So Plaxico Burress is going to jail, probably for at least 20 months.
Not to sound insensitive, but I'm fine with it. When the announcement of his plea bargain was announced yesterday there was a lot of yammering about how unfair it was because the crime he committed--carrying a gun that wasn't registered in New York into a club and then accidentally shooting himself in the leg with it--was one of stupidity, not one of malice.
That's not the issue here. Most crimes of malice carry heavier sentences--as they should--than crimes of stupidity. There are lots of crimes of stupidity. Driving drunk is a crime of stupidity. Doing drugs is a crime of stupidity. Certainly carrying a gun in your pants into a club jam-packed full of people is a crime of stupidity.
One excuse I heard yesterday was that he needed to carry the gun because he's a celebrity. OH PLEASE. Rule #1: If you are going to a place where you don't feel safe without a gun don't go. Rule #2: If you really believe you are such a big celebrity that you can't go anyplace and feel safe, hire bodyguards. The owner of The Washington Redskins, who most people wouldn't look at twice in public, has about eight of them.
Look, I have no disagreement with people who say New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was grandstanding when he insisted publicly that Burress would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law after the incident last November. Gee, a politician grandstanding--film at 11. But give Bloomberg this: he has been consistent about gun laws in the city. New York has some of the toughest gun laws in the country and people know it. If Burress didn't know it, well, you know the old saying about ignorance of the law.
I think what got people yesterday was that we're used to jocks with a lot of money finding a way to either get off or get off light when they commit a crime. Daunte Stallworth did about 15 minutes in jail for DUI manslaughter in large part because he paid the victim's family millions along with the fact that police reports indicate the victim jumped in front of the car and he stopped right away and turned himself in. But that's the more typical situation: jock does something horrible, hires expensive lawyers who make excuses, raise doubts and run rings around underpaid prosecutors.
Anyone remember the O.J. case? By the end of the trial, Johnny Cochrane and his dream team had people wondering if the prosecutors actually had law degrees. Jayson Williams has never gone to jail. Michael Vick did but that was because he dug himself a hole so deep by lying to anyone and everyone that even a top lawyer like Billy Martin couldn't dig him out.
Burress hired a big-time lawyer and I will bet serious money figured he'd get off with probation. But he had a problem: there just weren't any holes in this case: he was carrying the gun and he shot himself. Those were the facts and there was no getting around them. Plus, the law says if you are convicted by a jury you MUST serve at least three-and-a-half years in jail. Perry Mason couldn't have gotten Burress off which is why he took the plea.
There's no sense comparing the Burress case to the Stallworth case or any other case. Does two years--he'd get out in 20 months with good behavior--seem harsh for an act of stupidity? Perhaps. But let's remember how lucky Burress was: the gunshot could just as easily have hit someone else. You can say---correctly—“well, it didn't”. Right. That's why it's only 20 months and not more.
Commissioner Roger Goodell has apparently told Burress he won't face a further suspension when he returns for the 2011 season--assuming there's no work stoppage because the owners and players can't reach a contract agreement. You might wonder why Burress doesn't get a suspension while Vick did. The answer's simple: Vick lied to Goodell about what his involvement in dog-fighting. That's what his five week suspension is about. Burress didn't like in all likelihood because how could he possibly lie?
My friend Tony Kornheiser started a segment on his radio show a few years ago called, "jocks in the dock." It seemed as if there wasn't a single day when he didn't have a new story to recount about an athlete in trouble. One week it's Michael Phelps driving without a license--talk about stupidity, especially when the whole bong thing was just calming down--the next it Burress being sentenced and then another NFL player being arrested. It is dizzying.
Of course August really is the month when it is tough to find a lot to talk about in sports if someone isn't being arrested. There is The PGA Championship--which lasts four days--and there's baseball but it really doesn't get to be 'must-see' until September. So we're left with all the pre-season football speculation which I find about as interesting as reading a fashion magazine. My old pal Chris Mortensen, who is as good a football reporter as there is, spent something like a month on a bus going from one NFL training camp to another for the four letter network.
This morning, I happened to catch Mort on radio and the host asked him what his most vivid memory was of the bus trip. Mort had two answers: something about eating too much cheese someplace (I'm guessing in Wisconsin) and breaking records for eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the bus to avoid stopping in restaurants.
That about sums up how exciting it is to be around the NFL in August.
Hey, has Brett Favre retired again yet?