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?

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