Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Last year at just around this time, I worked with a bright and very personable 24-year-old guy. We weren't in the same department, but I knew him, liked him, and tapped him for information on a fairly routine basis. He was a kid from Canada who had moved to New York City at the request of our employer, and he utterly loved NYC. He also loved partying, and went out a lot during the week, to the point where you could tell when he was dragging at the office. But he worked long hours and got his stuff done, so no one really noticed or thought too much of it, other than the occasional jibe about him not sleeping in the six months since he came to New York.

Then he turned up dead, and no one knew how or from what.

A year later, I still don't know the circumstances surrounding his death, but the most likely story was an accidental overdose, or someone killed for being with someone he shouldn't have been with. The choice to not spell out what happened was the choice of his parents, and given the magnitude of their loss, so be it.

The office was more or less shut down for the better part of a week, both in New York and in our other locations, because people were just that wiped out by the loss. The body was flown back to his hometown, and over 1500 people were at the funeral, so it's not like he was just popular in the office. A week later, there was a memorial service in which the entire New York office was gathered together to light candles and talk for an hour about everything he meant to us. It was nice, and I guessed it helped some people, especially the younger folks in the office who worked with him on a daily basis.

A month after that, my department was laid off and given severance packages that you would have considered insulting if they weren't so clueless. It was the third round of such happy fun in the first (and last) six months of my employment there, and as far as I know, it wasn't the last. I scrambled, found another gig in a week and a half, and a better one than that four months later. The clueless company is still around, still in turmoil, and in one of those twists that just make me more convinced of the existence of the Beavis God (i.e., a supreme deity that has the taste and refinement of the dumber of the two geniuses from the old MTV cartoon), I have the privilege of working with them at my new gig. Nothing like having to be a professional.

The reason why I bring this all up is, of course, Sean Taylor. And the fact that his passing made me remember the coworker, who I really haven't thought of for, oh, 10 months.

The death of the required by sportswriter law to somehow include the word troubled safety of the Washington Redskins is making a lot of people wax philosophic, and others to try to spin it into a greater narrative of What's Wrong With People In The World Who Aren't Like The Speaker.

I'm going to be very rude and very blunt here, and ask just about all of these people to stop talking in front of microphones, and for the media to stop giving them that opportunity. Not out of respect for the dead, but out of respect for the process.

Grief is personal. It's also contagious. And given the more than occasional deaths of pro athletes, not unprecedented. When the Eagles lost Jerome Brown, it became a year-long motivational speech of questionable taste for a defense that played with constant emotion; one expects the Redskins will do something similar. And in a year or two, or more likely a few more weeks, the Skins will have moved on, because that is what the living do.

Sean Taylor's death was tragic and senseless and sad and no worse, really, than the death of my coworker a year ago, or the death of anyone that you've ever known. His passing is no more meaningful, or less, than that. The vast number of people who are now talking about it don't need to make more out of it than that, but given who they are and the public nature of what they do, such tact and decorum isn't going to happen.

They also really don't need to tell me about how Taylor's coworkers are all going to be fine, because Taylor's managers are like family. My old company was just like a family a year ago, while we all held candles and remembered our guy for who he was, not how he ended. It didn't stop people from being canned, because that's the way the world works. Your family is your family. The people that you work with are not, even if they are young and fast and strong and possessing of the great attributes necessary to perform in sports.


Steven said...

Thanks, man. It seems like everyone in the media has already decided that this was the product of Taylor living Da Thug Life and started their lectures on what company docile black men should keep etc. But we don't even know the circumstances, won't know for quite some time at best and may never know.

I wish the MSM would let the dead rest in peace, pay respects, and let the authorities sort the details out before deciding what would have prevented Sean Taylor from getting shot.

Kevin said...

Awesome post. Absolutely awesome.


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