On the Mark: Plaxico's a Joke, Guns Aren't

Mark KriegelCorrespondent IDecember 2, 2008

I don't really miss the newspaper business. I don't miss New York too much, either. But every once in a while, there's a story that makes me wistful for what I want to believe were good old days. The saga of Plaxico Burress and his Glock is one of them.

With the relentlessly depressing dispatches from Mumbai and Washington, Plaxico offers a welcome relief. A couple of inches north or south and it would've been different. But it's not as if he shot an innocent bystander. Nor did he imperil future generations of Burresses.

Rather, the erstwhile Super Bowl hero merely grazed his own leg while apparently fumbling with his piece (no jokes, please) in an alcove outside the VIP room of the Latin Quarter nightclub.

It all makes for a cautionary tale, mirthfully told. Everybody can agree; all can rejoice. Plaxico Burress? What a knucklehead.

But the comedy obfuscates the real issue, which is a sea change in the life of athletes, particularly the violent lives of football players. A year after the Redskins' Sean Taylor was murdered in a home invasion, ballplayers now think of themselves—and let's agree, they're largely justified—as targets.

As a result, gun possession has lost its stigma. As Giants president John Mara said: "Players, for whatever reason, feel the need to carry guns. It's not something we're particularly pleased about, but that is the choice that they make. You'd like to think that most of them are licensed to do that, but I'm not sure that's always the case."

Burress—repeatedly fined by the Giants, and reportedly investigated by police for domestic disturbances—might go to jail for possessing an unlicensed firearm. But in a larger sense, licensing is almost beside the point. The real question is this: If a guy can't be counted on to attend team meetings or practice, can he be entrusted with a gun?

Let's be honest, too. Plaxico isn't alone here. A good many professional athletes have never heard the word "no." Even into their 30s, they remain devout believers in their own invincibility. Ballplayers aren't known for circumspect judgment.

I understand what generates the paranoia: the cases of Sean Taylor, Darrent Williams and Richard Collier, just to name a few. Some players have taken to customizing their automobiles with bulletproof armor. Others hire bodyguards. But still others think the answer is getting strapped.

Jaguars running back Fred Taylor has an AR-15, an assault rifle. Houston cornerback Dunta Robinson, himself the victim of robbery at gunpoint, has purchased a firearm. "My gun," he tells ESPN magazine, "definitely makes me feel a little safer."

Sure. Plaxico Burress probably took great comfort in his Glock, too.

It's worth noting that Sean Taylor forgot to turn on his home alarm system the night he was murdered. He wasn't allowed to have a gun, either, having once been charged with aggravated assault with a firearm. You wonder: Would a gun have made any difference, though?

Perhaps. But I tend to think not. I'm still waiting for the first gun story with a righteous ending. You don't hear about the guy who popped the two burglars as they were coming through the screen door. No. The stories usually end like Plaxico Burresses, just not as funny. Or as lucky.

Do guns kill? Or do people? I don't have an answer. I just know the story is nothing to yearn for. Its comedy is counterfeit. Knuckleheads with guns are a deadly combination.

On the Mark

A week ago, everybody was talking about Myron Rolle, the Rhodes Scholar from Florida State.

Hey, you live long enough you see everything.

More recently, however, police charged two FSU receivers with battery for their role in a frat party brawl.

And it's just good to know the Seminoles haven't lost sight of their traditions.

Think it's safe to say that nobody interviews better than Norv Turner.

This just in: Chargers GM A.J. Smith is negotiating to buy Charlie Weis out of his contract.

Lane Kiffin goes to Tennessee, and I'm waiting for Al Davis to sue the Vols.

I have no problem with Oklahoma leapfrogging Texas in the BCS poll. The Sooners averaged more than 62 points against their last five opponents-Kansas State, Nebraska, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State.

But how is 11-1 Penn State-which beat Oregon State by 31-ranked eight, while 10-1 USC-losers to the Beavers by six-at No. 5?

I mean, how much can you punish a school for its association with a pariah program like the Buckeyes?

Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni, Sept. 30, 2008: ''I'm open to anything, and that's why we have training camp ... Steph was in great shape; he's light, he's running the one and the two. He's a basketball player and obviously one of the best players in the league."

Then the coach went out and gave Allan Houston a better shot.

In summary, the Knicks have succeeded in doing for Marbury what Rosie O'Donnell did for Donald Trump.

David Lee put up 37 against Don Nelson's Warriors.

And I'm betting he never got that many in a summer league game.

A Harangody. That's one of those creatures that only live in Australia, right?

Dodgers co-owner Jamie McCourt told the Los Angeles Times the team didn't want to pay Manny Ramirez a really gaudy salary (as if $45 million for two years was squarely within the bounds of good taste) for fear of offending people in a depressed economy.

"We're really trying to see it through the eyes of our fans," she said.

Hey, if you really care about your customers, here's a hint, toots: try lowering the ticket prices.

Speaking of the public good, the Bloomberg administration shook down the Yankees for a luxury box, free food, 250 parking spaces and billboard space which the New York Times estimates is worth $750,000 annually.

This for a billionaire mayor who can actually afford to buy tickets.

What exactly is a sports hernia?

Amy Winehouse spends more time in the hospital than the entire cast of Scrubs.

Thanksgiving would've been a little more exciting if only the networks had figured out a way for Detroit to play the Aggies.

When do the Lions apply for their federal bailout?

This article originally published on FOXSports.com.

Read more of Mark's columns here.