I want to go on a typical Brad Gagnon angry rant and rip Aqib Talib to shreds for his behaviour. Talib has been a train wreck for much of his adult life and has now been charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
But what makes it sort of hard to criticize Talib is that it’s impossible for me — and for most of us — to relate to him. And that becomes acutely relevant in this alleged crime. A little background, via the Dallas Observer:
According to the report, Talib went to his sister’s (Saran’s) home. Saran, who was arguing with (boyfriend) Shannon Billings, also called her mother for help. Police were directed to Saran’s home via a 911 call by neighbors, who reported a domestic dispute and three shots fired at a black male by a black female. According to the report, police arrived to find Billings standing in front of a nearby residence. While interviewing him, officers discovered Billings was a suspect in two pending, related, family-violence offenses involving Saran and arrested him.
When initially questioned, both Saran and Okolo Talib said they knew nothing of an earlier incident at the house. Billings, however, led police to a gun he said belonged to Aqib that Billings had thrown in a neighbor’s trash can after escaping his struggle with the player. After finding the weapon and calling forensic investigators to retrieve numerous spent shell casings in the street, officers took a statement from Billings.
According to the report, Billings said Aqib produced a handgun and “attempted to strike him in the face.” During the ensuing skirmish Talib dropped the gun and Billings picked it up and began runnning, prompting Okolo to produce a gun and fire three shots toward him. Billings told police that Talib then took Okolo’s gun, said “I’ll shoot him” and fired at least two shots before Billings safely ducked into nearby woods. Neighborhood witnesses corroborated Billings’ story.
So we’re left to assume that Talib’s sister was the victim of a domestic dispute and Aqib and his mother reacted with gunshots. That’s speculative, not factual — but it seems as though Billings did something to piss them off and gunfire ensued.
The easy reaction is this: Talib is a screw-up. If he did react to the initial incident by attempting to pistol-whip the original transgressor, he should have stopped and thought about his career, his life and his family’s future. That’s what most of us would do. But based on his own mom’s alleged involvement in the shooting, the guy clearly doesn’t think the way regular members of society do.
Why did Aqib and his mom (allegedly) show up at Aqib’s sister’s home armed and loaded? If Billings was in the wrong, why not call the police? I suppose that just isn’t the natural reaction in the Talib family.
I’m not attempting to defend Talib. If he’s found guilty of pulling the trigger or attempting to assault Billings with a gun, he deserves jail time and he’ll likely be out of chances in Tampa (and maybe even the NFL), but these incidents aren’t black and white.
I think it’s important to try to frame these disastrous situations with context. I consider myself to be at least slightly more sympathetic toward Michael Vick for the same reason.
How much of our troubles do we get to blame on our upbringing? Legally, none. And Talib has had more than a few opportunities to open his eyes, utilize the NFL’s vast resources for help and get his life on track. Because of that, I don’t feel for him.
But when I look at the story behind this story, I’m conflicted. Some people are set up to fail from the get-go.