- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 4, 2008

A word keeps popping up in the stories about “Pistol Plaxico” Burress, a word that really shouldn’t be there. The word is “tragedy.”

The word even appeared in this paper earlier this week - and in a number of others around the country. I’m not going to name names, because that’s not the point of this, but I am going to quote a few passages.

Here’s one to get us started: “This has a chance to be one giant human tragedy, one of his own making, a stunning fall from grace of a Super Bowl hero who thought he could be the football Sinatra and do it his own way, above [Giants coach Tom] Coughlin’s law and above the gun laws.”

And here’s another: “It was a tragedy one year ago when Sean Taylor was shot to death with a gun and a tragedy that Plaxico Burress put his life and the future of his teammate [Antonio Pierce] at risk with a gun.”

Then there’s this from the blogosphere: “The tremendous blessings available to a professional athlete are deserved rewards for a life of incredible self-motivation and discipline. It’s a tragedy in the purest sense when an athlete squanders these blessings and the blood, sweat and tears it took to earn them.”

And finally, a sound byte from a famous coach: “I feel sorry in the sense that young athletes don’t have an understanding of how privileged they are. … It’s a tragedy, really. When you get stature in life, there comes a thing called obligation and responsibility that goes with it.”

Tragedy. The word gets thrown too much in sports, gets attached to too many happenings that could just as easily be described as “unfortunate,” “regrettable” or “a doggone shame.” The terrorist attack in Mumbai - now there’s a tragedy. The hurricane that hit New Orleans - a tragedy, no question. An NFL wide receiver going into a club with an unregistered gun and accidentally shooting himself in the leg, possibly ending his career? If that’s a tragedy, then what are the other two?

I’m trying to think of who exactly Burress’ “tragedy” affects to any great degree - besides himself, I mean. Does it affect the Giants greatly? You wouldn’t guess so, not after watching them whale on the Redskins on Sunday. Despite his injury and occasional absences this season, his team has won 11 of 12 games, as many as any other club in the NFL.

Burress is a nice player to have, sure, one of the best wideouts in the league when he’s so inclined, but he’s hardly irreplaceable. The Steelers lost him in free agency and went on to win the Super Bowl, and the Giants could well repeat this year while Plaxico is tending to his legal issues.

Here’s who the “tragedy” most affects, when you get right down to it:

1. His right thigh.

2. Agent Drew Rosenhaus, who may lose out on much of his commission if and when the Giants decide to terminate Burress’ $35 million contract.

3. Anybody who had Plaxico on his fantasy team. (What a bummer.)

Yes, Burress reportedly has a son, Elijah. The question is: Would the kid be better or worse off not to have a gun-toting father around?

There are only so many tears you can shed in life, and you have to be careful not to get dehydrated. If you’re going to shed them over the “tragedy” of Plaxico Burress, you might not have any left over for a real tragedy - and I’m not talking about Texas getting excluded from the Big 12 championship game. I’m talking about, say, the Broncos’ Darrent Williams getting shot to death in a drive-by or the Cardinals’ Pat Tillman getting killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan.

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