I just got done watching Plaxico Burress on ESPN’s E:60 program.
That’s a good show. When you get beyond the pretentious, staged pre-how meeting out-takes and the affected shaky, black and white camera work, the actual long-form magazine pieces are solid.
Shows like that, and HBO Real Sports, and 60 minutes still allow some more meat on the bone for the occasional TV viewer who wants more than microwave opinion and popcorn analysis.
Part of what made E:60 the perfect venue for ESPN’s scoop on Burress was the juxtaposition of the stories around Jeremy Schaap’s sit down interview with the soon-to-be jailed former Steeler.
Once it ended, Michael Smith analyzed the Steelers Super Bowl winning drive against Arizona moment-by-moment with Ben Roethlisberger, Santonio Holmes, and Mike Tomlin. Those very moments were playing out in real life as the one time Steeler was healing from his gunshot wound and watching his career crumble.
The piece after that one was a feel good feature about a kid with cerebral palsy who was finding solace through baseball and his new found connection with some New York Yankee players. It was saccharin sweet in its delivery, but about eight minutes of everything inspirational you could find in sports.
And the feature before the Plax expose highlighted the Aplington-Parkersburg, Iowa football team, which is recovering from the death of it nationally renowned coach Ed Thomas. He was gunned down by a deranged former player in the team’s weight room a few months ago.
In short, it was almost as if the E:60 staff was setting up Plax to look even worse than he already was about to look… if such a concept is possible.
All I could take from that pre-jail house interview with Burress was: “Typical Plax!”
Plax’s explanation of how he shot himself was, well, in a word: “Plextacular.” He shot himself while falling UP the stairs.
Only Plax, with his notorious lack of run-after-catch skills, could end up potentially ending his career by falling UP the stairs of a nightclub after getting tangled in his own gangly, baby-deer-like limbs.
Only Plax could fumble the gun sliding down his leg and hit the trigger… with the safety off.
Only Plax could admit he almost left the gun in his car but made the conscious decision to bring it in the club anyway.
Look, as a media guy who covered him most of his Steeler career, I didn’t just like Plax… I loved him!
He was light hearted. Engaging. Open. Personable. Had a sense of humor. Sometimes funny with an obvious dumb jock attitude.
As a wide receiver, I could take him or leave him when he was here. Burress blossomed into what Steelers fans hoped he’d become only when he got to New York. In Pittsburgh, his inconsistencies were well documented.
But one thing consistent about Plax, he almost never said “no” to an interview even when times were at their worst for him. He was gracious, accommodating, and frank in all of his dealings with the media even when we were killing him for a bad game, or a bad drop, or skipping practice on Mother’s Day.
And by dealing well with the media, that means you are trying to communicate with your fans. And I’ll always like that about Plax.
However, part of the reason Plaxico was so accommodating was that he was oblivious. He never read a sports page. Never listened to a minute of sports radio. Probably never watched a local sportscast either.
Because of that, he never knew which one of us media guys was ripping him on which day. So, in his mind, we were all just good guys with cameras and microphones giving him free pub! No wonder we were friends.
Plax personified the phrase: “Ignorance is bliss.”
But as the E:60 interview pointed out, Burress’ ignorance was his downfall. During the conversation with Schaap, Plax admitted he had no idea that New York’s gun laws were so strict. He admitted to having no idea that his pistol in that club could cause the problem it did.
No doubt that Plax probably never took the time to research such things. He may have never taken the time to listen to whoever it was that gave him the gun in the first place, or any other gun owners’ advice about where he could or couldn’t have the gun.
Why did any of that matter? He was Plaxico Burress. Super Bowl hero. Everything would be fine. And everybody else would make sure of that too.
But bad things happened. And he was the wrong guy… in the wrong city… with the wrong mayor… and the wrong laws. And now he’s going to jail. And maybe his career is over. But as Plax said in the ESPN interview in his Plex-tastic kind of way, “Pft! I think I’ll play again.”
And why wouldn’t he? He’ll still be 6’5”. He’ll still probably be in great shape. Somebody will sign him. If Michael Vick, and Dante Stallworth, and Leonard Little all have jobs… then Plax will get one too.
That’s a good thing. Plax isn’t as bad of a guy as any of them.
He’s just as much of an idiot. But he’s not as bad of a guy.
Despite what the gun nuts, and the civil rights activists, and the Plax apologists tell you, Burress deserves jail time. It stinks that he’ll get more than those other guys. But he broke a law and punishment is warranted.
I just hope when Burress does get out we get the same Plax athlete, same Plax personality, but some atypical Plax behavior and lessons learned.