Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008: A year in review

‘Twas the night before New Years, and here’s a look back
At Roger Clemons’ steroids and Travis Henry’s crack
The Redeem Team got the Gold, Michael Phelps got the bling
And even Kevin Garnet, well he finally got a ring

The Yankees were low, Isiah Thomas got high
Sabathia says hello, but Marbury bids goodbye
And Plax can beat safeties, just not glock revolvers
The Giants beat the Patriots, with Tyree’s catch over the shoulder

Stuck in the Garden, the Knicks still can’t win
Hungering for Lebron like starving kids in Beijing,
From Favre’s interceptions to D’antoni’s interjection
Just ask the Steibrenner’s, this is no recession

So here’s to 2008, and although it might be gone
We remember Antonio pierce getting off, and our governor getting it on
So I bid you one last wish, before 2009 begins
Happy new year to all, and a party like Jaba Chamberlain’s (but seriously, don’t drink and drive)

2008, we hardly knew ye'. I've never been one for goodbyes, but I'll give this one a shot--from the stock market's plummet and Governor Spitzer's rise (get your mind in the gutter), to bombings in Georgia and a new quarterback in Atlanta. It's safe to say that 2008 saw it's fare share of news. So here's a look back at the top five most memorable New York sports moments in 2008-- as I see them anyway.

5) Broadway Brett Jets into New York
Screw the starving kids, what about those poor Jets? Perennially the "little brother" of the National Football League, we watch them struggle mightily, rise majestically to the brink of success, and eventually crash and burn like the helpless child that they represent. It's been that way for longer than most Jet fans care to remember.
But wait... what? Brett Favre's renouncing his retirement? And Green Bay has removed the welcome mat? And he might land in the New York green and white? Hold up...
After a stint in Green Bay that lasted upwards of 15 years. the gunslinger finally decided to hang up the cleats in 2008 following an unforgettable season marred by a 23-20 loss to the New York Giants (eventual Super Bowl Champions) in the NFC Championship game. But apparently, Favre wasn't ready to move to Boca and dip into his retirement funds (Brett was first in line to buy a Washington Wizards Michael Jordan jersey in 2001-- not to mention Jay-Z's Kingdom Come in 2006).
When in July, it became clear that Favre was not part of Green Bay's future plans, the former Packer wrote a letter to the organization asking for his unconditional release-- thus began a media circus more controversial than a Mel Gibson rendition of Schindler's List. Much to the delight of Jet fans everywhere, however, the Hall of Fame quarterback eventually landed in "Jets Stadium" following an August 7 trade that cost the Jets a conditional fourth round pick in the 2009 draft (and indirectly, Chad Pennington, the 2008 comeback player of the year).
Unfortunately for the Jets, however, Favre's stint in New York was as disappointing as a virgin's prom night-- and just as short. After a promising 8-3 start that left many New Yorkers calling for a "Subway Super Bowl," thus began a downward slide that resulted in a disappointing 9-7 season, another playoff absence and an immediate release of the once-heralded Head Coach Eric Mangini. Doesn't this seem like an annual charade? Maybe the Jets and Mets are victim to the same sick disease-- an inability to close out seasons. Regardless of the outcome, Farve's journey to New York was indeed a memorable one.

4) Rangers Burn Devils
Just two years after suffering a four-game sweep at the hands of the New Jersey Devils in the 2006 playoffs, the New York Rangers trekked into the second round of the 2008 playoffs. Following a five-game victory over New Jersey, becoming the first team in history to win three road games against the Devils in a playoff series, the Rangers found redemption.
After a long hiatus from post-season glory, the Rangers finally restored splendor to the Garden. This after a roster overhaul that included the induction of two of the most talented centers on the market, former Devil Scott Gomez and Chris Drury, prior to the start of the season.
New York took the first two games at the Rock (Prudential Center) and then returned to New York to split the next two, giving the Rangers a commanding 3-1 lead. The Rangers won the fifth and final game back in New Jersey. The Rangers were one of the only two major professional New York sports teams to make the playoffs in 2008 (with the New York Giants).

3) A New York Spending Spree

What's a recession to a Steinbrenner? Lavish hotels and caviar? Try CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira. No need to warm up by the stove or unplug the clocks at night-- just ask uncle George. He's dropped more green in one summer than most lumberjacks do in a lifetime.
Never had a team held such a stronghold over the league's biggest free agents, but if money talks, the Steinbrenners can't shut up. Just ask Sabathia ($161 million over 7 years), Teixeira ($180 million over 8 years), or A.J. Burnett ($82.5 million over 5 years)-- talk about a supermarket sweep,
After the Bombers' string of 13 consecutive playoff appearances came to an end last autumn, the Steinbrenners did some serious soul searching. And just what did they find? More money than many countries gross annually? Who is Bernard Madoff?
The Yankees' most recent off-season was characterized by the richest spending spree in the history of professional sports. This was a memorable off-season for the Bronx Bombers.

2) New York Nicks Isiah Thomas

Remember when the Knicks were good? I know, I wasn't alive when the 10 Commandments were published either. For us Knick fans, glory at the Garden seems an ancient memory, a blur that may have occurred some time between Optimus Prime's glorious conception and President Clinton's administration of copulation. But if you can, sift through the puddles of beer (most often caused by Knick losses) clogging your brain and think back to the days when Lord Ewing and King Oakley patrolled the paint; when John Starks kissed the Garden floor and Pat Riley had an endless canvas of flowing mahogany hair. Luckily for the 90s' Knicks, Isiah Thomas was still in the league (as a player), for part of the decade anyway. Unfortunately for the Knicks, however, Patrick Ewing's exile caused an eventual desperation-driven roster (and culture) overhaul. From the induction of Glen Rice to the draft of Frederic Weis, to the injury-plagued Allan Houston and the eventual hiring of Isiah Thomas as Knicks General Manager. Oh, what a millennium it's been for the Blue and Orange.
For argument's sake, let's call Thomas the proverbial "straw that broke Paris Hilton's bed" (or was that Nick Carter, Jason Shaw, Stavros Niarchos, Benji Madden, Rick Salomon, ...well, you get the picture).. When the Knicks hired Thomas on December 22, 2003, they welcomed with him a history of blunders that included the destruction of the Continental Basketball Association (CBA). Why was Isiah the right choice for the knicks? ??? ???????... Still waiting...
The new general manager wasted no time in shaking things up, bringing in troubled point guard Stephon Marbury to right the ship just two weeks later. Ooops.
By the end of the 2005-06 season, the Knicks had the highest payroll in the league and the second worst record. Apparently what Thomas didn't realize was that, just because something looks good on paper, doesn't mean that it's going to pan out.
With Isiah at the helm, the Knicks went through more transformations than Andy Dick (just minus the success-- I know). Why was Isiah the right candidate for replacing Larry Brown in June of 2006? ??? ????... Still waiting.
Despite predicting a future championship, Thomas never once led the team to the playoffs as coach and in 2008, one night after New York tied a franchise-record with 59 losses, he was relieved of his duties (too bad he already crapped the bed).
Apparently there is someone listening to prayers. For the Knicks, that man's been new Head Coach Mike D'antoni. Although they are still not a winning team (Rome wasn't build in a day, and Thomas' Knicks couldn't be destroyed in one either-- although Donnie Walsh, the knew GM, is doing his best), the Knicks are at least watchable again.

