I just became a father again, and while we've yet to settle on what to call my newborn son, one name is definitely off the list: Plaxico.
Many of the friends and family who have dropped by to visit — even those not normally interested in football — have asked my opinion about the Plaxico Burress affair.
Their inquiry usually takes the form of a question: "Plaxico Burress — what an idiot, huh?" So I will say to you what I say to them. Yes, the New York Giants star wide receiver is an idiot for accidentally shooting himself in the leg at a Manhattan nightclub last weekend, jeopardizing his future with the team. Burress is now looking down the barrel of two weapons charges.
But the Burress shooting is perhaps the result of a string of violent attacks on NFL players.
January 2007: Denver Broncos defensive back Darrent Williams is shot and killed after leaving a nightclub. Broncos receiver Javon Walker is riding in the limo.
September 2007: Houston Texans defensive back Dunta Robinson is the victim of a home invasion. Robinson says he and his family were forced to lie down at gunpoint and that the gunman told him, "You're a good player, so I'm not going to kill you."
November 2007: Sean Taylor of the Washington Redskins is shot and killed in his home.
June 2008: Walker, now with the Oakland Raiders, is robbed, beaten and found unconscious after leaving a Las Vegas nightclub.
September 2008: Jacksonville Jaguars lineman Richard Collier is shot 14 times after leaving a nightclub. He is left partially paralyzed and has his left leg amputated below the knee.
ESPN the Magazine chronicled these incidents in a story in which more than one player is quoted as saying that a gun makes him feel safe.
The article clearly documents a siege mentality among NFL players. Although it never compares NFL crime rates with overall crime rates or addresses whether the two high-profile murders have skewed players' perceptions, in a way that doesn't matter. The salient point is that players whose job it is to listen to authority figures are told by team-hired security experts that they can become victims. So they begin to feel victimized and, voila, Burress tucks a gun in his pants, fiddles with the safety — and jeopardizes his health, his livelihood and his team's chances of success.
It's important to note that Burress allegedly broke the law. He didn't have a handgun permit, and he certainly didn't have a concealed-carry permit. That's nearly impossible to get in New York City. But in many states, getting a concealed-carry permit is pretty much as easy as asking for one. It's called a "shall carry" law, and the vast majority of states have "shall issue" statutes on the books.
So the upshot is that Burress is an idiot, and an unlucky idiot. Unlucky that he was in one of the cities with the toughest gun laws, and of course, unlucky that the gun went off.
Odds Of An All-New York Super Bowl?
The chances of a game pitting the Giants against the Jets, according to Aaron Schatz and the gurus at Football Outsiders: 3.4 percent. They calculate that the Jets have a 7.3 percent chance of making the championship game, while the Giants have a 46.7 percent shot.
Jokers, Chokers And Mediocres
A look at the NFL teams that are stuck in the middle, too weak to peak. (To see how the rest stack up, you can go to sites like ESPN or Fox or CBS.)
Arizona Cardinals: They can't run, can't stop the run and can't stop the pass. They throw it well and catch it better, but their aerial skill doesn't mean they rise above mediocre.
San Diego Chargers: According to the U.S. Census, no babies will be named Norv in San Diego this year.
Plaxico Burress: OK, not a team, but still: Good at football, mediocre marksman. Though maybe his thigh made a threatening gesture.
Green Bay Packers: Four losses of 4 points or fewer. Note to Pack: Last week I predicted a Carolina collapse, so you made me look bad this week. Now it's personal.
Houston Texans: With this week's win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Texans rise to the ranks of the mediocre. Clever people picked these guys to make the playoffs. Yeah, the NFL playoffs, seriously.