising.

And now people are firing back at the initial round of "not-a-surprise" columns: read, for example, Mike Freeman, who writes "can we all take a breath, remove our CSI badges, and see Taylor as he is: someone who suffered a horrible death? Can we all be human beings for just one second? A second. That's not so much to ask, is it?" Or read David Steele. Or check out this City Paper blog, which quotes Wash Times beat guy John Mitchell calling Shapiro "a racist conniving dog of a skunk."

Fun stuff. Anyhow, not surprisingly, ESPN Radio's Colin Cowherd has been far ahead of the pack in stomach-turning 'baggery. From the beginning, he argued that this could not be a random act, which is fine, but he insisted on doing so in the most obnoxious, self-serving and ruthless manner possible. The audio clips of his Sean Taylor stuff are prominently sprinkled about his page, allowing him hopefully to at least make some coin off of throwing barbs at a dead guy. From yesterday's show:

Serious grown-up talk here. If you can't handle grown-up stuff, then turn the radio to another channel right now, give you about five seconds. We're going to talk about Sean Taylor's death...If you can't deal with that, I have no problem with that at all, none. Right now turn the radio to Oldies 107.8 or another station....All right, now it's just grown-ups, we've gotten the kids out of the room, let's proceed.

If you actually want to have a serious discussion, this has immediately disqualified you. This is pure drivel, meant to do nothing but incite.

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.
Stains? Spitting and a DUI arrest that was thrown out are stains so deep they never leave? T.O. has spit. LenDale White has spit. Chris Samuels claimed that Antonio Smith spit. Charles Barkley spit on a young girl. Roberto Alomar spit at an umpire. Lot of people have stains, I guess. Wouldn't be surprised if any of them die, I guess. Seriously, there is one prior public incident in Sean Taylor's life that causes serious concern in this case, the one involving guns. It sure isn't the fact that he spit on a player or had a DUI charge that was dismissed.
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.

I suppose this is true enough, in general. How it relates to this case, neither I nor Colin Cowherd has any idea, since we have absolutely no idea how Taylor's judgment related to what happened to him. Cowherd is just throwing stuff like that out there to stir passions among his listeners. It's nasty stuff. There is no possible justification for using "stains you can't get out" in what you're claiming is "serious, grown-up talk." That's media jackal talk.

I want to know the truth. I want to know the details. It's not pretty? I don't care, I'm a grown-up. I can handle not pretty. A lot of people can't in the media, a lot of people can't, 'Oh, wah wah wah, sensitivity, he's a great person, wah wah wah.' Hey, I don't care, that's fine, he died, let's get to the truth. We're all about the truth. We always say on this show, we're not always good, we're always honest. Just give me honesty.

Colin, you're a brave soldier for journalistic freedom and investigative verve. All of us innocent souls who chose not to use the phrase "stains you can't get out" in the first few days are, as you said, " 95 percent of the media." But you're a grown-up. You can launch random, loaded phrases from the truth-seeking depth of your soul, because you, my journalistic hero, can handle it.

So that was yesterday. And then I'm listening today, and Cowherd quotes Antrel Rolle's remarks and then, I swear, gloats over the fact that his "gut feeling" has been proven correct, that Taylor's death was surely not a random act. It's hard for me even to know how to respond to someone who would publicly gloat over something like this, and my attempted tape recording of the program didn't come out well, but I can tell you that he talked about CIA profiling and diversity and, well, this:

I didn't grow up African American. I grew up middle class. I wanted Stephen A.'s perspective on the story. And during this story I leaned on Stephen A., Michael Wilbon and Jason Whitlock for a perspective I don't have. You walk around ESPN, it's in the halls, on the posters, Diversity, Capital D, big letter. You know why Diversity's really important at ESPN, a big company? Because it gives you more people with unique perspectives. And if you're a growing company, you want to stay fresh, you need to have a 23-year old Hispanic gal or guy tell us what's going on in your community. Asian, white, black, Hispanic, everybody, new voices, young voices, old voices. You walk the halls of ESPN, it's the United Nations. It's great. Canadians, Hispanics, Europeans. They give us a perspective we don't have.

Ok. Awesome. And then he concludes:

No, all the information's not in. But I feel pretty confident that my gut feeling, like any of yours, by the way, is right and was right.

Well, again, congratulations Colin. You, indeed, are the big winner this week. Enjoy your success.

[Awful Announcing has more on Cowherd.]

By Dan Steinberg  |  November 29, 2007; 11:39 AM ET
Categories:  Redskins  
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