1) 1 Giant Loss

1)18-1! 18-1! 18-1! 18 wins and 1 GIANT loss!
Where were you when JFK was assassinated? What about when the Giants won Super Bowl XLII (My apologies for the gross comparison)?
Perhaps the most memorable victory in New York sports history (at least since my conception), the Big Blue stormed Scottsdale, Arizona for what was arguably the most improbable win of all time.
On Feb, 3, 2008, the heavily discounted Giants took on the previously undefeated New England Patriots. Up against what many considered to be the best team in the history of the NFL and more obstacles than a pair of multi-sexual Siamese twins in a JC Penny dressing room, few gave the Big Blue a chance. The Giants fed off of the doubt.
Most said that the Giants weren't even supposed to be there. But impenetrable defense by a stalwart line kept Tom Brady and his chins at bay, setting up what was an unforgettable 17-14 Giant victory.
New York fed off of the Dec. 29 three-point season-finale loss that came at the hands of New England. Never had their been such a productive loss, and the Giants steamrolled into the playoffs.
Then there was the Super Bowl.
After both teams combined for ten points in the first three quarters, New England leading 7-3 heading into the final period, NY took the lead following a go-ahead David Tyree touchdown with 11 minutes remaining. New England responded with a touchdown of their own, taking a 14-10 lead with less than three minutes to go.
That's when it happened-- the drive heard 'round the world (not Helen Keller's joy ride to the super market). Catalyzed by a fourth-and-short conversion, a poised Eli Manning and the grace of football's divine spirits, the Giants moved down field toward Super Bowl immortality.
Then it happened-- the most insane play of all time. On third-and-five, from their own 44-yard line with 1:15 to play, Manning escaped a plethora of New England linemen to find Tyree who made a leaping one-handed/one-helmet catch on the Patriot-24-yard line. Four plays later, giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress caught the winning touchdown in the corner of the end zone. What else can I really say? I can't imagine the berth of my first child being any better.

Happy New Year to all and to all a memorable 2009. To all of those not on this list, don't feel slighted because there's always next year (sorry Plax. I was never one for guns). Only time will tell what 2009 has in store, but I'm feelin' lucky. What do ya' say NYC?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Yankee General Manager Brian Cashman Frequents the Red Light District

Try walking across Flatbush (Brooklyn) at 3:30 in the morning-- without protection. I dare you. It'd be like walking through Patpong, Bangkok (an ORIGINAL RED LIGHT DISTRICT)-- without... well... protection. Either way, you're liable to come to the following morning with an empty wallet and a few inexplicable bumps.
So if the hearsay about either scenario is true (I swear it's hearsay), both entirely hypothetical situations are pretty damn dangerous.
Apparently, New York Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman has spent some time spelunking Thailand's red light district (or getting roughed up in Flatbush) because the addition of former Los Angeles Angel Mark Teixeira makes the previously defunct Yankee lineup more dangerous than a sword fight with Lorene Bobbit. And more expensive then a night with her freaky twin sister.
That's right-- the 28-year-old Teixeira is packing his bags for the Bronx and Pin Stripe fans are already anticipating a return to the Fall Classic (all courtesy of a $180 million flight). The Yanks can only hope, however, that Teixeira didn't have to check his BIG BAT (one that the Count himself couldn't even stack up against-- sorry, that one was too easy) at LAX. After all, even Big League Chew is a code orange commodity these days.
If he did somehow manage to sneak his lumber past security, the new Yankee Stadium will be greeted with more long balls than a certain Curb Your Enthusiasm episode (I hope Brian Giovinazzi won't be the only one to catch this reference).
Along with a stellar defensive reputation, the former Angel is lugging with him a 2008 .303 batting average, 33 home runs, 121 runs batted in, a .552 slugging percentage (.200 points higher than the league average) and a big-situation ability that the Yankees have been in desperate need of.
Of course, there is always the possibility that the bright lights of Broadway will cramp the new Yankee's style (see Jason Giambi, Carl Pavano, or Chuck Knoblauch. Even Alex Rodriguez has fallen victim to some pretty dismal slumps in the Bronx). New York seems to have a way of getting to athletes the way few other cities can (unless, of course, you're former Indiana Pacer Reggie Miller).
IF Teixeira can manage to grace Yankee Manager Joe Girardi with the bat that the Steinbrenners bargained for, the New York lineup suddenly seems dangerous again. That is, of course, IF Captain Derek Jeter can wake up after an uncharacteristically poor 2008 campaign, A-Rod doesn't move to Argentina with Evita-- I mean, Madonna, Jorge Posada returns to old form, and Xavier Nady can replicate last season's success. As Yankee fans know all to well, however, all of those are MAJOR IFs. Perhaps only time will tell.The 100 RBIs that free agent Bobby Abreu (one of last year's few bright spots) will be exporting from New York won't help, but a revamped lineup might be the only remedy.
One thing is for sure though-- IF Teixeira DOES come through with the bat that he carried with him for most of the 2008 season, Pin Stripe fans can expect a playoff berth. The slugger's ability to hit from both sides of the plate makes him a threat at any spot in the lineup and his prowess from above the pitch count make him a nightmare match-up for opposing pitchers. Throw him behind A-Rod and the Bronx will be burning once again this summer (hopefully just not the way Cashman was after his trip to Thailand).
So yes, the addition of Teixeira makes the Yankees more dangerous than a protection-less trip to Flatbush (or Thailand). Cashman has spent more this past summer than Eliot Spitzer did in one year as governor (including money spent on his own prostitution escapades).
CC Sabathia's $161 million contract, A.J. Burnett's $82.5 million and Teixeira's $180 million make this summer the richest in New York sports history, but will the Bombers see the benefits? The addition of Teixeira certainly fills one major need for the previously hapless Yankee offense. What do you think New York?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Brian Cashman Overdosed on Cough Drops

Remember going to the nurse's office every time you skinned your knee in elementary school? A paper cut might as well have been a machete wound and a bump in the head, an atomic blast. Any excuse to get out of a reading lesson that covered Ramona Quimby's "big trip to the barber shop" was one never discounted. Regardless of the ailment, however, the remedy was always the same-- a "sweet herbal mint" Halls cough drop that tasted a lot like the inside of an air conditioner.
Trip and fall? Take a Halls; Punctured with a staple? Take a Halls; Kicked in the forehead during a reenactment of yesterday's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles episode? Grab a Halls.
Halls, Halls, Halls (and they're not even paying me for this).
Yesterday, New York Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman and the Bombers went for a routine trip to the nurse's office. What did she (or he-- can't be too careful in this crazy, mixed up world) order? You guessed it, a cough drop (a prescription powered one at that).
On Wednesday, ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney reported that a preliminary agreement between Cashman and former Milwaukee Brewer CC Sabathia had been reached-- to the tune of $161 million over seven years (or 16,100,000,000 pennies over 2,555 days). If George Steinbrenner's wallet could talk.
My first instinct-- Awesome. My second-- sweet. My third-- Ballllllin'.
The 28-year old left-hander has a 117-73 career record over eight seasons with a 3.66 life-time earned run average. After going 19-7 in 2007 to help the Indians reach the American League Championship (beating the Yankees 3-1 in the American League Divisional Series along the way), Sabathia earned the American League Cy Young award. It should also be noted that Sabathia, who has proven capable of pitching in any any league, has dominated the AL East (more so than he has any other) with a 2.96 ERA and a 21-8 record.
But is Sabathia really the answer? Do fat kids eat salad?
So why wouldn't picking up Sabathia be a huge play for the Pin Stripes? Because they went to the nurse with a bloody nose and when they came back, it was still bleeding.
Think back to last spring when, aside from Bobby Abreu and Jonny Damon, the Bombers couldn't buy a hit with runners in scoring position (the Yankees finished the 2008 season batting a dismal .261 with runners in scoring position, fourth worst in the American League-- the League RISP batting average was .273).
How many times did poor Mike Mussina (who still managed to finally get 20 wins) throw a gem and still lose? Let's face it--when it came to run support, the Yanks were no sports bra. Overall, the Pin Stripes were seventh of fourteen American League teams in run production (most of those runs coming in big streaks when the game was over, one way or the other). In general, the pitching was solid, even in the absence of Yankee ace, Chien-Ming Wang. Statistically, the Bomber pitching staff gave up an average of 4.28 runs per game, an average that Cashman's billion-dollar roster should have been able to surmount.
So how much better are the Yankees, based only on the acquisition of the $161 million man?
Don't get me wrong-- adding Sabathia to the Yankee rotation will NOT harm the Yankees. How could it? But will it propel last year's underachievers back to the playoffs? Probably not. Unless of course, the Yankee batting lineup wakes up from last year's mysterious roofie nap.
The answer to last year's failure is not pitching (although once again, I was just as happy as any other Yanks fan to get Sabathia). Perhaps Cashman should have hired a $161 dollar therapist to get to the bottom of Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter's inability to hit with runners on base.
While Cashman's trip to the nurses' office yesterday was undoubtedly a productive one, cough drops, as we all remember from elementary school, do not stop the bleeding.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Stephon Marbury Throws Rocks at Cars

