Thursday, June 16, 2005

Defending Plax

I've been meaning for some time to write about the Steelers, but since the most exciting part of the spring -- at least as far as football is concerned -- is the NFL draft, I've had a hard time finding something interesting to say (even though that usually doesn't stop me from). Anyway, thanks to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review I now have enough material to last me through training camp.

I'm talking about the Trib's online, pay content that bills itself as "the most complete, insightful, to-the-point coverage of the Steelers on the Internet." It's cleverly titled, 'SteelersLIVE 'Xtra.' After reading several weeks worth of stories, the clever title is the highlight. I embarrassingly mention here that I forked over $29.99 for 12 months of this stuff, and even though I have yet to read anything remotely insightful on the site, I do get a good laugh from reading some of the inane points of views of the authors.

Before I go any further, let me state that Trib reporters whose work actually appears in the print edition are OK. In the past I've disagreed with a lot of what Joe Starkey and Mike Prisuta have written, but in this context, their work is Pulitizer-type stuff. The other chuckleheads -- as best as I can tell they're behind-the-scenes sports radio guys -- are dreadful. Like 'House of Wax' dreadful. Like Brian Bosworth as an actor dreadful (OK, you get the point, they're pretty bad).

So all this leads me to several articles I read recently in 'SteelersLIVE 'Xtra.' I disagree with almost all of them, but there are a few that actually make sense (or at least seem remotely plausible). Since things are molasses-like in Pittsburgh, once or twice a week until training camp I'll mention an article that I found particularly offensive (except for the one I cite below; I actually agree with most of it) and then spend a few thousand words making my case (or more accurately, making fun of the author for writing such a silly column). Anyway, let's get to it.

... A few weeks ago Joe Starkey wrote a story in defense of Plaxico Burress. He's right. Plax hasn't been out of Pittsburgh six months and to hear some people tell it, he's a lazy malcontent who was a perpetual underachiever and probably killed a few people in his spare time.

The whole fiasco concerning Plax owing back taxes got the ball rolling (or at least added fuel to the fire). Oddly, the arrest warrant said Burress hadn't paid any taxes since 1998. The only problem is that Burress was at Michigan State in 1998 and he wasn't even drafted until April 2000. He was later absolved of any wrongdoing, and if I had to guess, it wouldn't surprise me if some disgruntled Steelers fan thought it would be funny to give Plax the business on his way out of town (of course, general speaking, government officials are known for their attention to detail, and innovative ways to navigate the landmines of bureaucratic red tape /END SARCASM). Here's what Starkey had to say:
Contrary to popular belief, the Steelers are not fueling the bash-Burress campaign, which began soon after the AFC title game. Steelers chairman Dan Rooney, in fact, rushed to Burress' defense in the wake of Plax's latest "crime," something about unpaid Moon Township and school taxes between 1998 and 2002.

Rooney says the Steelers wanted to keep Burress, who signed with the Giants in March, but believed his asking price would be too high.

"We never considered him a bad apple," Rooney says. "We thought maybe he'd be very difficult for us to sign, but we did talk to him, to his agent, about coming back. It was one of those things where he might have had an (inflated) idea on what he should make."
I agree, Plax never struck me as a bad apple either. Sure, he was arrested for having an open bottle of beer, and later for drunk in public, but in the grand scheme of things, that's hardly noteworthy. I mean, it's not like he was tried for murder, or spent time in the pokey for selling coke. And while I'm not condoning his actions, this is kind of interesting:

Burress believed the arresting officer targeted him because he was an NFL player. The officer called the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette to inform the newspaper of the arrest - an extremely unusual move. Charges were dropped, but the incident still hurt Burress' reputation.

Did Burress live up to being the #8 pick in the draft? Probably not. He struggled his rookie year, made some progress in 2001, went bonkers in 2002, underachieved in 2003, and played well last year when he wasn't injured. But let's not confuse Plax with Troy Edwards. He was deplorable, shouldn't have been taken in the first round, and I'm sure the Steelers would now admit as much.

I think it says a lot when the NY Daily News serves as the voice of reason when talking about Plax. Personally, I hope he has a lot of success in New York, and I don't even like the Giants. He was an important part of the Steelers offense, and we'll find out in a few months whether the Steelers will miss him.