Tuesday, August 4, 2009

INTERCEPTED: How Robert Littal Said What I Haven't Been Able Too!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

This article has been 8 months in the making so bear with me on this one.

On November 26, 2008, my world as a football fan changed forever. When I got up and turned on the NFL Network I read the "Breaking News alert" that crawled at the bottom of my screen ,which stated that NY Giants WR Plaxico Burress had been shot in what appeared to be a self-inflicted wound and was in the hospital. For almost one full hour I sat there in stunned silence as I read the words over and over again while hundreds of thoughts rushed through my mind. Weeks before the “shooting” incident Plaxico had been suspended for one game and was in and out of trouble with the Giants front office in what appeared to be his clear spiraling in the wrong direction. Months before that Plaxico stunned Patriots fans and the NFL world when he made the game-winning TD catch that would go on to lead the Giants to their SB victory. (“Manning lobs it…Burress alone…touch down New York!” will replay in my mind for as along as I live.) In the months that followed his stellar playoff and Super Bowl performance, Burress was awarded a contract extension from the Giants, guaranteeing his career would end with in NY and that I would be a happy Giants fan for years to come. However, in those moments as I sat in silence, I knew that all of that would never come true and that his future in football would never be the same.

A year before Plaxico was to become a Super Bowl champion, I had the pleasure of meeting him & Jeremy Shockey at the 40/40 club in NY on a random Wednesday night out with my then boyfriend. As a fan I was in awe...that I was able to talk to him like a regular person and that he was the epitome of cool. Plaxico was laid back, chill and lots of fun. I didn’t ask for his autograph nor did I care about what the score from the previous weeks game was;I had the unique opportunity to talk to my favorite player as a regular person and I loved every minute of it. In those moments I knew I wanted to represent players as both an agent and writer because I was shown the layers they possessed and it was infectious.

For the past 8 months since this entire ordeal has unfolded, I have remained in this same state of stunned silence, not being able to formulate a coherent sentence on the situation. For those who know me you know how difficult something must be for me to be unable to translate it into words. Writing and offering commentary is my gift and not many topics are exempt from my opinion. I give my opinion even when it's not requested, without much concern either way as long as it's out there. But for this I just couldn’t and I still really can’t because of how deep this one cut me. I’ve watched Burress' character being mutilated by Giants fans and football commentators, who a few short months before had nothing but praise for his performance. Stating the obvious that this was a stupid situation he allowed himself to get wrapped up in doesn’t begin to touch exactly what this loss means. The NFL has a lost a competitor, a superior athlete with impeccable skill and tremendous talent. A warrior who played the entire 2007 season with severe ligament damage in his ankle and barely practiced all season, but came out every week and fought through it and made sure he did all he could to win games for his teammates. The Giants lost the pulse of their offense and a veteran leader on April 4, 2009, and it still sends tears steaming down my face. I hate watching people fail...some people enjoy watching train wrecks, I'm not one of those people, especially when it happens to good people, whose hard work gets tossed aside once they make a mistake. Not a lot of people have truly considered what Plaxico has lost as a result of this mistake, he may never play football again and is it his fault of course it is...but there's so much more to it. And it's that, which keeps me up at night.

See I’m a different kind of sports writer and fan of the game. I stand up for players because it’s not the convenient thing to do. It’s unpopular to defend extremely rich and often reckless individuals. But someone has to do it so I figured why not be that person. I revel in being the loudest voice in the room arguing my point that’s a hard sell on the most basic of logic and reason. Being unpopular clears the path of exposure…I’ve built my writing career on supporting players and I will continue to do so.

Until this morning however, I decided to retire this entire situation from my mind and just let it play out while continuing to deal with my feelings on it in silence. This WAS the plan until I read this article (below) by Robert Littal, CEO of Black Sports Online and Sports Journalist for the Washington Post. Mr. Littal is a brilliant journalist with enough fire and grit to keep him well established in the sports world for years to come. His successful career has served as a blueprint for any current and all future sports writers. I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Littal but I’m sure I will soon enough. I have however had conversations with him and appreciate his mind and depth according to the world of sports.

His article written on Burress for the Washington Post strikes the perfect balance and suited the entire situation well. No other journalist had yet to find the balance Littal found and I've read every article on the situation, trust me. He manages to address the legal ramifications and the complex personal ones being thrown onto Burress for his costly mistake, while addressing the impact on his football career and personal life.

So I'm sharing it with you here and I hope you enjoy it as I did.

Stupidity Not Criminal

Not surprisingly, a New York grand jury indicted Plaxico Burress on weapons charges Monday.

Mr. Burress will most certainly be sent to jail. It's just a matter of how long he'll have to stay. Clearly, there is no need to debate the New York State laws; they are what they are and Plaxico broke them. This is an open and shut case for the prosecution.

Looking ahead and considering his infraction, should he be able to play in the NFL again? I ask you, "How do you punish stupidity?"

Plaxico Burress is not a criminal, he was deficient in his decision-making. It was not smart to carry a loaded weapon without proper registration. It seems dumb to shoot yourself in the leg and even more so to attempt a cover up. In an ill-advised move, Plaxico turned down a plea agreement early on which might have served less time, instead he faces a possible two years in prison.

The fact that someone can be sent to jail for shooting themselves is asinine enough, but once he was in that situation he proved once again that athletes sometimes think they are above the law. He should ask Michael Vick how that thought process worked out for him.

Just as Michael Vick was conditionally reinstated after an offense far greater, in my opinion, than that of Plaxico Burress, I don't see any reason why Plax, after he is finished making license plates, should not be allowed to play.

Burress is being punished by our backward legal system for being stupid, arrogant and naïve; not for being a criminal.

Almost every team in the NFL has questionable characters on their team. Some are even convicted felons. No matter how badly Roger Goodell wishes it to be, this simply isn't a league of angels and saints.

Plaxico made a mistake. A mistake that he will no doubt be overly punished for and I think that should be punishment enough. There is no need for the NFL to shoot a man in his leg while he is down (pun intended.)

This was an extremely difficult article for me to write and I hope you were able to see the different perspective and the place it came from. I literally cried through the entire thing, which may sound silly to some but I really do take this stuff personal. The goal of every writer is to remain objective while staying true to who we are and I pray I accomplished that in some way. I learned a lot about myself writing this and I feel my purpose for writing is much clearer as a result.


Robert Littal said...

First thank you for the compliments which I surely do not deserve.

Secondly I find it refreshing your honesty about how you feel.

Being a writer is about not worrying about how other people feel but expressing how you feel and you did a great job of that

XIKhai said...

You have no idea what that means coming from you! Thank you so much for stopping by to read my article.

Keep doing what you do...it's inspiration to people like me! :)

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