When I was a kid, it was hard for my parents to get a hold on me. In pre-school, aside from the daily notes home, Mrs. Shames told my mother that I was a ring leader, nothing but a future criminal (true story). Harsh, I know-- apparently those graham cracker deals behind the jungle gym weren't as secretive as I thought.
In kindergarten, my mother warned Mrs. Shulace of my prior transgressions, but aside from the cowboys and indians beating that I put on Gabe Levine, there was seldom a peep of misbehavior coming from my direction.
Swerving in and out of "behavioral traffic lanes" more sporadically than Jaba Chamberlain on the Nebraska Expressway after a fifth of Whiskey, I reverted back to my class-clown ways just in time to subject my first-grade teacher, Mrs. Sattan (who I aptly dubbed Mrs. Satan, even in first grade), to a year-long miscellaneous cast of ridiculous antics and juvenile wrong doing (my apologies to anyone who I scarred in the past that may be reading this-- See Billy Madison). How is it that I went from being a criminal at six years old, to Mr. Goody-Two-Shoe at seven, back to the classroom terror by eight? The answer is tact.
I may have been a mere tike, but I was tactful, more cautious than a butcher at a bris when it came to my criminal misadventures. I was aware that while three consecutive years of Broad Street bullying might land me in some type of diaper detention center, sporadic stints of angelic activity would, if nothing else, confuse my parents. So despite my inner Axl Rose, the voice that told me to throw a rock at a car while waiting for the morning bus to come, and the same voice that told me to threaten my first-grade classmates with a tiny screw--one that I found in the Livingston Park Elementary School gymnasium--in order to get what I wanted (damn you Jesse Leiter for diming me out. You wouldn't last a day on Hidden Lake Drive) my parents were under the impression that I was a tolerable kid.
If only exiled New York Knicks point guard Stephon Marbury had half the tact that I had at age six, maybe a couple of us Knick fans would line with him in the Starbury-D'antoni soap opera. Instead, Steph has become New York City's own Darth Vader. Think about it-- both Steph and Darth look like aliens, they both provide cheap labor (Marbury's sneaker company, Darth's stormtroopers) and both have a propensity for sexual harassment (Natalie Portman is to Darth Vader what Kathleen Decker, the former Blue and Orange intern, is to Stephon Marbury--I swear I'm not a Star Wars nerd). The point is, while I had the good sense to keep nay-sayers guessing with occasional classroom serenity, Marbury continues to prove haters right, city after city.
Marbury was drafted fourth overall by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 1996 NBA draft, then traded promptly to the Minnesota Timberwolves for the draft rights to Ray Allen and a future first-round pick. As a result of MARBURY's inability to coexist with former teammate (reigning NBA Champion, 2004 Most Valuable Player and consummate team player) Kevin Garnett, in addition to a major discrepancy with former Wolves Head Coach (one of the most respected coaches in the league) Flip Suanders, Marbury demanded a trade during the 1999 lock-out season. For argument's sake, we'll call Marbury's tenure with the Timberwolves his pre-school days.
