Thursday, December 4, 2008

Locked and loaded

Plaxico Burress is all of the following: a self-inflicted wound, a walking (limping) disaster and a poster child for stupidity . He has hurt himself, has damaged the image of his league, and faces serious questions concerning his continued employment and freedom. He has made a series of bad judgments throughout the years that have negatively affected his family, his teammates and his employers. He has shown himself to be a meltdown waiting to happen.

Having said all that, and in no way meaning to excuse the act of which he now stands accused (or in the eyes of Mayor Bloomberg, convicted and sentenced), I found it a striking coincidence that I had read, within the past week a series of essays in ESPN (the 12/1/08 issue) entitled "Living Scared". The cover piece, written by David Fleming, was followed up by a number of short pieces written by NFL players, and even one by a former policeman,now a security guard for the Denver Broncos.The articles focused on the perception by the league and the players that they are inviting targets for attack and discusses how they handle their concern.

Everything seems to center around the death of Sean Taylor, a former player for the Washington Redskins, who was killed when intruders entered his bedroom in his apartment in Miami on November 26, 2007. While his girlfriend and 18 month old daughter lay under the covers in the room, Taylor was shot and killed. Fleming reports that many players "can't shake the feeling that someone is out here, beyond the blinds, lurking". Other recent incidents include a New Year's 2007 shooting and killing of a player outside a Denver nightclub, while riding in his limousine; the June 2008 robbery of a player by the Vegas strip, in which he was beaten unconscious; the September, 2008 shooting (14 times) of a player (Richard Collier) leading to the amputation of one leg above the knee and his being paralyzed; and the robbery at gunpoint last week of a teammate of Burress.

The response of the players has been as one might expect. Ben Roethlisberger, a quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers spoke of having someone brandish a weapon in his face. His reaction was to have a bodyguard with him at all times. He said there was something about this that was so sad, but he does what he has to as he feels he is trying to save (his) life. In September 2007, Dunte Robinson while living in a gated community, was the victim of a robbery in his apartment. A gun was pushed in his face, and his arms and legs were duct taped. Until that point, he never owned a gun or thought he needed one. Now he does.

Another player guessed that gun ownership in the NFL was about 50% of all players.

The stories go on and on. Many, like Fred Taylor, who was a teammate of Richard Collier, talk of guns making them feel safe. Derrick Brooks, a Tampa Bay Buccaneer echoes what he believes every player thought after the death of Taylor, that if it happened to him, it could happen to me. He said that players had to remember " not everyone is crazy about us being blessed".

The other evening,Plaxico Burress placed himself and those around him in unnecessary jeopardy. By pure 'good luck', his carrying and discharge of a concealed weapon, illegally possessed by him, did limited physical damage. I understand that the message to come from this incident is not to excuse the act merely because the result was not horrifying. Punishment will come, and should. I do not attempt to justify why Burress was cocked and ready for action when he entered the nightclub. However, I do have some idea why this was so.

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