Sean Taylor is a person, not a storyline

I remember a time during senior year of high school when a kid on the Damascus High School hockey team called me a name that isn’t fit to print. It was normal trash talk, but it hurt. I thought that would be the worst criticism I would ever endure in my life.

I was wrong.

In just my fourth column for the News (“The ‘U’ should be partly to blame for Taylor’s death,” 11/29), I managed to start a firestorm that led nearly 30 people from all around the country to comment on my opinion. I welcomed both those who agreed and disagreed with me and was glad that I could provoke intellectual discussion. And I understood why my opinion sparked anger in some.

Then the discussion turned ugly. People started criticizing the author, some “janitor at Yale,” “cocky little wannabe” “preppy boy” named Collin Gutman whom they would likely never meet but who wrote a controversial column with which they disagreed.

If you know me, you know that my hoodie-sweatshirt-and-old-T-shirt style is about as far from preppy as one could dress. I’m just another writer and person — not some type of super jerk from the depths.

I knew I had exposed myself to criticism and had to prepare for what others said, but that proved easier said than done. I read every nasty comment posted on the article. I saw every name people called me. And I took it like a human being, not a computer. Your friendly sports columnist has a face and a personality outside of the newspaper.

There was a regrettable reality to the column — everybody associated with it, including those who responded, lost sight of the true issue. I was angry at the death of my favorite NFL player (yeah, I love the Redskins and Sean Taylor and was traumatized by the loss). Nobody deserves what happened to him, least of all someone who was, at heart, a good person trying to improve his life, as I said in the column. Those who criticized me were probably similarly upset. In our collective anger, the emotional commenters and I forgot what truly mattered: Sean Taylor the father and friend is dead.

Sean Taylor the icon who brings Washington fans together across lines of class and race is gone. Sean Taylor the human being cannot contribute to the world anymore.

I still think what I wrote is correct: Many factors contributed to Taylor’s death and, given the information available at the time, my conclusions are valid. But maybe I should have waited until now to write the column — not to allow more facts to come out or to change my opinion, but to dedicate more time to the memory of a person. Regardless of the events surrounding his murder and whatever factors may have led to it — and regardless of whether or not you agree that certain people bear some responsibility for it — Sean Taylor was a person and deserves to be remembered as such before society moves to judge those affiliated with him or to blame those who may have contributed to his death.

Looking forward, I don’t expect to change. I am only one voice in the sports community. I do research to back my opinion, then write it. Whether or not it’s something everyone can agree on, my column will contain my unfiltered opinion. My only regret is that I held the misconception that people care more about what you say than how you say it.

I still believe what I said to end my last column — that two athletes have been murdered in the past year, and there needs to be fundamental change at all levels of football in order to protect the players. I voiced my opinion on how to promote this necessary change. Feel free to formulate your own.

Collin Gutman is a sophomore in Pierson College.


  • Anonymous

    While you are entitled to your own opinion, the facts of the case prove that your opinion is flat out wrong. It's one thing to hold on to a theory based on limited or no evidence to either prove or disprove that theory but it's another thing to hold on to a theory that has been shown to have no credibility by investigators. Folks who specialize in solving cases such as the death of Sean Taylor have given their findings based on facts which indicate that Sean Taylor was the victim of a robbery gone bad. I feel you are holding on to what is now a theory with no credibility because you don't want to eat humble pie. Face it Colin Gutman, you were wrong whether you want to admit it or not. You have not provided a shred of credible evidence to suggest that Sean's attendance or involvement with the "U" had anything to do with his death. This may also be the reason why many attacked you in the last article you penned. My advice to you would be this: eat humble pie and admit you were wrong. Learn from this and in the future wait until you have solid information before you form opinions. Have a very nice day.

  • Anonymous

    May GOD bless the family of Sean Taylor. And may GOD be with them through this bad time. May Sean Taylor rest in peace…

  • Anonymous

    Dying young is tragic, no doubt, and Sean Taylor's death has really hit me hard. But instead of trying to blame all these other factors, maybe the reason why is quite simple. Someone, who did some yard work for ST, thought he wasn't home and broke in with some friends. Tragically, Taylor WAS home and one of them had a gun. This could happen to anyone who has wealth and is out of town quite often. Sometimes, unfortunately, it is that simple.

  • Anonymous

    You owe Sean Taylor and the University of Miami a public apology. You said right in your article that The 'U' must be partly to blame.

    You had no CLUE or idea that his killers were not even from Miami. You took no regard to the fact that they snuck in his home due to his wealth, and killed him as he protected his family.

    If you cannot explain the impossible -- that a school Taylor does not attend is partly to blame for a random burglary by strangers -- then you need to do the right thing and apologize in a 3rd article.

    This was not a football star you wrote about. This was a son. A father. An innocent human being.

    Apologize. His senseless death needs closure. His soul is waiting.

  • Anonymous

    The reason that the criticism hurts is because its accurate.

    I don't know your intentions. But if you are going to criticize another university, the least you can do is get your facts right.

    Sean Taylor was not perfect. But he was labeled a "thug" simply because of where he went to school.

    This was a son of a police chief who went to upper class schools. A guy who dated Andy Garcia's niece. He was killed in a botched burglary on a weekend where not even his family knew he was home. But so many assumed this was a "hit." Just a casual look at the facts would have shown this was highly unlikely.

    The U had nothing to do with Sean Taylor's death. It was a tragedy.

  • Anonymous

    You take a softer approach, but then state you "did your research" and "conclude the same thing." Huh?!

    You still have not explained your premise as of yet. You stated, universities should be doing more to shape up these players and get them away from thuggish behaviour. You have been proven wrong, based on the fact that nothing thuggish on Taylor's behalf occured. How is the University supposed to protect their alumni who made it big? By telling them to live in an isolated hut somewhere in the Pacific?!

    The fact still stands. You rushed to judgement. You stated Taylor gave you the impression he was going to pistol-whip someone. And yet, ironically, had he had a gun, this probably wouldn't have happened. You sir, were and still are wrong. Step back, apologize for being too quick to judgement, and apologize not only to the University students and alumni, but also to the family of the so-called Thug you tried to link back to UM.

    The only one at fault is the four kids involved in the shooting, their parents for not doing anything to prevent this from happening, and society for not doing enough to make sure these kids don't grow up idolizing thug life. The University of Miami should not be a part of your rant.