As a result of his misbehavior in Minnesota, the disgruntled point guard was shipped to the New Jersey Nets in a deal that sent Terrell Brandon to Minnesota from Milwaukee, and Sam Cassell to Milwaukee from New Jersey. In three seasons, Marbury's Nets never once made it to the playoffs, and in 2001, after ongoing disputes with teammates and New Jersey management, the point guard was sent to the Pheonix Suns for Jason Kidd. (It should be noted that in 2002, Kidd's first year as Marbury's back court replacement, the Nets were transformed from perennial doormats to playoff contenders). Coincidence?
After teaming with Pheonix's Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion to make a playoff push in the 2003 season, Marbury's suns fell to the San Antonio Spurs in the first round (note that a Stephon Marbury team has never managed to make it to the second round of the NBA playoffs). An inauspicious beginning to the 2004 season caused trouble in the locker room (a locker room that, as coach, D'antoni was part of) and Starbury was a catalyst for much of the drama. On January 5, 2004, Steph was shipped to New York in return for the inured Antonio McDyess and long-time Knicks point guard Charlie Ward.
Thus began Marbury's first-grade stint, a stint that the recently exiled point guard seems to be very fond of, as he never seemed to graduate. The Brooklyn native's homecoming, masterminded by a pill-popping Isiah Thomas, was expected to result in Samuel Adams-eqsue heroics. Instead, Starbury has just driven us Knick fans to a life-long dependency on Samuel Adams Lager.
Marbury's problems with the cast of New York coaches and teammates have been the center of a media circus since his arrival. What started as one of the most well-documented clashes in New York sports history (Stephon Marbury vs Larry Brown), has become nothing less than a trend, giving Knick fans little choice but to side against the point guard. Remember how the Marbury-Brown squabble made Don Vito Corleone vs Virgil Sollozzo look more like N'Sync vs The Backstreet Boys? Once again, it goes back to tact-- if Marbury had the good sense to get along with at least one of his coaches, perhaps some of us fans would support the sneaker tycoon .
Instead, what started with Brown, continued through his struggles with Isiah Thomas (most heavily publicized when Steph deserted his team after learning on the team plane that his starting job had been revoked), Mike D'antoni, Donnie Walsh, Quentin Richardson, Kurt Thomas (Mr. Knick himself), and a host of other Knicks. How could it be any body's fault but Marbury's when he has proved his inability to coexist with other members of the locker room time and again throughout his career. The current saga is just another dirty sock in the laundry list full of Marbury-mishaps.
So for any Knick fans in support of Marbury in the most recent New York soap opera (I hear there are a few. I couldn't believe my ears when I heard, "we want Steph" coming from the stands on opening night at the Garden), look back on his past inability to get along with some of the most well-respected coaches and players in NBA history, all who brought a different style of leadership to the team (while Brown was a hard-nosed manager, D'antoni is the ultimate player's coach). Can you really chalk this one up to anybody but Starbury? The man has spent his entire Knick career throwing rocks at cars-- this is nothing new for the tactless guard.
What do you think Knick fans?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Chrome for the Holidays: A Plaxico Burress Story

When Christopher Columbus' posse landed at the New World on October 12, 1492, the vast island territory now known as the Bahamas was inhabited by a peaceful native people. Known for its lavish beach resorts and potent rum (know a better way to deal with the sun?), the culture that Columbus submersed himself into was ill-equipped to handle the white man's vices (this, even prior to Vanilla Ice). Noting their lack of modern weaponry, the famed explorer wrote in his journal, "I could conquer the whole of them with 50 men and govern them as I pleased...They ought to make good and skilled servants, for they repeat very quickly whatever we say to them." Thus, began the early stages of what was arguably the bloodiest exodus in the history of mankind-- that of the native North Americans.
Since the Mayflower's arrival, Native Americans have endured oppression, abuse, violence and betrayal (Note: this is NOT the diary of Ike Turner). While most Americans celebrate Thanksgiving on the third Thursday of every November, members of the Oklahoma-bound packs formerly known as the "Five Civilized Tribes" (Cherokee, Chickasaw, Muscogee, Choktaw and Seminole) are reminded of the the Trail of Tears-- the forced western migration of thousands of natives. And while we watch our 11-1 New York football Giants rout a 7-5 Washington REDSKINS team, natives are reminded of a once prominent racial slur.
So 516 years after Columbus' arrival, 395 years after what was the first of many Thanksgivings (Plymouth Plantation, 1621), and only slightly removed from the volatile mess of "diplomacy" that was Anglo-Native relations, can anyone really be shocked that wide receiver Plaxico Burress was packing at a New York City Club on the Friday night after Thanksgiving.
Perhaps the wide out was just trying to get into the holiday spirit of firearms and gunpowder. Maybe Plax doesn't like All Hallows Eve. Maybe the third Friday of every November is when No. 17 likes to play dress-up. After all, that is what this nation, land of the free and home of the brave, was founded upon, wasn't it-- a cloud of gun smoke and a pocket full of shells?
In case you are just now waking up from your Tryptophan coma, Burress was on the brunt end of his own Glock semiautomatic pistol when he accidentally shot himself in the right thigh inside of the Latin Quarter, a New York City night club, early Saturday morning (for most, late Friday night). While the rest of us were getting dropped off after a fuzzy night out, Burress was checking into New York City's Cornell Medical Center for treatment on a self-induced bullet wound.
Let me Tarantino this for you: The 6'5 wide receiver was turned away from Lexington Ave's Latin Quarter on Friday night when the bouncers noticed that he was strapped. When Burress, who was stuntin' out with flashy jewelry, expensive gear and rolls of Benjamins, told the bouncers that his gun was for protective purposes only, the Super Bowl champion was allowed to enter the club.
As Plax' was making his way into VIP, several drinks after his arrival and long after breaking the seal, Burress' concealed weapon slipped down his pant leg and spontaneously went off, releasing a bullet that tore through the flesh of Plaxico's right thigh (luckily, the bullet did not damage any muscle tissue or bones), prompting a trip to the emergency room.
As was to be expected, much has been made of Burress' most recent transgression. Since the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted him eighth overall in the 2000 National Football League draft, Burress has had quite the bipolar career. After a rocky four-year stint with the Steelers, Plax' arrived in New York with high expectations. On the field, Burress has been nothing short of a pro-bowler-- 244 receptions and 33 touchdowns in 57 games as a Giant (including the SECOND BIGGEST catch in New York history--one that gave the G-Men a 17-14 Super Bowl XLII victory over the New England Patriots)-- while playing through a potpourri of injuries.
It is Burress' off-field antics, however, that have troubled fans, teammates and Head Coach Tom Coughlin since his first Sunday brunch on Broadway.
After a summer in which a disgruntled Burress refused to take part in mini-camps because of a contract discrepancy, an October 5, 2008 suspension from New York's 44-6 victory over the Seattle Seahawks (Violation of team rules: Missing Monday afternoon practice) and a host of other on-field confrontations with Coughlin, the latest run-in with the media should come as no surprise. But it does! An accidental gun shot? Surely, everyone who heard the news on Saturday morning thought that they were still dreaming-- it was far too absurd to be true, right? Wrong!
Now, with Plaxico's season (and his freedom, due to a possible jail stint consequent of the fact that Burress did not have a license to hold a concealed weapon) in the balance, Giant fans everywhere are sounding off about the fact that the reigning Super Bowl Champions are better off without their star wide receiver. Sure, wide receivers Amani Toomer, Domenik Hixon, Steve Smith and Sinorice Moss have shown all season that they are more than capable of making big plays, but Burress' presence alone commands respect and usually, double-coverage. Come playoff time, fans will remember, one way or the other, why Burress was such an important part of last year's improbable Super Bowl run. Would David Tyree have even been "open" (in any mangled sense of the word) to make what will be the most famous reception in Super Bowl history had Plax' not been on the field? Will tight end Kevin Boss continue to dominate through the middle if the secondary is no longer forced to commit to the sidelines? Will Hixon and Smith continue to dismantle opposing defenses the way they have without single-coverage? And will running back Brandon Jacobs be able to power through the line of scrimmage without Burress' deep-threat capabilities?
Claiming that the Giants are better without Burress is like saying that they are better without X-tight end Jeremy Shockey-- wait, bad example. scratch that. It's like saying that Pocahontas would have been better off without John Smith. Or that turkey is better served without a side of mashed potatoes .
Plaxico's status as a member of the 2008 New York football Giants is currently unknown, but one thing is for sure-- while opposing cornerbacks wouldn't mind seeing him on the bench for the remainder of the season, the Big Blue could use him on the gridiron.
What do you think Giants fans?