Burress saga shows public fascination with fallen heroes

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Vinny DiTrani
Tuesday, December 9, 2008

We all need to take a step back and look at the week that was, the week that most likely has ended Plaxico Burress’ career as a Giant. It was a week that sent the media into the frenzy that only accompanies the fall of a major personality connected with sports, entertainment or worst of all, politics.

This is not a defense of Burress or what happened in the Latin Quarter. He made a very stupid mistake carrying a loaded weapon into a nightclub with him, especially one for which he had no valid permit. He may have gotten off easily with just a flesh wound in his thigh. It could have been a lot worse.

The incident, however, has exposed some of the shortcomings in today’s society.

Let’s take, for instance, blaming the media for the whole episode.

Listen, no one with a notepad, a microphone or a TV camera pulled that trigger. Burress did this to himself. He should not have been where he was with a loaded weapon. He probably shouldn’t have been anywhere with a loaded weapon. He made a bad, bad decision, and now must pay for it.

It’s a story that had to be reported, a story that begged for commentary and analysis.

On the other hand, however, let’s take the media’s thirst for this type of story.

The economy may be crumbling. Pirates may be trying to commandeer ocean liners on the open seas. Barack Obama may be entrusting international issues to Hillary Clinton.

But what has captivated the masses? The Plaxico Burress saga.

This is one of those stories that has people falling over one another to get a new and different — even if inaccurate — angle. This story has had so many tentacles an octopus would be jealous.

What was Antonio Pierce’s involvement? How about the doctor and the hospital? Just who is Harris Smith? Are the Giants culpable in any regard? Just where was Derrick Ward when all this was going on? Just how did Mayor Bloomberg get that burr up his butt?

The crawls on ESPN were endless. Huge headlines and photos adorned the tabloids nearly every day. Bloggers had a virtual field day. All Plaxico, all the time.

Is this a media sin? Or just a mirror of what people want to read, want to see, want to talk about?

Unfortunately, it’s probably the latter. For some reason we are more interested in the fall of those we have built into heroes than we are in watching those heroes thrive and prosper. There’s something about seeing a politician caught in a brothel, a Hollywood star entering rehab, an athlete leaving a police station in handcuffs that intrigues us.

See, even those we sometimes admire and often envy have their foibles. Even if he thinks he is above the law, or powerful enough to skirt it, he can get brought down. Maybe in the long run he will have that kind of financial wherewithal to hire the best of lawyers and escape the hardest of penalties.

But for the time being, at least, he’s no better than the common criminal. It doesn’t matter he caught the winning touchdown pass in one of the greatest NFL upsets of all time. Or that he helped destroy the Green Bay Packers so his team could reach the big game.

Plaxico Burress shouldn’t have brought his gun with him for his night on the town. And the fact it went off was, in the eyes of many, only sweet justice.

Vinny DiTrani is a sports columnist for The Record (Hackensack N.J.).

Last updated: 11:12 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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