The past several weeks, I have written much about the emergence of Fighting Irish freshman running back Robert Hughes, and how being a part of the Notre Dame football team family has helped him both deal with the violent death of his brother, Tony, and bring honor to his memory. But today, we talk not about a death in the athlete's family, but that of the athlete himself, as Washington Redskin safety, Sean Taylor, was shot to death in his Miami home, Tuesday, at the age of 24.
Taylor's youth, like Hughes' and many poor black men who were raised on the streets, was filled with trouble, and the fact that he signed a lucrative contract out of college did not instantly make the trouble disappear, as this partial timeline suggests:
April 2004: Redskins make Taylor the 5th overall pick in the NFL draft.
June 2004: Taylor assessed his 1st professional fine, $25,000 for missing most of NFL's mandatory rookie symposium.
July 2004: Signs 7-year, $18 million contract.
Sept. 2004: Makes 1st NFL start in third game of season, finishing the year with 89 tackles, 4 interceptions—and thousands in fines for illegal hits and rule violations.
July 2005: Released on bond after being arrested and charted with aggravated assault and battery with a firearm. Sentenced to 18 months probation.
Jan. 2006: After a brilliant 51-yard touchdown run off a forced fumble, Taylor is later ejected from a key playoff game for spitting in opponent Michael Pittman's face. Later fined $17,000 and chosen for his 1st Pro Bowl.
And, yet, as bad as it was for Sean, it all seemed to be turning around. "When he came to the Redskins, Sean was young and full of himself," admitted Redskin head coach Joe Gibbs, but gradually he had begun to change. "Sean spent a lot of time with the team chaplain over the past two years," said Gibbs, "... he had a growing relationship with the Lord."
"It's hard to change our past overnight," added Redskin running back Clinton Portis, a teammate of Taylor's since their days together at the University of Miami. "But ever since he had his child [Taylor's daughter, Jackie, was born 18 months ago], it was like a new Sean ... always smiling, always happy, always talking about her," also noting that the team had recently voted Taylor to its leadership council, something inconceivable just months ago. And now this.
As I read about Sean's life, the mixed emotions are many. First, I am saddened over this senseless loss, regretful about Sean's seeming inability to break away from his past. True, I am also encouraged to hear of Sean's recent return to the Lord, for I am convinced as a Catholic that Sean will do his best from heaven to look after his daughter and girlfriend, and perhaps pray for a turnaround of the street culture he came from. But I am also angry at the many voters who support the rich, insincere, out-of-touch candidates, vainly believing that these politicians' mastery of money will not only lead to comfortable lifestyles for themselves, but ease their consciences with promises that wealth will somehow trickle down into the hands of those whose lives are most vulnerable.
For in the end, money wasn't Sean's problem, because even after his many fines, there was still plenty of that 18 million to play with. Sean's problems weren't financial, but spiritual, and it took a spiritual man to begin to solve them. Mitt or Rudy or Hillary or Oprah, I mean, Obama, having all accumulated truckloads of wealth, probably have more acumen at making sure the middle (and upper) class keep their cash than someone who hasn't. But only a godly family man such as Michael Huckabee can truly be expected to tackle the life issues, whether it be abortion, euthanasia, or reaching out to the poverty of the inner city. If you wish to keep your safe insulated existence intact (at least until the 2nd Coming), vote for a candidate who thinks that the economy is our country's greatest priority. But if you believe the right to life is our nation's #1 issue, vote for Huck. Meanwhile, Tony Hughes, and Sean Taylor, rest in peace—and pray for us. January is approaching, and it's not the playoffs, but the primaries, that now concern us.