New York Giants' Troubles Don't Dwarf Fan Support
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
In football it's been an up and down month for the New York Giants. Yesterday the Giants managed to clinch their division title, even though they lost to the Philadelphia Eagles. But 10 days ago, one of the Giants' star receivers accidentally shot himself in the leg at a New York nightclub. And a teammate has also been questioned by police in the same case. As NPR's Robert Smith reports, Giants fans are just trying to move on from all the bad news.
ROBERT SMITH: In the parking lot of Giants stadium just before the game, a group of blue-clad Giants fans are huddled for a rousing pregame song.
(Soundbite of pregame song "Ain't Nobody's Business")
Unidentified Giants Fans: (Singing) Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker. You can drink all the liquor down in Costa Rica. Ain't nobody's business but my own.
SMITH: Consider that the theme song of wide receiver Plaxico Burress. He was minding his own business in a Manhattan nightclub, at least until the unregistered gun in his pants went off and a bullet went through his thigh. In that split second, the player who caught the pass to win the Super Bowl became the shame of New York. Tony Minare(ph) a season ticket holder from New Jersey, says good riddance.
Mr. TONY MINARE: He is our hero, but he's not a Giant type of player. That's not what we're built on. We're not the Dallas Cowboys. We don't need criminals. We don't need bad guys.
SMITH: And so are you willing to throw your hero overboard?
Mr. MINARE: He threw himself overboard. He threw himself over. We didn't throw him overboard. But now we're going to move on without him. He's done.
SMITH: At least for this season, the Giants suspended Burress. He's been hit with two counts of illegal weapons possession. He's the butt of tabloid jokes and fan rage. The Giants have until now enjoyed a near-perfect season, and fans like John Fagali(ph) don't want anyone ruining it.
Mr. JOHN FAGALI: He should've been gone a long time ago.
SMITH: You have no sympathy whatsoever.
Mr. FAGALI: For Plaxico Burress?
Mr. FAGALI: No. Absolutely, not. He was a big distraction. Hopefully he'll go to jail for 10 years, and we won't have to hear from him no more.
SMITH: If this were just another story of an athlete behaving badly, it would already have been forgotten. But in this case the public has been reminded of the double standard for a sports celebrity. After the gun went off, no one called the police, not his teammate who drove him to the hospital, not the New York Giants organization, not even the hospital where he was treated. Needless to say, the police are now interested in each and every step along that bloody trail. Philadelphia Eagles fan Chuck Miller(ph) is on his way to the game, but he says he could take no delight in seeing his rivals in New York suffer.
Mr. CHUCK MILLER: Just because I don't think football needs that. I think football's a great sport. I think a lot of people are behind it. And I don't think we need this right now.
SMITH: If there are many fans who believe that Burress is innocent until proven guilty, well, they aren't showing their face here at Giants Stadium. No one waved a sign of support. I spotted only one guy brave enough to wear Burress' number 17 jersey, Keith Samuelson(ph).
Mr. KEITH SAMUELSON: Hey. You know what, he's a good player, but he made some mistakes. I hope he gets through it, you know. I mean shooting yourself's pretty embarrassing, you know. I mean, it's not like he shot somebody else here. So I think - I think he served his penalty. He should be back on the field.
SMITH: Not if the parents in the crowd have anything to say about it. Dawn Sorrenson(ph) from West Port, Connecticut, says she knows that athletes shouldn't be role models, but how can her kids not look up to the guy who won the Super Bowl.
Ms. DON SORRENSON: My child is five and seven, and they do look at Plaxico like a role model - or any other Giant. So we told them that it was wrong and that Plaxico made a big mistake and that he's paying for it at this point. And you know what they said? Domenik Hixon's going to come in and play a great game, and we don't need Plax.
SMITH: We'll have to see about that. At the Philadelphia game, Burress' replacement, Domenik Hixon, dropped a 50-yard pass that went right into his hands. The Giants lost the game, but ended up clinching the division after Dallas also lost last night. As the Giants go on to the playoffs, fans will be waiting to see if the bullet fired by Plaxico Burress also punctured his team's chances for another Super Bowl championship. Robert Smith, NPR News, New York.