The Tragic Truth: Last Three NFL Seasons Will Be Remembered for Gunshots

Kyle LanganAnalyst IMarch 31, 2009

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 08:  Plaxico Burress #17 of the New York Giants runs for a 46-yard gain in front of Sean Taylor #21 of the Washington Redskins on October 8, 2006 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

As Plaxico Burress’ hearing for a third degree charge of possession of an illegal handgun was adjourned today, I reflected. I reflected for a long time about where The NFL as a league has gone.

The sad truth that I wrestled with was that the last three seasons have been defined not by amazing catches or incredible comebacks, but gunshots. At the conclusion of the season, confetti rains down upon the world champion team, and we as fans shower them with praise.

But in each of the past few years, the confetti has only served as a cover-up to what each of us as fans drew from that season, as the said confetti is stained with the blood of the athletes we cheer for so vehemently.

This sad truth begs to question how the culture of The NFL got to where it is today, and how we as fans can help shed some brighter light on that ever darkening culture. It is time we consider something very important. Which should take precedent, mercy or justice?

In January of 2006, Denver Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams was shot and killed in a drive by shooting. I will never forget Javon Walker’s recollection of the incident, as Williams collapsed into his lap in the back seat of the limousine they were at the time. Williams bled to death on his lap.

We all know the story of Redskins safety Sean Taylor, as he was shot to death in his Miami home in November of 2007. As it just so happened, Taylor was supposedly in the process of undergoing significant changes in his life upon the birth of his child.

None of that could hide the criminal life he once led though, as Taylor once was faced with up to 45 years behind bars for a myriad of crimes.

In Plaxico Burress’ book, he outlines how he hailed from a neighborhood riddled with guns, drugs, and criminality. Surely he as well as many other heralded athletes have grown up hearing things such as “You’re going to be the next Jerry Rice” or “You’re going to be the next Deion Sanders, we have you covered.”

The only trials and tribulations these athletes face are the ones on the field and the ones which are presented by their respective cultures.

It seemed as if mercy had shown Sean Taylor the way, that he was in accord with what had to be done to live a proper life. Perhaps we as fans and organizations should learn from Taylor’s mistakes.

Do people really expect a man who hailed from an urban jungle to receive a seven figure income and suddenly adapt to the, dare I say, civilized world over night? Someone is at fault here, the league, individual teams, someone.

These people were conditioned to break the law by based on the conditions of their upbringing. For that, people like Plaxico deserve mercy, but the truth is that they have broken the law.

The Giants as well as New York’s district attorneys are faced with a unique situation, a situation in which they will administer either mercy or justice to Plaxico Burress. When considering which (mercy or justice) they will treat him with, the truth lies not in an absolute approach but rather, one which utilizes mercy and justice.

In the wake of Plaxico’s court date being pushed back, it would seem as if his attorney Benjamin Brafman is trying to accomplish one of two things: getting a split sentence for Plaxico or an alternate plea that would include community service and some prison time.

For Plaxico’s ability to receive a plea bargain (in whatever form), and even possibly return to football, we should not be condemning our legal system, but praising it. The courts will decide his fate, and if the punishment fits the crime. None of us are in a position to judge him, but they do what they can.

In the end, the same thing which damned Burress may be his saving grace, money. Big money equals big mistakes, but also big time lawyers. With that, he has a fighting chance to save himself and learn in the process.

We should all learn a lesson from the tragic incidents which have struck some of our favorite players. Unfortunately for some, all we can do is keep them in our thoughts and prayers.