BEHIND THE NEWS: Rough surf for Burress

December 2, 2008 1:40:37 PM PST
My dad wasn't particularly hardline about too many things when I was growing up. He didn't like that I surfed, that's for sure. But he didn't forbid it.

He did, however, try to cajole me out of it. I was rushed to the doctor's office when I was 14, bleeding after the fin of the board sliced through my crotch. I remember clearly my father's ashen face as the doctor told him that, had the skeg sliced half a inch or so to one side, I would not have made him a grandfather.

We went from the doctor's office to the sporting goods store, where my dad bought me a starter's set of golf clubs. Golf and I never really got along, although I did play through high school. Today, I don't own a set of golf clubs. Surfboards? I've got five of those. (My father never quite understood my love of surfing, but he eventually got used to it.)

The one sport he did forbid me to play was football. Too dangerous, he'd say.

Maybe because of that - and perhaps because I figured I was already bucking him by surfing - I never got into football. Didn't play it, didn't watch it on TV, didn't follow it.

This is a long-swim of an explanation to make the point that, in so many ways, I simply don't get the game, or its nuances, or the mentality of the oversized men who play it.

I mean, I've tried. I toss to Scott Clark every night at 6 and 11 p.m., so I have to know a little about the sport. But the emphasis is on "a little."

Perhaps it was simply an act of rebellion, or maybe he just likes the game, but I was more than surprised when my son, fully aware of my own father's admonition, decided that football would be his main sport. He's now 13 and this is his third year of it.

He gets the game, to be sure. Understands the nuances, and the plays, and the strategy. But I'm not quite sure that he fully gets the mentality of the players. We went to a Giants game in October and, when Plaxico Burress started arguing with the referee and then tossed a ball into the stands. He was pulled out of the game and benched. So I turned to my son, "that guy is so talented, but he's a head case."

My son protested mildly. "Dad, he's a really great receiver."

I quickly agreed, but added, "he's still a head case. Did you see him lose it and argue with the call?"

Burress had recently been fined $117,500 for missing a team meeting, so there was history to my judgment. A few days later, the National Football League would fine Burress $45,000 for his conduct at the game we saw.

Now Burress is facing a lot more than just fines. He could lose his freedom and his lucrative career (he's got a five-year, $35 million contract), after he accidentally shot himself in the leg with an unregistered gun. Why would a guy who should have the world by the juevos take a loaded gun into a nightclub, as he did last weekend in Manhattan?

Maybe if my father had allowed me to play football I would have a better understanding. But because he didn't, I don't.

Actually, I'm being too hard on my dad. My son plays the game, and he doesn't get it either. Thankfully.

Now the Giants are in quite a predicament: Do they let him play, once he recuperates from his self-inflicted wound? Does pro football allow it? The Giants and the NFL have to make a decision long before the criminal justice system finishes with Mr. Burress.

And if he does play, what message does that send - especially to 13-year-old football players who look up to these players?

The Giants are meeting today, discussing what to do with their talented by oh-so-troubled wide receiver. We'll have the latest, tonight at 11 -- including the controversy over the Weill Cornell Medical Center not reporting the shooting to police.

Also at 11, we're following the transition into power of Barack Obama. Tomorrow, he's set to nominate New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson to be his Commerce Secretary. Richardson will be the first Hispanic in Obama's cabinet, and the third former Presidential primary rival to show up in Obama's new Administration, joining Biden and Clinton. I'm trying, but I can't think of a President in modern times who has done that.

Pres. Kennedy picked Lyndon Johnson as his running mate after a bitter convention floor fight. Help me out, if I'm mistaken - click HERE if you remember a V.P. or Cabinet member who ran against the winning Presidential candidate in the primaries.

And under the heading: Designed to Scare You, But in This Case It's Real. A report out today called "The World At Risk" and prepared by the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism, predicts that a biological or nuclear attack is likely to occur within the next five years. The reports says that ".... the biological threat is greater than the nuclear; the acquisition of deadly pathogens and their weaponization and dissemination in aerosol form, would entail fewer technical hurdles than the theft or production of weapons-grade uranium or plutonium and its assembly into an improvised nuclear device."

Charming.

And finally, take a look at the "night schedule" of events put out by the Associated Press and you'll see a larger-than-normal list of celebrities making public appearances in New York tonight. Michael Phelps (he's getting Sportsman Of The Year), Oprah Winfrey (in town to honor Essence Magazine Editor Susan Taylor), Karl Rove (who's debating "Bush 43 is the worst President in the last 50 years"), Bill Gates (getting the Einstein Award), Uma Thurman (hosting a charity event), and then there's Jon Bon Jovi, Patti Labelle, Cyndi Lauper, Dave Mason and Debbie Harry (at the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame Annex opening).

Oh, and one more - how could I forget? Leszek Balcerowicz, the Polish economist, is here to talk about the world financial crisis.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.

BILL RITTER


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