- 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.

Tragedies, in my mind, should be like timeouts. Sportswriters/casters should be allowed to call only three tragedies in each half… of the year. That would definitely cut down on the overuse of the word.

Why, just the other day, a prominent Internet columnist referred to Stephon Marbury’s wrist-wrestling match with the Knicks as a “tragicomedy.” I’ve got no problem with the “comedy” part, but the “tragic” part… sorry, but there’s too much worshiping INDIVIDUAL talent in TEAM games. (Besides, Marbury has never even been voted first team All-NBA - or second team. Enough already with the genuflection.)

What happened to Burress is no more than a tragedy than what happened to Michael Vick is a tragedy. No, these are Imitation Tragedies foisted upon us by certain segments of the media, the ones under the mistaken impression we don’t already have enough to feel bad about.

What would have been a tragedy is if Burress and Vick had never gotten the chance they got - if the circumstances of their birth had somehow prevented them developing their athletic ability, if they had wound up on a street corner somewhere instead of on the cover of a magazine. But that wasn’t the case. All along the way, they had coaches willing to work with them, colleges willing to grant them scholarships and pro teams willing to enrich them.

Not so long ago, Vick was the face of the Atlanta franchise and one of the most prominent players in the league. This past offseason, Burress was honored at the White House with the rest of his Giants teammates. They had it all… and threw it away. That’s a pity, not a tragedy.

It’s also hubris. But we’ll table that discussion for another day.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide