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Posted: Tuesday December 2, 2008 2:50PM; Updated: Wednesday December 3, 2008 10:10AM
Phil Taylor Phil Taylor >

Burress, Marbury, Pacman commit rare trifecta of stupidity

Story Highlights

Plaxico Burress was charged after accidently shooting himself in a club

Despite making $21.9 million this season, Marbury is at an impasse with Knicks

After yet another "last" chance, Pac-Man has been cleared to play for Cowboys

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Giants receiver Plaxico Burress was charged with two counts of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon Monday. Each carries a sentence of at least 3 1/2 years.

Every so often the universe conspires to produce a rare and notable event, like a solar eclipse or a perfect rainbow, that simply cannot pass without comment. It is in that spirit we should pause to examine the remarkable confluence of stupidity within the sports galaxy in recent days. We have seen athletes get into hot water with handguns before, goodness knows. We have seen them squabble with their coaches and we have seen them repeatedly be forgiven after off-the-field misdeeds. But rarely, if ever, have we seen three athletes with such issues dominate the headlines all at the same time, as Plaxico Burress, Stephon Marbury and Adam "Pacman" Jones are doing. Together, they form the Halley's Comet of dumb decisions. Look closely while you can, for such a trifecta of foolishness may not pass this way again in our lifetimes -- if we are lucky.

Within hours of each other on Monday, Burress, the New York Giants' best wide receiver, turned himself into police and was led away in handcuffs after the nightclub misadventure in which he managed to shoot himself in the leg with a gun he had no business carrying, while Marbury, the New York Knicks' talented but troublesome guard, met with team management in an unsuccessful attempt to work out their season-long differences. The meeting ended with the Knicks instructing Marbury not to come to games or practices, in effect, paying him to go away. Marbury might have had a better chance of reaching an accord with the team if he hadn't spent the previous few days ripping just about everyone in the franchise but the ballboys, including saying that he wouldn't trust coach Mike D'Antoni to "walk my dog across the street." Not exactly an olive branch, Steph.

While Burress and Marbury were apparently trying to commit career suicide, Jones was showing how hard that is to do. He was enjoying his newest lease on football life by practicing with the Dallas Cowboys, preparing for his first game back since being reinstated -- again -- by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. There is not enough room even in cyberspace to list all the transgressions on Jones' rap sheet, but the most recent one involved an alcohol-related scuffle last October, ironically with one of the bodyguards the Cowboys had hired to help keep him out of trouble. But Goodell apparently believes that everyone deserves an umpteenth chance, so Jones is active again.

In fact, Goodell deserves a place in the pantheon of wrongheadedness along with Burress, Jones and Marbury. His decision to give Jones yet another shot at the NFL despite his litany of legal scrapes is not only foolish, it's representative of the kind of enabling behavior that encourages players to do dumb things. Why should Jones ever change his behavior if he believes the league will always take him back eventually? In Jones' case, it's possible that the best thing that Goodell could do for him is boot him from the league permanently, since his problems seem to involve addiction. (He has undergone alcohol counseling during his most recent suspension.) Sometimes the best thing to do for an addict is to let him hit rock bottom, but the NFL keeps catching Jones before he can.

Burress has a long way to go before he can match Jones' history of legal trouble, but he's off to a rousing start, especially with the nightclub shooting, which, if the reports are true, happened when the gun went off in his pants while Burress was fumbling with it with one hand with a drink in the other. It sounds like something Will Ferrell might do in a slapstick movie. Still, Burress probably wouldn't have ended up in cuffs on Monday without a string of bad decisions. He could have avoided it by not carrying the gun, not going to a club in which he felt the potential need for a gun, not handling the gun as if it were a water pistol and not trying to cover up the entire incident, as police suspect he did. Burress, 31, is no kid. The lack of mature, rational decision-making on the part of a grown man is stunning.

Marbury, 32, is old enough to know better, as well, but he continues to act like a self-absorbed teenager. He had the gall to criticize D'Antoni for disrespecting him by first not playing him and then calling on him to play, apparently forgetting that he has embarrassed the organization at every turn ever since he became a Knick, which is why D'Antoni had no desire to play him in the first place. Has Marbury forgotten his role in the Anucha Browne Sanders sexual harassment verdict against the Knicks? Has he forgotten how he clashed with Larry Brown and Isiah Thomas and alienated his teammates with selfish, me-first play?

The Knicks may not have handled Marbury's situation as gracefully as they could have -- they probably would have been wiser to buy him out and send him on his way before the season began -- but Marbury has no right to expect anything from the Knicks other than the $21.9 million salary he's due this season. And for that paycheck, he should realize he's obligated to do whatever he's asked, whether that's to sit on the bench in civilian clothes or suit up and play when the team is in a pinch. Instead, he sulks and pouts and complains about yet another coach, making him less appealing to other teams whenever he finally does get his freedom from the Knicks. Just another foolish choice.

But eventually, some other team will probably take a chance on Marbury, just as Burress will play again in the NFL, even if not for the Giants, and Jones will keep getting forgiven, no matter how many "last" chances Goodell gives him. Maybe if players really thought that there was such a thing as a honest to goodness last chance, we wouldn't be witnessing this perfect storm of stupidity right now. They may make dumb choices, but they're smart enough to know that sooner or later someone will almost always let them off the hook.

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