Plaxico Burress is in the news again today. Without any real football news to speak of this time of year, there's no doubt that his latest exploits will get no shortage of media attention. Burress has many skills, but good timing isn't one of them.
This time, we can't blame Cleveland, either.
Burress has managed to achieve notoriety several times in the last six months. First came his fabulous hootenanny in Pittsburgh last fall, which resulted in the arrest of Browns rookie Gerard Warren and the borderline-hilarious escapades of Browns teammate O.J. Santiago who offered to help policemen get items out Warrens car. Oddly, Pittsburgh police weren't grateful for Santiago's assistance. Santiago now finds himself looking for work, and Warren got suspended.
Although we would never accuse the Cleveland police with playing tit-for-tat with something as serious as the law, a month later came the incident where Burress' "shopping trip" to Cleveland ended up with him somehow having an open bottle of Corona in a car that he may or may not have been driving. This was noticed by the local Cleveland cops, who were compelled to give Burress a citation as an Ohio keepsake. Then, there was that matter of not showing up to court the next Monday, the papers then finding out, and, well, you've got a news story in the middle of a playoff drive.
I believe that the bigger news was that Burress felt compelled to go to Cleveland to go shopping. I've been to Cleveland, and can attest that the stores aren't open at 1:30 in the morning. I can also attest to having had an open bottle of beer in public once or twice. Or more than that, perhaps. My memory gets hazy. Regardless, this didn't seem like a big deal at the time, but is now revealed as just another plot point on the graph of irresponsibility.
According to reports, last nights episode of "Fun with Plaxico" wound its way through a number of bars, a number of invitations to leave said bars, and an altercation outside of a bar. Virginia Beach police apparently followed Burress, his brother, and other assorted friends through a series of events at drinking establishments in Burress' hometown until they felt compelled to arrest him. Burress' brother allegedly felt that such an action was an abuse of police power and one cut lip later, we've got a news story.
This time, we can't blame Randy Moss, either.
The Steelers knew Burress was possible trouble when he was drafted. Burress' reputation was well-known in April 2000, and his own college coach went public with complaints about Plaxico's approach to the game. Another indicator of immaturity, which would even set off rocket flares in Baltimore and Oakland, was that Burress blew off his interview with the Steelers to go see the NCAA championship.
An NFL obsessed with how well the Vikings' gamble with Randy Moss paid off was not going to pay too much heed to such trivialities, however. Perhaps his high draft position was a sign to Burress that there was not a price to be paid for behavior more interested in personal enjoyment than personal responsibility.
This time, we can only blame Plaxico Burress.
If reports are to be believed, there aren't extenuating circumstances this time. This isn't Cleveland police handing out open container tickets like free shopping coupons, and it isn't a 300 pound rookie deciding that he can't hit the clubs without his gun. This is Plaxico going out, getting hammered, and winding up in a situation where his brother punched a cop.
This is the sort of stuff people most people get into when they get their first taste of college freedom. Except Burress is older, and a public figure with money and fame. Young men, especially troubled young men with fame and money, draw the media to their troubles like a moth to a light. The shame is that Burress' on-field performance had shown greater discipline in 2001, and that he seemed ready to emerge as the top WR that his gifts indicate that he can be.
Today, and in the days to come, Plaxico Burress may finally start to a pay a price. A price for his personal weaknesses, and a price always paid famous young athletes who can't carry themselves with grace off the field that they do on the field.
We can only hope that this time, perhaps, a lesson will be learned. A lesson about maturity , hopefully, and a lesson about the price of fame.