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Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Tale of Time, Place, Persona

A Tale of Time, Place, Persona
By J[The Gambler] Gamble for Football Reporters Online

Donte Stallworth drove drunk and killed a man. Plaxico Burress brought a loaded gun into a strip club and shot himself.  They are both top notch receivers and even bigger idiots, so lets talk numbers.
Stallworth was suspended for 1 season,  served 30-days of a potential 15-year sentence in a Miami jail,  and upon return, was rewarded with a $900,000 contract by the Baltimore Ravens.

Burress  rots in a New York prison, already once denied early release, enroute to completing a 2-year prison stint.
Is one crime dumber than the other ? No. Is one crime more egregious than the other. Yes. But in this  tale of time, place and persona, the crimes don’t equate with the times.  That’s what intrigues me about the two cases. There is nothing legally to suggest that the outcomes should have been that drastically different. Yes, NY gun laws are very strict, but the only celebrities who traditionally get jailed for possessing handguns in NYC, are rappers. You know how dangerous those suburban English majors can be.

On the surface,  it appears that one guy got lucky and one guy got shafted. Sort of.  But Plaxico never had a shot. [No pun intended]  He got caught up in political chess with a billionaire Mayor, whose main platform is promoting an image of being  a Pitbull on gun laws and crime.

Seizing the moment, Mayor Bloomberg  went on TV and assured the viewing public that Plax would be convicted to the fullest extent of the law and wouldn’t get treated any different because he was a Super Bowl hero and celebrity. [Well if that aint a reason to show some leniency, then I don’t know what the hell happened to the New York I was raised in] With those irreversible words,  Bloomberg violated every ethical standard in existence and single-handedly put a nail in Plax’s football coffin.  His lawyer wife couldn’t help him. His money couldn’t help him. The Giants couldn’t help him. The mayor wouldn’t.
I can’t help but to think that despite Burress’  fame with the Giants, his reputation as an arrogant player who broke team rules, and felt he was only held accountable on Sundays, helped fuel the backlash of his foolish actions. Bloomberg knew he had Burress dead to rights. Plax became the perfect tool for The Mayor –  who was still under fire for extending term limits for himself without a public vote –to use to divert attention and strengthen his vow to rid NYC of illegal concealed weapons carriers. 

As soon as Bloomberg spoke out, he sullied any chance Plax had for a fair trial. No late game heroics in this massacre. It is rare that a mayor will offer totally subjective opinion on an open case.  He doesn’t even practice this newfound zest with the most hardened mob figures. So it was very odd that he chose to single out an NFL player – who admitted he carried the gun out of fear.  It takes a lot for a man to admit that.

But now these players – so similar – sit on opposite ends of the opportunity spectrum. Stallworth has already started rebuilding his career and image with the Ravens. Plaxico is still clad in prison greens, getting locked down to the sound of steel doors clanging and clicking, instead of catching clutch passes for an NFL contender. He is a faceless, nameless number at this point, with no influence and no chance to proactively rebuild his image, talk to kids, his family or mend broken business relationships.

It’s funny, one unnamed Giant, who I spoke with following the Plaxico incident said, “They are treating him like he killed somebody.” No, Stallworth killed somebody.  But he is the one back in the league, just a short year later. And truth be told, it was probably  much easier to give Stallworth, generally known as a good character “team” guy, a break. Plaxico, in all of his brashness and defiance of team rules,  messed around in the wrong town. Partisan politics are hot right now. If you are a celebrity athlete in NYC, especially a minority, and you are caught in a high-profile situation that can be damaging to the city’s rep or used by high-ranking officials for personal political gain, then don’t expect to be treated with kit gloves because you caught a TD in the Super Bowl.

Plaxico’s crime wasn’t egregious. It lacked intelligence. It Borderlined on buffoonery. When he shot himself trying to grab the gun from slipping down the leg inside of his oversized pants, that was classic stupid. It was embarrassing as hell. But it sure as hell wasn’t DUI vehicular manslaughter. It was however an illegal action, committed in the wrong climate. History is strange like that. It’s results often dictated by time, place and persona. It can be forgiving, as it seems to have been to Stallworth.  For Plax it will show the tragic fall of a legend.

 Time, place and persona means a lot. Not just in the NFL, but in life. This is a classic example. Stallworth murdered a person. Plax murdered  the destiny of a Giants dynasty.  Never mess with a New Yorkers' football.


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