This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and this is The Score.
It's a phrase that rolls easily off the tongue: there's a plethora of talent around the NFL so if a talent's giving you trouble, get rid of him...there are plenty just like him right around the next draft corner. But that generally accepted football truth doesn't actually apply to Plaxico Burress. The Giants' wide receiver possesses exceptional gifts. At 6'5", with an NBA player's vertical jump, Burress is rangy, his lean, long leap too agile and too high for any defender in the league. If his quarterback Eli Manning can throw his spirals high enough, or direct them on the agreed outside or inside of the defender, chances are the soft hands of Burress are going to pull the ball in for yet another first down.
So what do you do, what does your football team do, when your seemingly irreplaceable star messes up...and messes up not for the first time. Give the Giants tremendous credit for their swift and unequivocal move to suspend Burress, without pay, for the rest of the season and to further hint that they will dispense of Burress altogether, after the season. I applaud the Giants because their bold decision couldn't have been easy. Not with an enormous talent like Burress.
The Giants are focused and on a roll with a winning season whereby they are so solid on both sides of the ball that their record is now a franchise-historic 11-and-1, and that, without Burress for two games. Friday night, actually early Saturday morning, Burress wasn't slated to play on Sunday because of an injured right ham string so he decides to go clubbing. A little Manhattan nightlife seems innocent enough but Burress packs a handgun for which he has no license and, standing right next to his friend and teammate Antonio Pierce, his loaded illegal gun accidentally misfires. The wild bullet pierces Burress's right thigh and, according to the police report, then "lodged somewhere in the club." Now the super Giant's super valuable right leg is doubly injured and the bullet of his own weapon could have easily wound up in teammate Pierce's body somewhere.
Burress has acted in bonehead ways a number of times before. Just last month, this was his quote to a television network: "I'm my own worst enemy. The things that have happened to me, I have no one to blame but myself. That's what makes Plaxico Burress Plaxico Burress." The first athlete I remember referring to himself in the third person was Bo Jackson. "Bo Jackson's a two-sport marquee superstar. Nobody knows Bo like Bo knows Bo." What? Instantly, I can't understand somebody who talks about himself in the third person. And I certainly can't understand Plaxico Burress.
He stands to lose $27 million of his contract. The New York gun laws are so strict that he will likely serve a minimum of three and a half years in prison for his illegal activities on Saturday morning. And he explains all these poor personal decisions as "what makes Plaxico Burress Plaxico Burress". If this superlative athlete can't conceive of consequences of his actions for his own life, can't he imagine what his idiot immaturities might do to his team? The Giants are playing outstanding football. They're on course to do something very rare in the NFL, which is repeat as Super Bowl champions. Plaxico Burress has been starring on every football team he's been part of since he was seven years old. Surely he's aware his is a team sport. Well, the Giants let their teammate know what the meaning of a team sport is. It means no matter how talented the high-reaching, high-scoring wide receiver is, if he's incapable of staying out of trouble, he's a drag on team spirit and team focus. The Giants let him loose and I'll bet they'll never look back, even if Burress lands somewhere else and pulls in some acrobatic catches in another uniform.
Next year, yet again another pro football league is going to try to play alongside the NFL. Maybe the United Football League will become home to Michael Vick when he's released from prison for his heinous abuse of dogs. Might be the right place for Plaxico Burress, too.
This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and that's The Score.
Banner image: Wide receiver Plaxico Burress of the New York Giants is led to a squad car for transport to his arraignment outside the NYPD 17th Precinct December 1 in New York City. Photo: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images