Letter to WaPo's Leonard Shapiro

This letter was written by my friend and colleague, Eddie Cornwell, MD, Director of Trauma/Surgical Critical Care at Johns Hopkins and lifetime Washington Redskins fan.

Mr Shapiro:

I turn 51 this week and have been reading the Post sports section for 5 years. I have been going to Redskins games since 1965, and have devoted much of my energy in my professional life to the issues of violence prevention, and the thug life mentality that glamorizes violence in our culture. So several of my life’s passions interface with your column on Sean Taylor (Nov 27th, “Taylor’s Death is Tragic, but Not Surprising“) .

I am on call in the hospital at 0430 –and the violence in East Baltimore has taken a brief hiatus that allows me to send my first ever critical (hopefully constructively so) note to a Post columnist. I enjoy occasional friendly repartee when I disagree on issues of sport, but I found your column to be a little lazy, and even offensive–from the title to the conclusion in search of a circumstance.

It is certainly fair, appropriate, and necessary to chronicle the troubling events — as you and your colleagues have done — that pointed to the need for some serious maturation from the time Taylor was drafted as a 20 yr old manchild from the U of Miami. But you treat all the signs that he had turned his life around over the last 18 months as some sort of inconvenient truth. In Gibbs’ Monday press conferences, when he is about to gush over one of his players–he prefaces his comments with “I gotta tell ya—“. Over the last year or so, only Clinton Portis exceeds Taylor in frequency as the beneficiary of such gushing—and often more about the all important character issue than about his play.

“I gotta tell you—Sean has done every little thing we have asked —”Sean is one of our leaders”—“Sean’s teammates have voted him to our Leadership council”— “Sean has turned things around—Things change when you have your first baby.”

You seem to ignore your own paragraph 7 where you write ” … it would be terribly easy to rush to some sort of instant judgment based on what we think we all knew about Taylor and the sort of life he once, and for all we know, still led.”

It also seemed odd that your journalistic instinct prompted you to devote 2 paragraphs to quoting your own colleague Mike Wilbon, who shares your conclusions (“…sad, yes, but hardly surprising”), as though you needed some cover for your own opinions. But Mike stressed how Sean had decided to change his environment — raising the possibility that the environment may have followed him — and he asserted at the outset of his column that it would have nothing to do with football. (more…)